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Notes from the Reel World: The President's Column, March-April 2006

By diane estelle Vicari

Dear IDA Community:

Not long ago, upon telling people about my profession, they would respond, "What is a documentarian?" Today, people respond with enthusiasm and reverence for the documentary genre--and a strong desire for greater access to the art form.  

According to a recent study by the Writers Guild of America, the number of documentaries screened in theaters and at film festivals has increased nearly 90 percent over the last three years. Over the last nine years, the IDA has been a direct contributor to this exposure through DocuWeekTM, formerly known as InFACTTM, the goal of which has been to showcase documentaries in a theatrical setting, while helping them qualify for Academy Award consideration. And since DocuWeekTM was launched as DOCtoberTM in 1997, 15 films featured in the showcase have gone on to earn Academy Award nominations, with four films winning Oscars. Among the films programmed for the 2005 DocuWeekTM, three features--Darwin's Nightmare, 39 Pounds of Love and Occupation: Dreamland--and two shorts--God Sleeps in Rwanda and Positively Naked--made the Academy Awards Short List, with Darwin's Nightmare and God Sleeps in Rwanda earning nominations.

What's more, Marshall Curry, the 2005 recipient of the IDA Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker award, received a nomination for his feature documentary Street Fight, which was also nominated for an IDA Award, as were Academy Award nominees Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Murderball, March of the Penguins, The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club, God Sleeps in Rwanda and A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin.

In 1982, a small group of pioneers that included Linda Buzzell, Niki Lapenieks, Larry Saltzman and Jack Haley Jr. founded IDA, in part, to recognize and support the work of documentarians. One of the first projects that IDA took on was a reception to honor the Oscar nominees in the documentary categories, then screen the films in a daylong festival. Those events were created in response to the fact that when Nigel Noble earned the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject of 1981 (for Close Harmony), the media was more interested in talking to the award presenters than to him. The intent of the Oscars reception and DocuDay was to create for documentarians a forum in which to acknowledge and appreciate their work among Hollywood's elite. Twenty-four years later, the tradition continues, as the Sundance Channel joins us in sponsoring DocuDayTM New York on February 25, and DocuDayTM LA on March 4, to complement the Annual Celebration of Academy Awards Documentary Nominees on March 1. Honoring outstanding achievement is an integral component of IDA's mission to promote and preserve documentaries. 

It is with great pride that I extend an invitation to everyone to join us in supporting and celebrating these filmmakers as they stand and represent the many others who have committed their lives in the pursuit of documenting and bringing to you worlds that you may never have a chance to journey into.


Congratulations to all of the documentary nominees!

diane estelle Vicari
IDA President