December 5, 2009

'Anvil! The Story of Anvil' Takes Top 2009 IDA Award

Anvil! The Story of Anvil claimed victory in the IDA's Distinguished Feature category, while Australian film Salt took home the prize for Distinguished Short category during the 2009 International Documentary Association Documentary Awards tonight.

Hosted by Ira Glass, the event also presented awards to seven other previously-announced winners and special honorees (for a complete list of winners, nominees and honorees, click here). Glass started the evening by crediting doc filmmakers for taking the time needed to properly tell stories, getting to know their subjects and presenting it all to viewers in a palatable way.

"Watching the documentaries being honored tonight, I was struck over and over with how rare it is to enter the lives of these strangers so intimately," he said. "The filmmakers spend so much time with these people, it's rare to get so far inside somebody else's experience."

Anvil! The Story of Anvil took home two prizes, having already won the previously-announced IDA Music Documentary Award. During a taped introduction to the film, The Office actor Rainn Wilson called the film about the long-struggling metal band, a "heavy metal hymn to the human spirit."

When accepting their award for Music Doc, Anvil drummer Robb Reiner said, "We are living proof that things are never too late and dreams do come true."

Michael Selditch, who along with Rob Tate, won the Limited Series Award for Architecture School was proud of the documentary community he saw at the event. "In many cases, the documentaries are off to the side. To have an organization that's just focused on documentaries is great," he said while arriving before the show. Naturally, he was in a good mood arriving at the show a winner. "I've been to award shows where I've been nominated, but never was the winner. So it's kind of amazing to be in this position to know ahead of time. I'm just having a good time tonight."

The evening took an emotional turn when Current Media's Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were held captive in North Korea and sentenced to 12 years hard labor earlier this year, presented a special Courage Under Fire tribute to documentarians and video journalists who are either imprisoned or have been killed because of their work. Lee teared up while speaking after a moving video tribute acknowledged over a hundred selected filmmakers, focusing on Christian Poveda (1955-2009), Musa Khan Khel (1981-2009), Rolando Santiz (1952-2009), and Janullah Hashimzada (1969-2009).

Nicolas Noxon brought some humor to the event while accepting his 2009 Pioneer Award for work with National Geographic Television among others. After spinning a yarn about his younger days when he butted heads with an arrogant Orson Welles, he acknowledged that there were many other pioneers in the crowd, including Dennis Kane (head of National Geographic Television for 20 years) and producer Mel Stuart. "Mel was voted a Pioneer a few years ago, and he tells me it's not bad at all," Noxon joked.

IDA friend, attorney and independent film advocate Michael Donaldson attended the event to accept his Amicus Award for his work fighting for independent filmmakers for over 30 years. "I'm just doing what I do. I'm still trying to get my head around being on this shortlist of [previous Amicus Award winners] Steven Spielberg and John Hendricks. Other than being speechless, which is an odd thing for a lawyer, it's great," Donaldson said before the event.

While accepting his honor during the show, he continued, "I don't take this as a laurel to rest my head on, which is good, because it's kind of hard," he joked noting the shape of the IDA award. "It's designed to goose one to more action…You keep doing what you do, I'll keep doing what I do and perhaps together in some way we'll help to make the world a better place."

When introducing this year's Career Achievement Award-winner, Errol Morris, composer Philip Glass credited Morris' storytelling, technical skills and ability to make those who work with him reach higher and achieve more than they imagined in the process (Glass has worked with Morris on multiple projects and he's Ira's cousin--who knew?).

"He absolutely redefined what our description of what a documentary film could be. He made the rules, he changed the landscape. He overhauled a whole genre of filmmaking. Now that's an achievement," said Glass, noting Morris' landmark works such as The Thin Blue Line, Standard
Operating Procedure
and Academy Award-winner The Fog of War. "Naturally at the beginning he was vilified for his efforts. Now he's glorified for that same work. Vilified, glorified--what more could an artist hope for?"

Well, one could ask for a double win. Sacha Gervasi, the director of Anvil! got just that when Ira Glass announced that Anvil! The Story of Anvil won the IDA's Distinguished Feature category.

Gervasi's response was total rock and roll: "F**king hell." 

Overwhelmed and surprised, Gervasi choked-up while on stage with producer Rebecca Yeldman and Anvil band members Reiner and Steve "Lips" Kudlow. "It kind of hit home to me, these films can have a real impact on other people's lives, four people, two people, one person. It's a beautiful thing," he said, noting how the movie about a struggling band has helped the band achieve more success than ever. "I think the message here is also that a film doesn't have to be serious for it to be profound. It's so nice that people understood what we were trying to do, and part of this wonderful story is making a happy ending for these guys. We're happy to be here, thank you very much."

See the official announcement about the 2009 IDA Award winners here.

Read up on 2009 IDA Award winners, nominees and honorees here.