Skip to main content

Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Winter 2010

By Tom White

Dovetailing with the close of the decade--one that signaled an era not just of popularity and commercial success, but of verve and innovation from both sides of the brain--is the 25th edition of the IDA Awards. Back in the mid-1980s, there weren't many forums for recognizing and honoring documentary work. It was a time when cable television was just beginning to emerge, and HBO was in its nascent stages of developing its pre-eminence as the purveyor of nonfiction. The Sundance Film Festival had just been launched, and the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam, the gold standard in doc festivals, was four years away from its debut.

So, the powers-that-were at IDA--itself just two years old--created the IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards, with Career Achievement and Preservation & Scholarship honors going to Pare Lorentz and Erik Barnouw, respectively. And among the films that were honored in 1985 included The Times of Harvey Milk, whose director, Rob Epstein earned a Pioneer Award in 2008, as well as Michael Apted's 28-Up. Apted would earn the Career Achievement Award 15 years later.

Over the next 25 years, the IDA Documentary Awards expanded to accommodate the dynamics of the form, with categories added for both filmmaking and individual achievement.

Errol Morris, this year's Career Achievement Award honoree, is, in a way, an answer to last year's recipient, Werner Herzog, his mentor while a student at University of California at Berkeley. The two of them share a restless curiosity about the human spirit, and Morris, through his famous Interrtron, has mastered the art of the interview, turning an on-camera testimonial into a journey into the soul. Taylor Segrest talks to Morris about his investigative process.

Nicolas Noxon, the Pioneer Award honoree, has a storied, 50-year career in television, having produced scores of award-winning documentaries, television specials and series. He earned his bona fides as producer and executive producer of National Geographic Specials and helped shape the direction of natural history programming. He discusses his career with Bob Fisher.

Michael Donaldson is only the third recipient of the Amicus Award--given to a "friend of the documentary community"--and his tireless efforts in the areas of fair use, orphan works, and copyright and clearance have earned him friends and fans, and clients around the world. Agnes Varnum talks to a few of his many supporters.

Finally, the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award goes to Natalia Almada, who, in dividing her time between Brooklyn and her native Mexico, has developed a richly textured cinematic sensibility that addresses bicultural identity and the dualities of past and present and history and memory.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White