Skip to main content

Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, September-October 2004

By Richard Propper

Dear IDA Members:

For the past three years, I've heard, "This is the Year of the Documentary." In a line of great documentaries including The Corporation, Riding Giants and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Fahrenheit 9/11 is the biggest documentary of the year, perhaps of this decade. Estimates indicate it could surpass the $100 million mark in worldwide sales. But what does this mean for us, the filmmaking community? After the box office receipts are counted, the DVD has hit the stores and a potential Oscar nod is anticipated, what happens to the rest of the documentary world? I believe this widespread acclaim will be better for all of us. Acceptance of this craft already exists, but perhaps more of the viewing public will want to see another documentary in theaters and hopefully demand more. 

Michael Moore has done something great with Fahrenheit 9/11; this film has broken open a huge discussion across the world—not only in the US, but in Europe, Asia and Latin America—even Israel and Egypt. Supposedly, here is the most powerful country in the world, and one controversial film is swaying popular political opinion. It's not a drama or even a docu-drama—it's a documentary! I've heard people say, "This film could change the world." That sentiment might be a little strong because ultimately it is just one documentary. Even the people who won't go see it are taking jabs at it. I have heard there is a documentary in the making that tries to debunk many of the factual premises of Fahrenheit 9/11. Knowing that his film would be held up to close scrutiny, I must believe that Michael Moore and his team researched it thoroughly and can stand behind every frame of it.

Is the theatrical documentary alive and well? It would seem so. How many people are actually preparing documentaries for theatrical release this year and next? Probably hundreds. I must say that the number of distributors releasing documentaries has certainly increased. This is exciting news as many of us have projects that are in pre-production, production or recently completed. As with the independent feature film market, it is a competitive world out there. In the next few years various film festivals will burst with new documentaries. These are exciting times for documentary filmmaking and 2004 may really be the start of the something great for our factual world.

Changing the subject, I would like to welcome a new member of the IDA staff: Angele Price. She has been brought on as development director, and we look forward to her support in helping the IDA continue to grow.


Until next month,

Richard Propper