Skip to main content

40 for 40: IDA-Supported Docs To Watch For Our Birthday

By Hansen Bursic

A collage of stills from 40 IDA supported documentaries with text that reads #40YearsofDocs.

IDA's four-decade history has seen the beginning and end of many programs, but few have withstood the test of time like our Fiscal Sponsorship program. IDA began offering fiscal sponsorships to support independent documentary filmmakers in 1986, and since then we have supported hundreds of films from all over the world. These IDA-supported documentaries have won prestigious awards, from Sundance Film Festival to Peabody Awards; been nominated for Academy Awards; and, most importantly, changed countless lives. 

To celebrate IDA's 40th anniversary and our second longest-running program, here is a list of 40 IDA-supported documentaries for your viewing pleasure. If you like these documentaries, we encourage you to explore and donate to our current sponsored projects!

[accordion collapsed]

Not Bad for a Girl (Lisa Rose Apramian, 1995)

Filmmaker Lisa Rose Apramian profiles four all-female bands in alternative rock music.

Where to watch: YouTube

The World According to Sesame Street (Linda Hawkins and Linda Goldstein Knowlton, 1996)

A documentary following the creation and co-production of the Sesame Street television show in three developing countries.

Where to watch: YouTube Movies, Google Play

Roots in the Sand (Jayasri Hart, 1998)

A multi-generational portrait of the Singh, Saikhon and Mohamed families--pioneering Panjabi Mexicans who settled a century ago in Southern California's Imperial Valley

Where to Watch: Kanopy

Death: A Love Story (Michelle LeBrun, 1999)

When actor Mel Howard was told he had liver cancer, he and his wife, actress Michelle LeBrun, decided to document his struggle and his search for alternative medical therapies.

Where to Watch: Vimeo

Speaking in Strings (Paola di Florio, 1999)

Documentarian Paola di Florio profiles her long-time friend, legendary violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, a hot-headed chain-smoker and possible alcoholic, through a series of interviews and performances. 

Where to Watch: Kanopy, Amazon Prime Video

Legacy (Tod Lending, 2000)

​​Academy Award-nominated Legacy is the unflinching chronicle of one family's triumphant journey out of poverty and despair.

Where to Watch: DVD

Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness (Robert Kirk, 2000)

The remarkable story of Chiune Sugihara and the Jewish refugees that he helped to save.

Where to Watch: DVD

Horns And Halos (David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, 2002)

This movie captures the unlikely connection of three men--an ex-con biographer, a janitor-turned publisher and US President George W. Bush-- whose paths to power and popularity become tangled in the controversial biography about George W. Bush, Fortunate Son.

Where to Watch: Vimeo On Demand, Kanopy

Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz, 2002)

Eight youthful competitors, sponsored by their hometown newspapers, travel with their families to Washington, DC, to compete in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

Where to watch: Kanopy, Amazon Prime

Bukowski: Born into this (John Dullaghan, 2003)

This documentary chronicles the writer Charles Bukowski, who is as well-known for his drinking binges as for his poetry and prose. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video 

Best Friends Forgotten (Julie Lofton, 2004)

Best Friend Forgotten is a 2004 American documentary film about pet overpopulation. 

Where to Watch: DVD

Shakespeare Behind Bars (Hank Rogerson, 2005)

In this documentary, a theater troupe consisting entirely of incarcerated people performs the plays of William Shakespeare for a captive audience.

Where to Watch: Website

Saving Marriage (Mike Roth and John Henning, 2006)

Politicians, seasoned lobbyists and other citizens grapple with the issue of legalizing gay and lesbian marriages in Massachusetts.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story (Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim, 2006)

Filmmakers Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim examine the case of a 13-year-old Japanese girl who was kidnapped on her way home from school in 1977.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

Craft in America (Carol Sauvion, 2007)

Craft In America, the award-winning documentary series, is a journey to the artists, objects, techniques and origins of American craft. 

Where to Watch: PBS

Torn from the Flag (Klaudia Kovács and Endre Hules, 2007)

Torn from the Flag is a 2007 documentary film about the international decline of communism and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. 

Where to Watch: Vimeo On Demand

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)

A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend's ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.

Where to watch: Tubi, Kanopy, Amazon Prime

Trouble the Water (Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, 2008)

A redemptive tale of an aspiring rap artist surviving failed levees and her own troubled past and seizing a chance for a new beginning.

Where to watch: Kanopy, Sundance Now

A Small Act (Jennifer Arnold, 2010)

A young Kenyan's life changes drastically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received.

Where to Watch: Tubi, YouTube

The Mexican Suitcase (Trisha Ziff, 2011)

The story of three lost boxes known as the Mexican Suitcase that were recovered in 2007. The boxes, misplaced in the chaos at the start of World War II, contained many of the Spanish Civil War negatives by the legendary photographer Robert Capa and fellow photographers Gerda Taro and David "Chim" Seymour.

Where to Watch: Tubi

The Invisible War (Kirby Dick, 2012)

Filmmaker Kirby Dick explores the epidemic level of violent sexual assault incidents within the United States military.

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield, 2012)

The 2008 global economic crisis threatens the fortune of Florida billionaires David and Jackie Siegel just as they are in the middle of building a 90,000 square-foot estate.

Where to Watch: Tubi, YouTube

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare (Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman, 2012)

Filmmakers Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman use personal stories and expert analysis to diagnose serious problems in the US healthcare system.

Where to Watch: Tubi

Valentine Road (Marta Cunningham, 2013)

Valentine Road explores the murder of a teenager who had begun exploring their gender identity, revealing the circumstances that led to the shocking crime, as well as its complicated aftermath. 

Where to Watch: Hulu, HBO Now

Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll (John Pirozzi, 2014)

Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll is a 2014 documentary film about Cambodian rock music in the 1960s and 1970s, before the Khmer Rouge regime and Cambodian genocide.

Where to Watch: Tubi

Best of Enemies (Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, 2015)

In 1968, ideological opposites William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal held a series of riveting, nationally televised debates that usher in a new era of public discourse and pundit TV.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Cartel Land (Matthew Heineman, 2016)

Filmmaker Matthew Heineman examines the state of the ongoing drug problem along the US-Mexico border.

Where to Watch: Hulu, Tubi

The Way Madness Lies (Sandra Luckow, 2017)

Filmmaker Sandra Luckow's portrait of her brother Duanne's mental decline into severe paranoid schizophrenia.

Where to Watch: Apple TV

Mankiller (Valerie Red-Horse, 2017)

Wilma Mankiller, an advocate for women and Native Americans, defied all odds to become the Cherokee Nation's first female principal chief.

Where to Watch: Gumroad

Women of the Gulag (Marianna Yarovskaya, 2017)

Women of the Gulag tells the story of the last known group of women who survived being held in the Soviet-era forced labor camps called Gulag.

Where to Watch: YouTube

Dreamaway (Johanna Domke and Marouan Omara, 2018)

Dreamaway follows a group of young employees of a luxury hotel compound, where clichés and stereotypes of Western and Eastern cultures clash.

Where to Watch: Vimeo On Demand

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (Jacoba Atlas, 2018)

A documentary that takes a close look at the educational, judicial and societal disparities facing Black Girls. Inspired by the groundbreaking book of the same name by renowned scholar Monique W. Morris, Ed.D.

Where to Watch: Kanopy

I'm Leaving Now (Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda, 2018)

After 16 years in Brooklyn, a man decides to return home to Mexico. He sends money to a family he left behind. But what is the price of a better life if they don't want him to return?

Where to Watch: Netflix

The Great Green Wall (Jared P. Scott, 2019)

Singer Inna Modja travels across the edge of the Sahel region of Africa, where she plans to build a green wall of trees and vegetation to fight climate change and drought.

Where to Watch: Kanopy

The Rise of the Synths (Iván Castell, 2019)

The Rise of the Synths is a documentary about the universe of creating sounds and Synthwave music.

Where to Watch: Coming Soon

My Dear Kyrgyzstan (Noam Argov and Alex Pritz, 2019)

A Kyrgyz man takes it upon himself to transform his abandoned Soviet mining village into an international tourism destination.

Where to Watch: MailChimp

A La Calle (Maxx Caicedo and Nelson G. Navarrete, 2020)

A firsthand account of the extraordinary efforts of ordinary Venezuelans to reclaim their democracy from the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Fanny: The Right to Rock (Bobbi Jo Krals, 2021)

The story of a Filipina American garage band that morphed into the ferocious rock group Fanny, which almost became the female version of the Beatles.

Where to Watch: Crave

Aftershock (Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee, 2022)

Aftershock follows two bereaved fathers who galvanize activists, birth-workers and physicians to reckon with the US maternal health crisis after losing their partners due to preventable childbirth complications.

Be on the lookout for upcoming screenings here.

All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen, 2022)

The darkening backdrop of Delhi's apocalyptic air and escalating violence, two brothers devote their lives to protect one casualty of the turbulent times: the bird known as the Black Kite.

Be on the lookout for upcoming screenings.