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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, July / August 2002

By Michael Donaldson

Dear IDA Members:

I report from the Cannes Film Festival, which this year has to be the best I’ve ever attended. For the first time in 46 years, a documentary was in the main competition. Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine was the talk of the festival.

Moore has outdone himself. He has never communicated more clearly and more directly about the social issues that are troubling him than in his new film. The massacre at Columbine High School is the launching pad for a discussion of gun control, our national violence—both on an individual domestic basis and as a matter of public policy—and our culture of fear. Moore is relentless in his presentation of statistics and visceral visuals.

The highlight of the film for me was when his personal efforts caused K-Mart to stop selling bullets for hand-guns; K-Mart had sold over 900 bullets that were used in the Columbine tragedy. Once again, a documentary filmmaker helped to make the world a place that is more likely to work for everyone.

Then there were DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, showcasing their new film Only the Strong Survive, in the Director's Fortnight. Across town, Fred Wiseman took a departure from his usual documentary work to screen his new fiction film. Everybody was talking about his presence, his body of work and his great contribution to our society. Frankly, the documentary films had as much buzz this year as the fiction efforts.

Needless to say, that gave everyone at the first gathering of IDA's EuroForum something to talk about. IDA Trustee Jan Rofekamp will carry forward the work of building activities in Europe for IDA members.

The previous week, over 120 documentary filmmakers crowded onto the roof of IDA Trustee Steven Rosenbaum’s BNNtv/CameraPlanet offices for a mixer for New York-area IDA members. Attorney Steve Sheppard, Executive Director Sandra Ruch and I did our part to thank the first-timers, who mingled with experienced filmmakers such as Albert Maysles and Bob Drew. It was quite an evening, capped by the presence of IDA Trustee Steven Burns from Discovery Channel. The IDA has been in dialogue with Discovery over the issue of end-roll credits, so its presence was appreciated. Several filmmakers were able to talk to Burns, although from the sounds of it, pitching projects was a higher priority than anything else.

This is an exciting time for IDA as we push the frontiers of our membership. We are now organizing our first Asia Forum in August. We are enjoying ever-increasing visibility for the documentary form. And we are remaining vigilant regarding proper credit to our members for the work that they do to birth these wonderful films.



Michael C. Donadlson