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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, January 2007

By Tom White

The IDA Awards have honored the documentary form for over 20 years, and every so often, something new is added to the mix--an individual honor here, a new film category there--to underscore the dynamism of the art form. This year, to keep us all in suspense, not even I know the winners in the features and shorts categories.

Haskell Wexler, the 2006 Career Achievement honoree, is a seasoned veteran of many battlefronts, having made or shot documentaries in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico and Chile, shedding light on the truth behind the conflicts there. Here at home, the Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam and anti-nuclear movements inspired Wexler to capture those moments in history. And more recently, his own experiences with 16-hour days in Hollywood, and the dangers and hazards that accompany that work scenario, compelled him to make Who Needs Sleep?. Bob Fisher, himself a veteran in covering Wexler's career, talks to the honoree about his laudatory canon in nonfiction.

Pat Aufderheide has distinguished herself for her tireless dedication to the documentary community, both through her writing and research from her outpost at the American University School of Communication and through her work, more recently, in the crucial area of fair use. In collaboration with law professor Peter Jasci, Professor Aufderheide spearheaded a year-long discourse, resulting in the Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, of which IDA was a signatory. Through the Center for Social Media that she founded in 2001, she has transformed the ivory tower of academia into a very active and vital resource. Agnes Varnum talks to Aufderheide about her ongoing work in documentary.

As the ill-fated occupation in Iraq rages on, we have seen a plethora of films coming out of that region. One of them, James Longley's Iraq in Fragments, is a finalist in the Features Category; another, The Blood of My Brother, helped earn a Courage Under Fire Award for its maker, Andrew Berends, who, like his friend Longley, ventured to Iraq and opted to pursue a story unembedded. Berends shares with Fisher his experiences in ferreting out the human consequences of this ongoing quagmire.

Another volatile region, Sudan, attracted the attention of this year's Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker honoree, Christopher Quinn. God Grew Tired of Us, a multiple-award winner at Sundance this year, follows the journey of three young men in their journey from Sudan to America. Paola Freccero sat down with Quinn to discuss how his nascent career has taken root in the wake of his stellar achievements this year.

Finally, another honoree, the IDA/ABC News VideoSource Award-winning Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, is the latest work from Stanley Nelson, whose company, Firelight Media, is profiled in this issue.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White