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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, November 1999

By David Haugland

Dear IDA Community:

In this 15th year of the IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards, Eastman Kodak continues as our founding sponsor and the awards remain true to their heritage.

When first conceived by a committee chaired by Harrison Engle, the IDA Awards addressed our mandate to bring attention and recognition to the best documentary work produced each year. Multiple unranked awards were given that first year, thus avoiding a "winner takes all" scenario and allowing us to celebrate the diversity of work in the documentary genre.

While IDA Award categories have grown and changed to reflect the documentary field worldwide, the wisdom of the original concept has served IDA, documentaries and documentarians well. Today, IDA Awards are given to documentary features, shorts, limited television series, individual television series program and magazine segment. In addition, entries in all of these categories may be considered for further recognition with the ABCNews VideoSource Award and the Pare Lorentz Award.

The growth of awards categories reflects the growth and evolution of the documentary form over the past decade. From an occasional theatrical release, or television broadcast as recently as the early 1990s: documentaries are now big box office. They screen at IMAX theaters, movie houses, and are available at every hour of the day on television outlets firmly committed to nonfiction programming. They are also celebrated annually at more than a dozen exclusively documentary film festivals around the world.

As the interest and audience grows throughout the world, the number of documentaries produced is steadily on the rise. This became clear when the entries for this year's awards began to arrive in volume at IDA headquarters. At final count more than 500 documentaries from more than 25 countries vied for IDA's coveted recognition. And our 1999 Award winners represent three continents! This year we also continue the time-honored tradition of bestowing two very special awards: the IDA Career Achievement Award and the IDA Preservation and Scholarship Award.

Celebrating it's 50th year, George Eastman House will be recognized for a half-century of dedicated work in the field of film preservation. And the multi-talented filmmaker Michael Apted will be honored for his body of documentary work, which includes the evergreen Up series and his most recent film, Me and Isaac Newton.

All of these awards will be presented at our annual awards gala, which itself will break new ground this year as we move to the new Los Angeles Center Studios. Tours of the studio will be provided during our awards reception. The awards presentation will be held in a fully renovated 460-seat theater, with dinner served on the terrace.

While this year's gala may be your first visit to the Studios, it will not be your last. This year IDA is itself being honored by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Office and studio developers Smith, Hricik, & Munselle as the first nonprofit organization to reside at the Studios under the Percent for Art Program. Our Los Angeles headquarters will be moving to the Studios in early 2000.

The 1999 IDA Awards are a great way to close the century in which the documentary form was born and delivered to the world. Thanks for celebrating with us!!!


Very sincerely,

David Haugland
IDA Board President