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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Winter 2011

By Tom White

Dear Readers,


Awards and prizes connote achievement, excellence and promise, and are a barometer of the best work of a given year. And in every awards process, there will be snubs and surprises and shoo-ins and dark horses. Awards keep us engaged, give us hope, and inspire us to do our best work so that one day we too may be honored.

The IDA Documentary Awards arguably signal, after the announcement of the Academy Awards Short Lists, the launch of Awards Season, with the IFP's Gotham Independent Film Awards preceding the IDAs by a few days. What follows through the winter months are a bevy of critics awards, then the craft guild awards, Film Independent's Spirit Awards and finally the Academy Awards.

The IDA Documentary Awards take the long view, honoring individuals who have led exemplary careers in both filmmaking and vital enabling fields like preservation and scholarship, as well as filmmakers who show great promise at the beginning of their careers. And the IDAs honor the best films of the year in a number of categories.

And we are again, at the end of the first year of the new decade, carrying on a tradition that's been part of the IDA mission since 1984. We start with Barbara Kopple, the Career Achievement Award winner, who, along with her multiple honors over the years, has helped nurture a fair number of the next generation of filmmakers. Sara Vizcarrando talks to Kopple about her laudatory career and how the strong bond she has developed with her subjects--from Harlan County miners to the Dixie Chicks--has informed her work.

Mark Jonathan Harris, the Preservation & Scholarship Award honoree, has mentored many docmakers in his quarter-century at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts; indeed, a high percentage of the documentary community in Los Angeles has either studied under or taught alongside Harris. And as a two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker, he has produced a number of works directed by his former students. Laura Almo talks to Harris about his accomplishments at USC.

There are a handful of filmmakers who are partners in producing and directing as well as in life. This year's Pioneer Award winners, Alan and Susan Raymond, have been part of some of the more innovative nonfiction ventures over the past few decades--namely, An American Family, the landmark television series that would later spawn two genres, the vérité series and reality TV; and The Police Tapes, an unprecedented, up-close-and-personal perspective on the daily lives of inner city cops that inspired both Hill Street Blues and COPS. Shelley Gabert talks to the Raymonds about their award-winning work.

Finally, Jeff Malmberg, the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award winner, has amassed an impressive collection of prizes for his debut film, Marwencol. Joseph Jon Lanthier talks to Malmberg about his nascent, yet promising, documentary career.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White