Skip to main content

Meet the Woman Behind the 'Documentary' Magazine Archiving Project

By KJ Relth

IDA Digital Content Producer Juliana Sakae

Documentary magazine has been a constant at the IDA from the organization's humble beginnings in the early 1980s, when the magazine's page count was closer to that of a double-sided newsletter than a legitimate glossy publication. Thanks to a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the IDA has started the process of archiving every issue of its stalwart publication to make each issue available online through the organization's website,

Understanding that this would be a huge project, the IDA hired experienced journalist and documentary filmmaker Juliana Sakae to execute this massive undertaking. This week, Sakae reached a major milestone: the IDA now boasts 100 complete issues of Documentary magazine online. We could not have done this without her help, and we want to show her our appreciation by asking her to come out from behind her mountain of magazines to tell us a little about herself. 


How did you first learn about the IDA?

I used to attend Doc U every month while studying at New York Film Academy. Soon, I met the IDA staff and started to volunteer at events like DocuDay and GETTING REAL, which was an amazing experience.


What were you doing before you joined the team?

I was working in my thesis film, a documentary called Antigirl, and producing a short film called Love Bid. Before that, I was a newspaper reporter and social media editor in Brazil. I decided to come to Los Angeles to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Documentary Filmmaking.


At this point, you’ve been in contact with every article published in Documentary in the past 15 years! Tell us a little about one article or one issue that you’ve found particularly interesting.

I’m particularly interested in foreign documentaries, and I love when the magazine profiles a Brazilian doc. My country is so rich in this genre, and full of interesting subjects, and that’s one of the things I miss the most while living abroad: to not be able to go to theatres and watch Brazilian films so often. It’s rare, especially documentaries, because of the limitations of distribution, although there are some opportunities, like the LA Brazilian Film Festival. One of the articles I kept was Anthropologists Behaving Badly: Jose Padilha's 'Secrets of the Tribe' Does Some Digging of Its Own about this documentary from the amazing filmmaker Jose Padilha. I always get happy when I read something about João Moreira Salles (Santiago) and Eduardo Coutinho (Edifício Master), two of my favorite doc filmmakers from Brazil.


What has been your favorite part of the magazine archiving project? What have you learned in the process?

That I'm able to share with my filmmakers and journalist friends interesting articles that were once hidden inside the IDA office and spread these articles all over the world, especially those articles whose content doesn’t expire and are great filmmaking lessons.

Sound Advice: How to Ensure Your Audio Playback Comes Through Loud and Clear Read more

Don't Fudge on Your Budget: Toeing the Line Items Read more

Good Press, Big Buzz and a Positive Experience: A Primer on How to Make the Best of the Fest Read more

Also, I really like to follow the tag Ethics and all the discussion around the relationship between director and subject inside documentary. There are many interesting articles (including the one about Jose Padilha’s film), but these are the one it struck me the most:

The Real CSI: Are Crime Victims Being Re-Victimized by Filmmakers? Read more

How Close Is Too Close? A Consideration of the Filmmaker-Subject Relationship Read more

When Animals Attract: Docmakers Study Relationships between Man and Beast Read more

Where the Truth Lies—Or Not Read more


What do you do when you’re not working at the IDA?

I'm producing three indie short documentaries here in Los Angeles: The Secrets of Sound Mixing, which is in its early stages of pre-production; Lola Divas (or Grandma Divas in English), about a group of Filipino performers, directed by Abi Prieto, for which we are beginning to raise money; and The Painting of Six Ladies, about the painter Jill Young and her six portraits of amazing women, for which we are now funding the second half of production.

Although it might seem overwhelming, documentaries have a different pace and each of them are in different stages of production. That's the beauty of documentary filmmaking: being involved with so many different and amazing stories at the same time.


Once the archiving project is done, what’s next for you?

I plan to focus on my next documentary, something I've been dreaming about since I came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking: to go back to Haiti and look for nine kids (now in their early 20s) who I filmed in 2009 in the documentary Bleu et Rouge, before the earthquake. I've been following their lives virtually. I want to show the world how the earthquake affected this young generation through their stories, mixing old footage from when they were kids to new footage. All of them survived the tragedy; unfortunately, the aftermath of the trauma is still alive.


Our most sincere thanks go out to Sakae for her hard work and dedication to this extensive project. To see the fruits of her labor, visit the magazine's Explore section, or browse by Issue