There are so many well-made, well-lauded documentaries this year, that the finalists for the International Documentary Association awards aren't even on the Oscar shortlist of fifteen. Thus Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman's "Nostalgia for the Light" won Best Feature at the 2011 IDA Documentary Awards Friday night, beating out terrorist thriller "Better This World," end-of-life drama "How to Die in Oregon," "The Redemption of General Butt Naked," and "Tiniest Place."
"Nostalgia for the Light" also won Best Documentary at the Cinema Tropical Awards Thursday night in New York, and is nominated for the Cinema Eye Awards. "Better This World" won IDA's Best Music Award and "Senna" won Best Editing. The Best Short Award went to HBO's Iraqi veteran survival story "Poster Girl," directed by Sara Nesson, which was up for an Oscar last year.
Several hundred nonfiction film fans filled the Directors Guild of America theater, where the stage was initially set with a domed camping tent; as the lights went down to begin the program, three mysterious figures ran across stage and dived into the shelter as an image of the Hollywood sign went up on the screen behind them.
IDA President Eddie Schmidt popped out holding a sign reading “Occupy Hollywood” and launched into a brief sketch about how IDA has been occupying Tinseltown for 29 years, hamming things up with co-hosts Josh Fox, director of 2010 eco-doc “Gasland,” and “Connected” filmmaker Tiffany Shlain. Musical interludes were provided by “Waste Land” director, 2010 IDA honoree, and DJ Lucy Walker, working her laptop from stage right. More soberly, Walker later presented a personal remembrance of filmmaker Tim Hetherington, co-director of 2010 Oscar-nominated doc “Restrepo,” who was killed earlier this year in Libya.
A “Year in Review” highlight reel opened the program with clips from “Being Elmo,” “Buck,” “If a Tree Falls,” “Senna” and other IDA-nominated docs. Early in the evening, director and executive producer Rachel Libert accepted the IDA award for Best Limited Series for “Boomtown,” a nonfiction TV series about the impacts of oil exploration on rural communities. “As many of you know, finding a good story is one in a million and when we found this one we know it was going to be compelling and rich,” she recalled.
Werner Herzog presented the IDA’s Career Achievement Award to Les Blank, who directed “Always for Pleasure,” “Gap-Toothed Women” and dozens of other documentary features and shorts, as well as "Burden of Dreams," during the filming of "Fitzcarraldo." Herzog said: "I’ve know Les Blank I think since 1969. I’ve followed his career and he’s always made great films, always defining America in his own way...I do believe Les Blank should be [named] a national treasure."
Blank told an anecdote about being terrified in the jungle with Herzog before he thanked the IDA and hastily vacated the stage.
Set in the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert, at 10,000 feet above sea level, "Nostalgia for the Light" contrasts astronomers who search the oldest faraway galaxies with earthbound women, relatives of the disappeared, who still search, twenty-five years later, for what's left of their loved ones. Guzman dedicated the award to his former camera operator, who was murdered during Pinochet’s dictatorship, and concluded, “A country with no documentary filmmaking is like a family with no photo album.”
The Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Filmmaker Award went to director Danfung Dennis, of "Hell and Back Again." The IDA also gave Best Continuing Series to PBS's longest-running indie non-fiction showcase "POV."
Lightening the mood after “The Last Mountain” – a documentary feature about the devastating impacts of large-scale coal mining in Appalachia -- won the Pare Lorentz Award for activist filmmaking, Shlain reminded the crowd, clearly dominated by filmmakers, that “what we’re always looking for is good B-roll,” introducing a very amusing imitation TV ad for the “We’ve Got That B-Roll” service, a source for filmmakers to find stock footage, available at 1-800-BBB-ROLL.
A complete list of winners follows.
2011 IDA DOCUMENTARY AWARDS
CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
JACQUELINE DONNET EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD
BEST FEATURE AWARD
NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT
Director/Writer: Patricio Guzmán
Producer: Renate Sachse
Atacama Productions (France), Blinker Filmproduction GmbH and WDR (Germany), and Cronomedia Ltda. (Chile), Icarus Films
BEST SHORT AWARD
Director/Producer: Sara Nesson
Executive Producer: Sheila Nevins (HBO)
Producer: Mitchell Block
Supervising Producer: Sara Bernstein (HBO)
Consulting Producer: Ross Kauffman
Portrayal Films, Inc. in association with HBO Documentary Films
BEST LIMITED SERIES AWARD
Executive Producer/Director: Rachel Libert
Executive Producers: Josh Braun, Ken Druckerman, Susannah Ludwig, Banks Tarver
Co-Executive Producer: Matthew Galkin
Producer: Kevin Vargas
Left/Right Inc., Discovery Channel- Planet Green
BEST CONTINUING SERIES AWARD
Executive Producer: Simon Kilmurry
Co-Executive Producer: Cynthia López
VP of Programming and Production: Chris White
Series Producer: Yance Ford
Coordinating Producer: Andrew Catauro
American Documentary | POV
DAVID L. WOLPER STUDENT DOCUMENTARY AWARD
Director/Executive Producer/Writer: János Richter
Executive Producers: Heidi Gronauer, Lorenzo Paccagnella
Producer: Georg Zeller
ZeLIG- School for Documentary, Andanafilms, Icarus Films
HUMANITAS DOCUMENTARY AWARD
POSITION AMONG THE STARS (STAND VAN DE STERREN)
Director/Writer: Leonard Retel Helmrich
Producer/Writer: Hetty Naaijkens - Retel Helmrich
Scarabee Films and HUMAN Broadcasting in association with HBO Documentary Films
ABCNEWS VIDEOSOURCE AWARD
THE PRUITT-IGOE MYTH
Director/Producer/Writer: Chad Freidrichs
Producers: Jaime Freidrichs, Paul Fehler, Brian Woodman
Unicorn Stencil Documentary Films
PARE LORENTZ AWARD
THE LAST MOUNTAIN
Director/Producer/Writer: Bill Haney
Executive Producers: Tim Disney, Sarah Johnson Redlich, Tim Rockwood
Producers: Clara Bingham, Eric Grunebaum
Writer: Peter Rhodes
Uncommon Productions, Dada Films, New Video
CREATIVE RECOGNITION AWARDS
Cinematography: Massimo D'Anolfi
Directors: Massimo D'Anolfi & Martina Parenti
Editors: Chris King & Gregers Sall
Director: Asif Kapadia
BETTER THIS WORLD
Composer: Paul Brill
Directors: Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vegaawa