October is big month for television — the broadcast networks continue to roll our their new fall shows and familiar returning ones while cable channels like HBO and Showtime are in full swing with series like “Boardwalk Empire,” “Treme,” “Dexter” and “Homeland.” In terms of sports, we’re almost in MLB postseason, the NBA season starts on the 30th and we’re a month in for the NFL. And when it comes to documentaries, this October offers an embarrassment of riches, with ESPN relaunching its “30 for 30” series, PBS hosting its third year of its “Voces” program showcases Latino artists, athletes and performers and more on other networks. Here’s our guide to the docs making their TV premieres this month.
“Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?”
Tuesday, October 2 at 7pm ET/4pm PT on Link TV
Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher’s film explores the roots of our current economic crisis, starting with Ronald Reagan and continuing through subsequent administrations and policy shifts that favored corporate interests above those of the larger population up through to the recent Occupy movement. Using the structure of a political thriller, “Heist” calls into question the current structure of our economy and serves as a warning for the future. The film will also be streamed online at our sister site SnagFilms.
Tuesday, October 2 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on ESPN
This new documentary from “Cocaine Cowboys” director Billy Corben kicks off “30 for 30 II” with a look at how many pro athletes end up out of cash only a few years after retirement. Corben interviews former stars like Jamal Mashburn, Bernie Kosar, and Andre Rison to delve into how big a role an athlete’s competitive psychology plays in how they fare off the field.
“Give Up Tomorrow”
Thursday, October 4 at 8pm on PBS
Filmmakers Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco tell a riveting and personal tale of an outrageous injustice in “Give Up Tomorrow,” which airs as part of “POV.” The doc follows the case of Paco Larrañaga, a teenager from a political family in the Philippines who’s accused of a double murder despite evidence that proves he was nowhere near the scene of the crime. The film exposes a judicial system afflicted with shocking corruption and unfairness.
“Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007”
Friday, October 5 at 8pm on Epix
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, Epix is premiering their original doc about 007’s backstory, including a look at how Ian Fleming’s spy stories were transferred to the big screen and how producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman shaped one of cinema’s most enduring characters.
“Escaramuza: Riding From the Heart”
Friday, October 5 at 10pm on PBS
Airing as part of PBS’ monthlong “Voces” doc series celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, “Escaramuza” explores the world of charreada, a competitive rodeo-style event that originated in Mexico. The film follows Escaramuza Charra Las Azaleas, a team of first-generation Mexican American horsewomen, on a journey to represent California and the United States at the National Charro Championships in Mexico.
“As Goes Janesville”
Monday, October 8th at 10pm on PBS
The 2012-2013 season of PBS doc series Independent Lens kicks off on its new night with this film about Janesville, Wisconsin, a town devastated by the shutting of teh Janesville Assembly Plant — the oldest General Motors plant in all of North America. As local politicians tried to woo new businesses to the town, the thousands of laid-off employees looked for solutions. In 2010, Scott Walker becomes governor on the strength of his “budget repair bill” and plan to restrict the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Directed by Brad Lichtenstein (“Almost Home”), “As Goes Janesville” uses its Midwestern town as a parable for cities across the country.
Tuesday, October 9 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on ESPN
Directed by Daniel Gordon (“A State of Mind”), this “30 for 30” doc examines the controversy that surrounded the 100 meter race at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and that still haunts its participants today. The race brought together famous rivals Carl Lewis (USA) and Ben Johnson (Canada), but Johnson’s win was taken away from him after he failed a drug test. The film questions whether or not Johnson was the fall guy for more widespread doping — six of the eight finalists in the race have since been implicated for drugs.
Unless you have a fancy TV, Werner Herzog’s film about France’s Chauvet Cave is not going to loom in 3D in home viewing, but it’s still worth catching. The film examines the paintings of pictures of animals preserved inside the limestone cave, created tens of thousands of years ago and inaccessible to the public, making this doc a rare glimpse at life in an ancient time.
Friday, October 12 at 10pm on PBS
From directors Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray, this 2011 “Voces” film is centered on three young architects were commissioned by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to create Cuba’s National Art Schools in Havana in 1961, an ambitious project that was never finished, construction halted after it was deemed politically irrelevant. 40 years later, Castro invites the exiled architects back to finish the project.
“There’s No Place Like Home”
Tuesday, October 16 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on ESPN
Directors Maura Mandt and Josh Swade trace what happens when one of the most important artifacts in the history of sports is put up for sale. This “30 for 30” doc follows one man’s quest to win James Naismith’s original rules of basketball when the document’s put up for aution by Sotheby’s in 2010, hoping to bring it back to Lawrence, Kansas, where Naismith taught and coached for over four decades.
Thursday, October 18 at 9pm on HBO
This deeply personal portrait of one of America’s most famous political families is told through the lens of 84-year-old Ethel Kennedy, who in her first extended interview in more than 20 years, talks about her marriage to Robert Kennedy, her political awakening, her faith and her children. The film, which includes rare home movie footage, was directed by Ethel’s daughter Rory Kennedy (“Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”).
Thursday, October 18 at 10pm on PBS
When investigating why their children have XP, a disease that makes exposure to sunlight fatal, a Navajo couple discovers that this rare genetic disorder is unusually common in their reservation. Filmmakers Maya Stark and Adi Lavy follow the pair as their search for why takes them all the way back to the consequences of the Navajos’ forced relocation by the U.S. military in 1864.
Friday, October 19 at 10pm on PBS
Lemon Andersen won a Tony for his work in Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam on Broadway,” but after the show closed he lost everything and ended up moving with his family back to the projects. Directed by Laura Brownson and Beth Levison, “Voces” film “Lemon” follows Andersen’s quest to take his life story to the New York stage.
DirecTV kicks off “Something to Talk About,” a series of socially and culturally relevant docs presented in association with Brainstorm Media, with “Battle for Brooklyn.” Directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, “Battle for Brooklyn” should be of particular interest to New Yorkers, as it looks at the recently opened Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn and was shot over seven years as owners and residents in the community in which the compound was built fought against condemnation of their property to make way for the Atlantic Yards project.
Tuesday, October 23 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on ESPN
Directed by music video artists Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah, “30 for 30” doc “Benji” tells the tale of the short life and 1984 death of Chicago South Side basketball player Ben Wilson. An extremely talented high school athlete, one of the best young basketball players in the country, Wilson was killed in a gang altercation. In his director’s statement about the film, Simmons explains they wanted to explore the legacy of gun violence: “We want to make the thugs cry!”
Werner Herzog’s outstanding doc about the two men convicted of a triple homicide in Conroe, Texas gets its world broadcast premiere on Investigation Discovery, the network that hosted his recent nonfiction series “Death Row.” In exploring the crimes of Michael Perry, who received a death sentence, and Jason Burkett, who received a life sentence, Herzog finds an incredible tale of horror, violence and hope.
“The American Scream”
Sunday, October 28 at 8pm on Chiller
Michael Stephenson, the filmmaker behind “Best Worst Movie,” directs this look at three different homemade haunted houses in Fairhaven, MA and the dreamers behind them. The doc, which is timed for Halloween, played well at Fantastic Fest in September.
“The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia”
Monday, October 29 at 9pm on HBO
Directed by James Redford, whose son is dyslexic, this film follows children with the disorder and offers a glimpse of their struggles as well as suggestions for how to deal with dyslexia on a daily basis. It also features interviews with dyslexics who’ve gone on to achieve great things, like Richard Branson, Gavin Newsom and Charles D. Schwab. Redford says he hopes his film “reveals that dyslexia is a neurological issue, not a character flaw.”
“Love Free or Die”
Monday, October 29 at 10pm on PBS
New Hampshire bishop Eugene Robinson is the first openly gay priest in a committed same-sex relationship to be ordained a bishop in any Christian denomination. Directed by Macky Alston (“Hard Road Home”), “Love Free or Die” tracks the effect Robinson’s consecration has had on the Episcopal Church and conflicts within both the church and state with regard to gay marriage.
“Ghosts of Ole Miss”
Tuesday, October 30 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on ESPN
The only perfect season in the history of the University of Mississippi football team was in 1962, the same year James Meredith walked onto campus and integrated the school under order and protection of the federal government. In this “30 for 30” film, director Fritz Mitchell (“The Legend of Jimmy the Greek”) uses Wright Thompson’s examination of those events to look at a moment in both sports and history.