On Saturday, Cinemacy had the pleasure of being invited to Paramount Studios for the IDA Awards, one of the highest honors for nonfiction filmmakers.

The awards are voted on by all members of the International Documentary Association, so as is the case with the Independent Spirit Awards, the winners represent a consensus by the community from which these films came from. More information about the IDA can be found on their website.

A major theme of community and family can be found among the IDA. With numerous events and support laid throughout the year and building up to their awards show, this is a community looking to sustain long-term filmmaking careers rather than having its brightest bulbs flame out. The community remains extra charged given the current state of news and media: at a time where the White House refuses to even acknowledge facts and reality, the filmmakers here from all over the world are leading the charge for truth. This responsibility hangs heavy over all filmmakers as we turn to reflect on 2017 in film for the impending awards season. Here is a look at some of the film highlights from the evening:

Highlighted Film Awards:

Best Feature Film Award – Dina

(Other Nominees: City of Ghosts, Faces Places, LA 92, Strong Island)

Dina has been a documentary darling all throughout 2017 and is an impressive choice for the highest documentary honor. The film began winning awards back in January at Sundance where it took the title of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary film. From there it has played at NEXT FEST in LA, numerous film festivals, and a limited theatrical release.

Traditionally this award has been an Oscar precursor (last year’s winner was OJ: Made in America), however, this year it will not be. Dina was not one of the 15 documentaries to make the shortlist, and interestingly enough, it was the only IDA nominee here that was not. The other four will continue to campaign for the Oscar nomination and each one has a viable shot. In the end, among the documentary filmmakers, Dina was #1 – it’s heartwarming protagonist matched with singular and richly framed cinematography made it a standout.


Best Short Award – Edith and Eddie

(Other nominees: The Fight, Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Long Shot, Mr. Connelly has ALS, The Rabbit Hunt)

Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.


ABC News VideoSource Award – LA 92

(Other nominees: Blood on the Mountain, Elián, Icarus, Obit)

A fascinating category that would only be found at a documentary awards show, these five films are noted for their excellence in using pre-existing archival materials to help tell a story. The winner, LA 92, is entirely comprised of news and media clips from the L.A. riots in 1992. It’s a true art form to put together archival to tell a story and fantastic to see filmmakers recognized for these efforts. At the risk of extending the show too long, I would not mind seeing more categories recognizing specific elements of the art of documentary.


Courage Under Fire Awards: 4 films covering Syria

(L-R) City of Ghosts, Cries from Syria, Hell on Earth, Last Men in Aleppo

Traditionally this film award goes to just 1 film that shows cinematic bravery, but in this case, 4 films have all shown merit for their essential and unbelievable courage in properly documenting the Syrian conflict for the rest of the world to see. Subjects from all 4 films were present at the awards as well as many of the filmmakers.

Notably, this award is not given every year, only when merit is needed to be recognized. No winner was granted last year, in 2015 the winner was Matthew Heineman for Cartel Land (Heineman also directed City of Ghosts, one of the 2017 awardees).

Technical Awards:

Best Cinematography: Machines

Best Editing: Dawson City Frozen Time

Best Music: Brimstone and Glory

Best Writing: Donkeyote

Award Winners announced before the event:


Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award – Yance Ford

Yance Ford’s directorial debut Strong Island premiered to rave reviews at Sundance followed by a release on Netflix. The film has garnered praise for a personal portrait of the Ford family in light of injustice. Last week Strong Island was selected for the Oscar shortlist, it is one of 15 films vying for an Oscar nomination. Ford’s award was presented by filmmaker Charles Burnett.


Amicus Award – Abigail Disney

In less than a decade since her first entry into producing documentaries, Abigail Disney has become a formidable force in giving voices to the voiceless and making funding a reality for countless film teams, notably women and racially diverse filmmakers. Her credits are countless and this award is a tribute to how much her presence has added to the non-fiction world. Presenting her award were two of her first collaborators, and legends in the documentary world, Kirsten Johnson and Gini Reticker.


Career Achievement Award – Lourdes Portillo

Recognizing another filmmaker who has pushed boundaries with her work in a long-standing career, Mexican documentary filmmaker Portillo was on hand to receive her award.


And that’s a wrap on the IDA awards! We look forward to more coverage of the best in nonfiction film both this year and onward.