Top Docs: A Grand Canyon Trek; New Hindenburg Evidence; and More

LJ’s documentary film reviewer picks four stirring new works, now available on DVD/Blu-ray. 

Hindenburg: The New Evidence. 54+ min. PBS. 2021. DVD UPC 4188704515. $24.99.
In 1937, the Hindenburg was the largest and fastest airship in the world, able to cross the Atlantic Ocean in only a few days. It was also a propaganda tool for Hitler’s Germany on the eve of World War II. Footage of the Hindenburg burning in a fireball of death on a New Jersey field created one of the benchmark moments of the 20th century. In this documentary, a trio of scientists attempt to figure out what caused the zeppelin’s blaze. What follows is a fascinating scientific investigation—spanning continents and aided by previously unseen footage—that might solve the mystery. VERDICT Anyone interested in aviation history and science-based detective work will find a lot to enjoy here.

Into the Grand Canyon. 84+ min. National Geographic. 2020. DVD UPC 786936885835. $24.99.
Pete McBride and Kevin Fedarko attempt a 750-mile hike through the Grand Canyon. They experience moments of awe at the natural wonders while also facing extreme heat, snowstorms, and physical injuries, with scant food and water. Directed by photographer McBride, the film features one stunning image after another as the pair make the difficult and dangerous hike across the remote landscape. The emphasis is on the meditative aspects of the journey, but McBride also explores the mining interests that endanger the park, and efforts to further monetize the national park for tourists and developers. The documentary was originally released by Bullfrog Films in 2018 as Into the Canyon. VERDICT Thanks to this re-release by National Geographic, nature lovers can vicariously trek through the majestic beauty of the Grand Canyon without getting off the couch.

Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide. 77+ min. Greenwich Entertainment. 2020. DVD UPC 3832925386. $19.99.
Artist and critic Kenny Scharf proclaims that he wants to “make art fun”—watching Malia Scharf and Max Basch’s documentary, it’s clear he did just that. Starting in the 1980s, his paintings were influenced by cartoons from the ’60s, surrealism, and graffiti, featuring explosions of over-the-top, vibrant colors. The best moments of the film are about Scharf’s move to New York in the early 1980s and the raucous life he led with friends such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Four decades ago, New York was a vastly different city, and the film’s substantial archival footage makes it look like a thrilling era of endless creativity. VERDICT A color-drenched look at the life and career of a pop art luminary.

Whirlybird. 103+ min. Greenwich Entertainment. 2020. DVD UPC 738329255695. $19.99.
Zoey Tur (who was known as Bob prior to 2014) was a legend in Los Angeles helicopter news coverage. Working alongside then-wife Marika, Tur was linked with some of the most famous footage in TV news history; the couple located O.J. Simpson’s Ford Bronco on the infamous 1994 chase and filmed the 1992 L.A. riots. Tur was consumed with capturing news, with extreme consequences for her personal and professional lives. Directed by Matt Yoka, this doc is a nonstop adrenaline rush of crime, marital dysfunction (with examples of Tur’s anger issues caught on tape), and news reportage. VERDICT This story of a pair of news reporters and their unconventional lives and careers is a quirky love letter to Los Angeles.

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