Nonfiction night out

'Balseros,' 'Revolution,' 'Ravine' top list of Int'l Documentary Assn.'s winners

The brethren have spoken.

Tonight, the Intl. Documentary Assn. hosts its 19th annual awards gala, granting peer recognition to feature-length, short, TV and student categories, as well as for individual achievement.

Winners, announced Dec. 2, include “Balseros” and “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” for features; “Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story,” short doc; and David Attenborough for career achievement.

IDA Awards are the only kudos given to doc makers chosen solely by those in the field, typically the format’s toughest critics.

“It’s the foremost genre-specific event dedicated to doc films,” declares the org’s exec director, Sandra Ruch. A sellout event last year, the gala presentation at the DGA Theater in Hollywood is the IDA’s major fundraiser.

Coin raised funds the IDA’s efforts including the InFact theatrical doc showcase and the annual DocuDay and DocuFest screenings.

Docs eligible for IDA consideration must have been completed, theatrically released or telecast between July 1, 2002, and June 13, 2003. Those nominated in the feature and short categories often overlap with Oscar’s nominees, though the IDA’s rules for consideration are much broader.

Close to 300 submissions were received this year in the feature category alone.

Tyro helmer Jonathan Karsh, cited with an honorable mention for “My Flesh and Blood,” says, “The ‘I’ in IDA is most thrilling since we’re being recognized as one of the best international docs.”

“My Flesh and Blood” began the year as a Sundance prizewinner; it’s skedded for a December opening by Strand Releasing in conjunction with HBO Films.

Ruch points out that IDA recognition is a boon to doc filmmakers: It enhances marketing and garners attention from festival programmers and distribs. Only three of the awards come with a monetary prize. Per Ruch, most submit for the prestige factor.

Volunteer nominating committees make a considerable effort in winnowing down submissions. Diane Estelle Vicari was chair of one of the feature committees; her group began screening videotapes in May and finished in September. A separate blue ribbon committee selects the final prize winner.

Films were evaluated on a point system that took into consideration all elements, from production values to storytelling.

Vicari knows what an IDA Award means: In 2000, she shared a Pare Lorentz Award with Robert Kirk for their film “Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness.”

“The day I won, it changed the track of my film,” Vicari says. “People started paying an interest. Festivals began calling me to see the film.” The award was especially important in the international market, she adds.

David Haugland, indie filmmaker and chair of the IDA’s limited/continuing series award committee, says his committee’s choices best embody the craft and use of the TV medium. “These are important stories of our time and reflective of the year,” he notes. “If we give the IDA’s imprimatur, the work must have been significant.”

Positive reinforcement

For such TV execs as Jacoba Atlas, PBS’ senior veep of programming, the nods reinforce the network’s commitment to exceptional docs. “It’s wonderful having the recognition of peers who do the same work as you do,” says Atlas, noting docs are the backbone of PBS. “We’re glad to have some films recognized and have such great filmmakers who want to work for us.”

(IDA winner Stanley Nelson’s “The Murder of Emmett Till” was a primetime Emmy winner for PBS’ “American Experience.”)

Through the year, IDA helps publicize the nonfiction genre. To comply with the Acad’s new rules and deadline, in August the org sponsored InFact. The showcase at the Hollywood’s ArcLight cinemas served as an Oscar qualifying run for feature and short docs. The films then traveled en masse to four more cities. On Saturday, all IDA Award winners will screen at DocuFest at Kodak’s Hollywood headquarters.

On Feb. 28, the IDA will host DocuDay at the Writers Guild theater, screening doc Oscar contenders, followed by Q&A’s.

Excerpts from the kudofest and interviews with winners will air Feb. 23 on the Sundance Channel.

List of IDA winners

“Balseros,” “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Honorable mention, features
“My Flesh and Blood”

Limited series
“The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow”

Continuing series
“American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till”

“Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story”

IDA/ABC News VideoSource prize
“Bus 174”

Pare Lorentz Award
“Berga: Soldiers of Another War”

Career Achievement Award
David Attenborough

Pioneer Award
Mel Stuart

Preservation and Scholarship Award
Michael Rabiger

Emerging Filmmaker Award
Alex Rivera

Student Achievement Award
Sue-Yeon Jung

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