I was really honored to be asked to help nominate feature films for this year’s International Documentary Association Awards. You may have heard of many of them; if you’re wondering about “Women with Cows,” I’d describe it as “Grey Gardens” down on the farm. If you’re a member of the IDA, you can vote for one these five films…if you’re not, join today!
The five films nominated in IDA’s Feature category are: THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon’s compelling recounting of the high profile trial and wrongful conviction of five young men in one of New York’s most sensational criminal cases; THE INVISIBLE WAR, Kirby Dick’s exposé of the staggering prevalence of rape in the military, and the profound consequences for those who experience it or try to report it; QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, Lauren Greenfield’s portrait of a modern day Gilded Age family and inside look at the world inhabited only by the super-rich; SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, Malik Bendjelloul’s surprising and uplifting story of the power of music and one man’s journey from obscurity; and WOMEN WITH COWS, Peter Gerdehag’s observational study of the intricate and painful relationship between two sisters bound together by the family farm.
Look for all of these come Oscar time.
I mean it most sincerely when I say that almost every one of the films I watched was worthy of an IDA nomination. What an amazing panoply of subjects, and styles and tones – proof positive of what I guess I already knew - docs have never been better.
I have to say that I’m beginning to become a bit of a jury junkie. There is something really satisfying about sitting around talking passionately about films with people who know so much and care so deeply about them – especially when the stakes are so high. And there’s no group more knowledgeable or passionate than doc makers and the people who love them (like me).
After an outstanding meal prepared by IDA President Marjan Safinia, we hashed out the nominees for a couple of hours. In a testament to how good the films were, almost any of them could have gotten a nod at one point in the evening or another – it was quite a horse race. I kind of wish I could have taped our conversation…it brought up some fascinating and contentious issues: What if you love a doc because the story and subject is so compelling, but you don’t feel it’s a well made “film?” How important is it for a doc to be “important?” How do you compare more traditionally constructed films to their more free-form counterparts?
We left Marj’s house with no blood shed, our minds changed and a selection of five fine films. I suggest you see them all ASAP.
The IDA Awards are December 7th at the Director’s Guild - Penn Jillette will be hosting so it should be insanely fun. Take this opportunity to support doc filmmakers and hang out with some of the most interesting, caring people on the planet. I’ll see you there!