‘This Ain’t California’ and ‘Kumare’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

This Ain't California Poster

Most people don’t get to see documentaries until they arrive on a home video platform of some kind, whether it’s DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, iTunes, TV, Netflix streaming, etc. So, this may be the most important post of the week for fans of nonfics. Join us every Tuesday for a look at what documentaries and reality programming is recommended by myself and other contributors to the site. As always, if you know of something we missed or should be aware of, drop us an email or a note down below.

Here are our ordered picks for April 1, 2014:

1. This Ain’t California

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — Fitting for the week starting with April Fool’s Day, this documentary had me and plenty others trusting that it was about a real person. The fact that it isn’t has some arguing that it’s not actually a doc at all. I not only disagree with that, but I named it one of my top three favorite docs of 2013. By democratic order, it fell to 13th place on our site’s best of the year ranking, and here’s what I wrote of the film then: “Everyone can fight me on the qualification of this film as a ‘documentary,’ given that its central character is a fictional creation and much of its content is staged scenes made to look like legitimate archival footage (a growing trend in docs). It’s not so much a made up story supported by historical facts as it is a genuine history supported by a made up protagonist, employed to drive a chronicle of the skateboarding scene in East Germany in the 1980s through reunification. Regardless of its categorization, Marten Persiel‘s hybrid is one of the most electrifying movies of the year, documenting a real energy and spirit if not actual events and people. It also has an awesome soundtrack.”

See my full review at Film School Rejects.

Also available on iTunes and Hulu.

2. Kumare

[New to SundanceNow Doc Club] — Also perfect for April Fool’s Day is the new Thom Powers curation over at SundanceNow’s Doc Club. This month’s theme is “The Art of Deception,” which might also be relevant to Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real festival happening in a couple weeks. The program features films in “the gray area where documentary and fiction overlap.” Included is Kumare, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay, CSA: Confederate States of America, Deep Water, A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg and the classic David Holzman’s Diary. I would featured that last one as the representing pick from this bunch, but I thought I’d use Kumare in order to highlight that its director/star, Vikram Gandhi, will begin a stint as producer and correspondent for HBO’s VICE show this Friday. You’ll want to check out the film before tuning in, I bet. As always, the whole Doc Club pack for this month is available for a super low subscription package price of $4.99, which also give you access to the past year’s program titles, too.

Kumare is also available on Netflix Watch Instantly, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

3. A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — This one is a fitting addition to the streaming library on Netflix today because April is the month of Earth Day, and here at Nonfics our theme for these 30 days is environmentalism. Mark Kitchell’s 2012 feature has previously been a Nonfics Home Pick. Here is what I wrote of it then: “I believe technically the version of this film I saw was a work in progress. Regardless, I already accepted it as a necessarily positive reminder of the power of activism. Like the better-known How to Survive a Plague, A Fierce Green Fire focuses on achievement more than on a cause to get behind. It chronicles the environmentalism movement from the ’60s through to the present, breaking the history up into chapters on conservation, pollution and climate change. If you’ve seen too many doom and gloom docs that make it seem as if the earth is past the point of saving, you’ll find some hope in the stories included here — — maybe even be inspired to lead the next wave of success.”

Kitchell’s Oscar-nominated 1990 feature Berkeley in the Sixties is also new to Netflix Watch Instantly.

Also available on iTunes, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

4. Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then

[New to Fandor] — Brent Green’s 2010 hybrid is both a reenactment of a heartbreaking true love story and a record of the live documentary event in which he narrates and sings from a stage in front of the screen, where he’s joined by the band performing the awesome score. The central film is about, rather simply, a man who met a girl — in a mutual car accident — and then built a house to try to save her from dying of cancer. It’s a very strange tale and is depicted through stop-motion animation, with actors and some wonderful effects, particularly for the car crash. Sometimes I wish that there was a way to just watch the screen and not the rest, but it’s important to get the whole experience of what Green is doing with the whole show.

5. I Am Divine

[New to Amazon Instant Video] — From Daniel’s review of the biographical doc about John Waters’s drag queen muse: As is often the case with cult icons, the breadth of Divine’s career has fallen by the wayside in the popular imagination. Documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz has set out to change this […] Divine shines through. The film itself may not have his style or his bombast, but it hardly needs it to bring the great performer to an audience. Fans of Divine and of Waters’s work will be delighted, and anyone else who catches it will want to dive right in to the diva’s gigantic body of work.”

Also available on DVD, iTunes and Vudu.

6. American Made Movie

[New to Cable VOD] — We never reviewed this documentary, but I did see it and interviewed the filmmakers last August around the time of this site’s birth. Here’s what I wrote of it in the intro: “With a title like American Made Movie, you might expect the new documentary from Vincent Vittorio and Nathaniel Thomas McGill to be a real flag-waving piece of patriotic propaganda. It’s not. While there is a goal or at least hope to change the country’s economy, it’s hardly a heavy handed issue film. It is a celebration of American manufacturing and both domestic small business owners and foreign corporations that are employing workers in the U.S., and it’s very positive and optimistic and features some easily digested history and economics for a general audience. Most attractively, it concentrates on human interest stories over unloading direct statements and arguments.”

Also available on DVD and digitally from the film’s website.

7. When Jews Were Funny

[New to DVD] — This listing previously appeared in another form on another Nonfics Home Picks: Winner of the award for Best Canadian Feature at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, this doc by Alan Zweig is about Jewish people apparently not being funny anymore, and it gathers such comedians as Shelley Berman, Judy Gold, Gilbert Gottfried, Howie Mandel and Marc Maron. From the fest, Daniel gave the film three stars and wrote, “somehow When Jews Were Funny is worth seeing in spite of its somewhat clueless director. He is, after all, talking to Jews. This is a people known for answering questions with yet more questions. The comedians gathered here are combative, unwilling to let Zweig get away with a simple elegy for what he perceives as a departed culture…The presence of so many great comedians makes When Jews Were Funny an automatically hilarious film.”

DVD bonus feature: Five bonus clips: Shecky Calls Jack, Name That Tune, “Kenina Hurra,” Shecky Mania, Jewish Joke Medley

Also available on iTunes

New to DVD [and/or Blu-ray]:

American Experience: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda

Finding Bigfoot Volume 3

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story

Variety Acts and Turns of the Early 1930s

When Jews Were Funny [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

After Porn Ends

Berkeley in the Sixties [Oscar winner]


Craigslist Joe

Dark Legacy II

Dear Mandela

Decoding Deepak

A Fierce Green Fire [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

The Heart of the Game

Jake Blauvelt: Naturally

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

The Light In Her Eyes

Mortified Nation

Moto 5

Narco Cultura [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]


Orgasm, Inc.

The Player: Secrets of a Vegas Whale

The Punk Singer [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]

Red Obsession [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review]


This Ain’t California [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★; Film School Rejects review]

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

Ages and Stages: The Story of the Meligrove Band— Amazon

American Made Movie [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Cable VOD

BAM150— Fandor

Captive Beauty— Amazon

A Complete History of My Sexual Failures— SundanceNow

CSA: Confederate States of America— SundanceNow

David Holzman’s Diary [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★] — SundanceNow

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay— SundanceNow

A Dedicated Life— Fandor

Deep Water— SundanceNow

The Goebbels Experiment— Fandor

Goodbye CP— Fandor

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Fandor

The Guantanamo Trap— iTunes

I Am Divine [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon

Kumare [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — SundanceNow

Let Timmy Smoke— Amazon

The Living Matrix— Amazon

Medora [Nonfics rating: ★★★★ ; Film School Rejects review] — PBS

My Winnipeg— SundanceNow

The Road to Emmaus, PA— Amazon

Stripped— iTunes

Must-See Nonfiction TV:


Hearts and Minds [4/2 on Flix, 1:05am ET]

The Flaw [4/2 on Link TV, 5am ET]

Open Heart [4/2 on HBO East, 7am ET, and on HBO West, 10am ET]

Last Call at the Oasis [4/2 on Pivot, 11am ET]

Valentine Road [4/2 on HBO Signature, 1:25pm ET]

Dragonslayer [4/2 on Showtime Next, 3:40pm ET]

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall [4/2 on HBO2 East, 8pm ET, and HBO2 West, 11pm ET]

Capitalism: A Love Story [4/2 on Free Speech TV, 9pm ET]

Grizzly Man [4/2 on Starz Cinema, 10pm ET]


West of Memphis [4/3 on Starz East, 3:40am ET, and Starz West, 6:40am ET]

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall [4/3 on HBO East, 11am ET, and HBO West, 2pm ET]

Pearl Jam Twenty [4/3 on Palladia, 12:30pm ET]

The Flaw [4/3 on Link TV, 3:30pm ET]

Capitalism: A Love Story [4/3 on Free Speech TV, 9pm ET]


The Flaw [4/4 on Link TV, 12am ET]

Gloria: In Her Own Words [4/4 on HBO Signature, 4:25am ET]

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall [4/4 on HBO East, 5:45am ET, and HBO West, 8:45am ET]

Wordplay [4/4 on Sundance Channel, 6am ET]


Paris is Burning [4/5 on Flix, 4:30am ET]

Chimpanzee [4/5 on Starz Cinema, 6am ET]

Food, Inc. [4/5 on Pivot, 10am ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [4/5 on Link TV, 2pm and 9pm ET]

Dragonslayer [4/5 on Showtime Next, 2:25pm ET]


El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [4/6 on Link TV, 12am ET]

State 194 [4/6 on Pivot, 6am ET]

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life [4/6 on Showtime Women, 2:30pm ET]

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall [4/6 on HBO East, 3:15pm ET, and HBO West, 6:15pm ET]

Space Station 3D [4/6 on 3net, 4pm ET]


We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [4/7 on Pivot, 2am ET]

Buena Vista Social Club [4/7 on Sundance Channel, 6:15am ET]

American Teacher [4/7 on Pivot, 7am ET]

Chimpanzee [4/7 on Starz Kids & Family, 9:40am and 4:50pm ET]


First Comes Love [4/8 on HBO Signature, 1:30am ET]

Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert [4/8 on HBO2 East, 4:15am ET, and HBO2 West, 7:15am ET]

Wordplay [4/8 on Sundance Channel, 6am ET]

Dragonslayer [4/8 on Showtime Next, 4:45pm ET]

Open Heart [4/2 on HBO Signature, 5:20am ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.