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

By David Haugland

It's that time of year again, time for you and your colleagues around the world to submit documentaries for the 13th Annual IDA Awards.

An important mark of distinction in the documentary field, IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards were initiated to "honor exceptional creative achievement in nonfiction film and video production, and to bring greater public awareness and appreciation to the documentary form." IDA Awards have achieved world status among awards for nonfiction film and video production:

Distinguished Documentary Achievement Award to productions that have shown exceptional creative achievement. One need only see titles such as Anne Frank Remembered, Hoop Dreams, Eyes on the Prize, Paris is Burning and Silverlake Life to grasp the insight, intelligence and impact that our feature documentary winners encompass. Recognizing the variety within the documentary form is a hallmark of our awards and one reason why each year we honor a number of documentaries.

Distinguished Documentary Short Subject Award to productions of 40 minutes or less for exceptional creative achievement. In the past three years, we have given special recognition to these extraordinary documentaries: Bui Doi: Life Like Dust, 89mm from Europe and Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O 'Brien.

Career Achievement Award to an individual who has made a major contribution to the documentary form. Individual achievement is at the core of documentary film and video, and we annually celebrate the icons of the form. Among the 12 past recipients: Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Walter Cronkite, Albert Maysles and Ted Turner.

Preservation and Scholarship Award to an individual or organization in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the archival preservation of documentary productions, or to documentary education. The National Film Board of Canada, Roger Mayer, the National Archive, the Museum of Modem Art and Erik Barnouw are among the distinguished recipients of this honor.

The David L. Wolper Student Documentary Achievement Award, which includes a cash grant and a film stock award from Eastman Kodak, for outstanding creative achievement in the documentary form by a student. This important award recognizes and invests in the next generation of documentary film and video makers.

As the IDA Awards have gained in stature and popularity, so too has the documentary form proliferated. While documentaries-made-for-television have received significant IDA Award recognition over the years, IDA is stepping forward this year to further recognize the abundance of work in this area.

This year we introduce two award categories for nonfiction production unique to television: Distinguished Documentary Achievement—Limited Series for exceptional creative achievement in a limited series of up to 12 episodes with a specific continuing theme, topic or subject. The Civil War, Century of Women and FDR are examples of the programs eligible for this award.

Distinguished Documentary Achievement—Series Program for exceptional creative achievement by a single program title in an on-going series. National Geographic Explorer, Frontline, Nova and other similar programs are eligible in this category.

Also for the first time, documentaries in all categories may compete for special recognition through the following awards:

IDA/ABCNEWS VideoSource Award for The Best Use of News Footage in a Documentary will carry a special cash prize of $2,000 and $2,000 of research time under the sponsorship of ABCNEWS VideoSource in New York.

IDA/Pare Lorentz Award will be presented to the documentary that best reflects the democratic sensibility, activist spirit and lyrical vision of Pare Lorentz and will include a cash prize of $2,500.

As the international home for nonfiction film and video, the IDA has consistently given recognition to provocative and cutting-edge documentaries overlooked by other award committees and institutions. And we are embracing the unique constraints and formats of the rapidly increasing number of television documentaries. In the years ahead, new media sources such as documentaries made for videocassette distribution, CD-ROMs, internet productions and future technologies will pose new challenges and opportunities. By remaining in the vanguard, IDA Awards will continue to lead as new worlds of nonfiction multi-media production emerge in the 21st Century.


David Haugland
IDA President