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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, April 1997

By David Haugland

From the very beginning, there were documentaries electrifying audiences in those early movie theatres, whether they were Parisians watching the workers of the Lumiere factory, or New Yorkers witnessing the inauguration of President McKinley. In fact, until the magic of Melies and Griffith infected screen fare, the documentary dominated the attractions that drew those early audiences into nickelodeons. It was not until 1941 that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially included documentaries in their awards programs. And this was a very appropriate moment: the horrors of World War II and the need to inform and educate the audiences at home brought forth some remarkable documents on our theatre screens, many of these produced and directed by people who—just a year earlier—had been employed by a Hollywood studio, pouring their efforts into entertainment features.

Through the years, the Academy has recognized the richness of documentaries produced for the motion picture theatre. A look through the nominees and award winners over the past fifty-six years reminds us of the vitality and genuine benefit to the motion picture arts and sciences represented by such hallmark filmmaking. It also shows us the tremendous number of names whose credits include not just documentaries, but fictional entertainment as well.

The Academy Awards® is the opportunity for members of the Academy to select moments from the past year of theatrical offerings and hold these u p as examples of praiseworthy craft and enduring benefit. With so many awards i n areas for which there are guilds of specific practitioners, it is particularly appropriate that the International Documentary Association give special recognition and celebration of the nominees for Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short Subject. Please join me in tribute to this year 's nominees at the IDA 15th Annual Nominees Reception, at the Academy, on March 20th, and Docu Day, at LACMA, on March 22.

So, on the occasion of the 69th year of the Academy Awards®, and on behalf of the Board and membership of the IDA , I salute the documentarians recognized by their nominations for these esteemed awards, and my congratulations to documentarians everywhere for the valuable and important work being done in this very vital art form.


David Haugland