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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, November 1996

By Lisa Leeman

It's that time of year again, when the IDA celebrates the outstanding documen­taries of the past year, as well as saluting individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to non-fiction filmmaking.

The IDA Awards were conceived 12 years ago by former IDA president Harrison Engle to reward creative excellence in the documentary form. This year, three dedicated juries screened over three hundred documentary films and videos to select six films to honor (also, please see the list of the films receiving honorable e mention). Each jury noted the high quality of submissions, and protested the difficulty of whittling down the number of films to celebrate. As a past co-chair of the IDA Awards, I can testify to the difficult task of selecting a small number of exceptional films chosen from so many estimable films. The reward is being able to see so much diverse and inspiring work by our documentary peers. Each year there are many more films deserving of honor and recognition than we are able to salute. I'd like to congratulate all the filmmakers and their creative collaborators for their documentaries that move, educate, entertain and open our minds to new worlds and new ideas.

The IDA/David Wolper Student Documentary Achievement Award winner—Just for the Ride In a personal look at the lives of cowgirls, produced and directed by Amanda Micheli at Harvard University. The IDA Distinguished Short Film Award goes to Jessica Yu's Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien, the inspiring story of a prolific poet and writer who just happens to live in an iron lung. Finally, the Blue Ribbon jury chose four equally ranked films to receive the IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards. The 1996 winners are Anne Frank Remembered, produced and directed by Jon Blair; David Attenborough's The Private Life of Plants: The Birds & The Bees, produced by Mike Salisbury, Pat Mitchell and Vivian Schiller; Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern, a film by Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher; and The War Within: A Portrait of Virginia Woolf, produced by Morten Bruus and John Fuegi.

The IDA is delighted to honor Ted Turner with the IDA Career Achievement Award. Mr. Turner has made possible the production and broadcast of hundreds of hours of documentaries that would not otherwise be made for showing to a wide audience. His commitment to subjects the media has traditionally undercovered is well known.

The IDA Preservation and Scholarship Award is being bestowed upon the National Film Board of Canada, for its dedicated preservation of over fifty years of documentary work.

I'm hoping you are able to join us in celebrating these films and award winners at our IDA Awards Gala Dinner, November 1, at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.

And also, I hope you can attend the Docu Fest, featuring the IDA award-winning films on the following day, November 2, a day of screenings and panel discussions with the filmmakers, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Happy dining and viewing!


Lisa Leeman
IDA President