December 21, 2018

IDA Staff Pick Their Memorable Moments from 2018

Most of IDA staff at the 2018 IDA Documentary Awards. From left to right 1st row: Toni Bell, Sandra Ignagni, Ranell Shubert, Danna Rosenthal, Jina Chung, Cassidy Dimon, Jefferey Sigmund, Mitch Kampf, Susan Yin, Juliana Sakae, Amy Halpin; bottom row: Maria Elena Hewett, Niki Bhardwaj, Trent Nakamura, Dana Merwin, Simon Kilmurry and Angela Jang. Not pictured: Tom White, Claire Aguilar and Carrie Lozano.

From DocuDay in February through Getting Real, the IDA Screening Series, and the IDA Documentary Awards, 2018 has been a remarkable year for IDA and nonfiction storytelling as a whole. The compassion and camaraderie we've seen this year in our documentary community—our documentary family—has truly made this year a special one as we've watched a new generation of storytellers emerge across the globe and be welcomed with open arms by veterans in the field. With so many highlights this year at festivals, community events, and our own IDA events we asked our IDA colleagues to share a few of their favorite memories from the past year.


Simon Kilmurry

Executive Director

Most memorable to me was the premiere of Crime + Punishment at Sundance.  Seeing that film along with the officers of the NYPD 12 on stage afterward was incredibly moving. It shows the power of documentary film to tell stories that matter and showcases the bravery and generosity of the people who share their stories with us.

Favorite documentary of the year:  Minding the Gap

Photo by Stephen Speckman for Sundance Institute

Amy Halpin

Deputy Director

I had so many wonderful documentary moments this year, many of them connected in some way to our Getting Real conference, but I think the most memorable experience for me this year was the emotional discussion I had with a filmmaker attending our disability convening at Getting Real. He sought me out after a panel and let me know that as a filmmaker with a disability and wheelchair user he had never attended an event in our field where he felt so seen and welcomed. From the photobooth and magazine cover to the volunteer t-shirts, he thanked us for centering disability and incorporating images and discussions that acknowledged the contributions and challenges of filmmakers from the disability community. In 2016 after being publically (and rightfully!) called out for not including disability in our discussions about diversity and inclusion, I was really grateful that all of my colleagues at IDA took that critique as a valuable piece of feedback and a challenge to do better. 

Another very meaningful moment was watching the premiere of Bing Liu's film Minding the Gap at Sundance. The film had previously been part of our DocuClub work in progress screening series and it was so thrilling to see how far the film had come from that screening and to know without a doubt at the end of that screening that we had just witnessed the career launch of a really remarkable new talent. 

Tom White

Documentary Magazine Editor

My most memorable moment at the IDA this year was not necessarily a moment so much as a yearlong feeling of sustained gratitude—for working alongside an amazing group of people who exude talent, kindness and compassion in equal measure. And look what we delivered this Fall alone: Getting Real, which drew a thousand people from around the world to confab about the issues we care most about…the Screening Series, with its assemblage of some of the greatest docs of the year, punctuated with the post-screening presence of the filmmakers and their protagonists…and the IDA Documentary Awards, that annual celebration of not only the ever-morphing documentary form, but, most important, the trailblazers who brought us to this point and the flamethrowers who will take us to the next level.

Favorite documentaries of the year: Hale County This Morning, This EveningMonrovia, IndianaMinding the GapThree Identical Strangers—these documentaries stayed with me as sustaining cinematic inquiries into how we live, how we engage the vicissitudes and mysteries of our lives, and how we move forward amid the strange poetry and fluxus around us. But I saved the best documentary for last—I spent the night before the IDA Documentary Awards in the thrall of a transformative masterpiece, one that had me in its grip from the first note to the last. This was the experience of Sam Green and Joe Bini’s A Thousand Thoughts, a live performance documentary collaboration with the ageless, ever-seeking Kronos Quartet. How do you render music cinematically? How do you talk about it? How do you listen to it? How do you feel it? What do you hear inside of you? These are some of the many questions that provoked a thousand thoughts in me. And when it was all over, I thought about the passage of time, how music and cinema had conspired to transcend it, and how I had burrowed to the center of my mind and emerged a more curious and enlightened person. That’s what good art does. And one capper to the evening: seeing a tearful Werner Herzog exiting the theater.


IDA member mingle in Austin, TX.Jina Chung

Director of Development

My most memorable experience this year was going to Sundance for the first time and meeting several Austin-based filmmakers while waiting in line for a panel. We started Austin chapter of Doc Meetup and I joined the board of Austin Asian American Film Festival. A chance encounter led me to a great film community in my neck of the woods.

Favorite documentary of the year:  RBG


Carrie Lozano

Director, IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund

My most memorable experience this year was the opportunity to attend the premieres of several inaugural Enterprise grantees: Crime + PunishmentCharm CityFeeling of Being Watched and Netizens. Watching them make their way in the world was a truly memorable experience.

Favorite documentary of the year:  Of Fathers and Sons


Cassidy Dimon

Conference Producer & IDA Documentary Awards Project Manager

The Disabled Doc Makers Convening at Getting Real was my most memorable experience this year. It was a powerful moment to see all of those filmmakers together, sharing stories and tips and their presence at the conference was long overdue and added so much to the event.

Favorite documentary of the year:   LIYANA

The Disabled Doc Makers Convening at Getting Real '18


Jeff Sigmund


My favorite moment? Easy, joining the IDA team!

Favorite documentary of the year:  Three Identical Strangers


Trent Nakamura

Guest Services Manager & Sponsorship Coordinator

My most memorable experience was managing the Real Talks Meetings at Getting Real '18 and watching filmmakers walk away refreshed and inspired.

Favorite documentary of the year: Minding the Gap


Ranell Shubert

Educational Programs Manager

It was a huge honor and privilege for me to be apart of the programming team for the Getting Real Conference this year. When my colleagues Claire Aguilar, Cynthia Kane, and I unveiled our slate of programming for the first time it was easily my proudest accomplishment in my 5 years at IDA. The disabled filmmaker convening had particular emotional significance to me as my mother was quadriplegic and was forced to give up her career because of a lack of accessibility in her field. We still have a long way to go but it fills my heart to have been a part of the efforts towards a more inclusive community.


Susan Yin

Manager, Communications, Design and Digital Projects

I don't have a specific moment or experience. However, seeing our IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund grantees Charm City and Crime + Punishment on the big screen and streaming online; meeting the courageous subjects and learning about their impact in their communities at IDA events, have truly given value to my work. I am proud that we are supporting and amplifying filmmakers and stories that ought to be told.

Favorite documentary of the year: Shirkers


Mary Garbesi

Accounting and Administration Manager

The chance to meet and hear from Wim Wenders during our IDA Conversation Series was my favorite memory from this year.

Favorite documentary of the year:  Won't You Be My Neighbor?


Sandra Ignagni

Development Manager - Institutional and Individual Giving

Seeing Frederick Wiseman wearing a pair of IDA doc socks at Getting Real was a favorite moment for me, as well as meeting new filmmakers at the Austin, TX member mingle.

Favorite documentary of the year:  Makala (France)

Toni BellFilmmaker Services Manager Toni Bell with Gloria Allred

Filmmaker Services Manager

Getting the opportunity to meet Gloria Allred at the IDA Screening Series is easily my favorite part of this year.

Favorite documentary of the year:  Seeing Allred

Danna Rosenthal

Manager, Sponsorship, Strategic PR and Events

Seeing powerful women filmmakers at Getting Real and women filmmakers and subjects in the IDA Screening Series was my favorite moment. I loved that we were able to share these stories with the world in our series this year.

Favorite documentary of the year:  Won't You Be My Neighbor?


Niki Bhardwaj

Events Production Associate

My most memorable moment at the IDA this year was at the Screening Series panel for Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland. More specifically, meeting Sandra Bland's sister Sharon Cooper, who spoke passionately about working to get justice for her sister, and shared her favorite memories of Sandra. Also, special mention—meeting political goddess Gloria Allred at the Seeing Allred screening.

Favorite documentary of the year:  Minding the Gap