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Lucy Walker’s “Waste Land” won the top feature award from the International Documentary Assn., presented Friday night in ceremonies at the Directors Guild of America. Pic also won the IDA’s Pare Lorentz award.

“Waste Land,” shot over three years, focuses on artist Vik Munoz’s journey from Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, where pickers salvage recyclables.

Docu, which has been shortlisted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for documentary Oscar nominations, topped “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “The Oath,” “Steam of Life” and “Sweetgrass.” The IDA’s top award last year went to Sacha Gervasi’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil.”

Host Morgan Spurlock presented both awards to Walker and producer Angus Aynsley — delivering the Lorentz award in a large plastic garbage bag. Aynsley credited Walker with “providing multiple poetic voices to multiple characters.”

“I keep pinching myself and thinking I’ve gone to heaven,” said a moved Walker on accepting the award.

Kiran Deol’s “Woman Rebel,” the story of a female soldier in Nepal’s People’s Liberation Army, won the distinguished short category. It topped “The Fence,” “Keep Dancing,” “The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner” and “The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant.” “Rebel” is Deol’s first film.

Connie Field’s “Have You Heard From Johannesburg,” an exploration of the impact of apartheid on sports, took the limited series award. ESPN’s “30 for 30” drew the continuing series nod.

Joe Berlinger, director of “Crude,” gave thanks to the audience for the IDA’s support of his legal battle against Chevron over the oil company’s demand for his raw footage.

“This experience has taught me that I’m a part of a community,” he said. “Being a documentarian has never been more important. It’s more important than ever that we stick together.”

Cecilia Peck presented Barbara Kopple with the IDA’s career achievement award.

“We live in challenging times, politically and professionally,” Kopple said in her acceptance speech. “We need to lean on each other. None of us can do this alone.”

Prior to the ceremonies, the Economist magazine announced a partnership with “PBS NewsHour” to launch the Economist Film Project to showcase documentary films.

During 2011-12, “PBS NewsHour” will air weekly segments of six to eight minutes from selected films, with a supporting website featuring Economist articles that “complement and contextualize” the films. Those clips will also be posted to the Economist’s Facebook fan page, as well as on “PBS NewsHour’s” website, and their respective YouTube and Hulu channels.

The Economist said it will not be making a profit on the documentaries, noting that the project is aimed at raising awareness of the films and issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.