Skip to main content

Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, February 2002

By Michael Donaldson

Dear IDA Members,

The annual membership meeting in December, while far from a quorum, generated a lively discussion as to where IDA should head during the coming year. There was a general consensus that the “International” in International Documentary Association should be emphasized and that growth for the IDA should come through the establishment of chapters in various cities. The board members who attended supported the initiatives, but a formal vote was tabled until the first meeting of the new board of directors.

Our target cities are New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Amsterdam and either Toronto or Montreal. Six new chapters in 2002 might be a bit ambitious, but we would like to put the idea out to the membership and see who responds. The concept is that the chapters will be formed around a passionate leader, as opposed to being staff-driven. The headquarters will assist in creating a calendar of activities and revenue streams. Any member of IDA would be eligible to affiliate with the local chapter, and each chapter would be self-sustaining as to the activities within its city.

If this program takes off, there could be linked events such as the IDA Awards Gala. At a minimum, we would hope to repeat the joy of last year, when the awards ceremony took place in Los Angeles and in Paris, where Richard Leacock presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Jean Rouch at the Cinematheque Française, while France's new Consul General made his first public appearance to witness the event in Los Angeles. In addition, Saira Shah flew in from London with her cameraman James Miller to accept the Courage Under Fire Award. So it is no wonder that at the membership meeting the next day, the talk turned to growth around the world.

The discussion was fueled by my own enthusiasm over my trip to China as head of the American delegation to the Golden Lion Awards—sometimes referred to as the “Chinese Emmys.” My address on behalf of the delegation dealt with trends in American television and co-production opportunities in the documentary area. We also visited production facilities in Beijing and Chang-sha and met with documentary filmmakers. A wonderful documentary on the giant panda was one of the highlights of the trip. IDA will work harder in 2002 to encourage such co-productions among the membership, and the chapter concept will help facilitate the process. Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Executive Director Sandra Ruch met with individuals and groups at the International Documentary FilmFestival Amsterdam.

Sandra and I both spent time at Sundance Film Festival last month, where IDA co-hosted a reception at the House of Docs. So, looking ahead to this year fills us with a warm sense of the global village of documentary filmmakers. Our members are making films in many countries, with more than a few in and around Afghanistan.



Michael C. Donaldson