IDA Announces Doc Shortlists: 'American Factory,' 'Honeyland,' 'For Sama,' 'One Child Nation,' 'Diego Maradona' and More Make Cut
Sea of Shadows, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, Apollo 11, Our Time Machine are in, but some prominent films left out
Two award-winning films about Syria are among the documentaries to make the IDA's prestigious shortlist of the year's best documentaries.
For Sama, directed by Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts, the chronicle of Al-Khateab's effort to raise her baby daughter in the midst of the Syrian civil war, earned a place on the list announced Thursday, as did Feras Fayyad's The Cave. Fayyad's documentary, winner of the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, tells the story of a courageous female doctor in the outskirts of Damascus, tending to wounded Syrian civilians in a makeshift subterranean hospital.
Joining For Sama and The Cave on the IDA shortlist of 30 feature documentaries is Honeyland, which earned three prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. That film, directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, tells a story of environmental conservation and boundless humanity through the experience of Europe's last female wild beekeeper.
The feature and short documentaries on this year’s IDA shortlists represent a remarkable breadth of work.
Diego Maradona, Asif Kapadia's follow up to his Oscar-winning documentary Amy, also made the list. His HBO documentary focuses on the famed Argentinian footballer who achieved heroics on the soccer pitch, and ignominy off the field.
Netflix docs were represented on the IDA shortlist, among them The Edge of Democracy by Petra Costa. The Brazilian filmmaker documents her homeland's sad retreat from democracy after the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and imprisonment of beloved ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. American Factory, from directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert -- winner of the documentary directing award at Sundance -- focuses on a shuttered GM factory in Ohio that was taken over by a Chinese auto glass giant. President Obama and Michelle Obama came aboard as executive producers of the documentary as part of their production deal with Netflix.
Click on the icons below for stories on IDA-shortlisted documentaries we've covered:
Among other titles making the IDA feature shortlist:
Sea of Shadows, the documentary thriller by Richard Ladkani exposing the illegal trafficking of a species of fish in the Sea of Cortez, an illicit trade that has driven the vaquita whale to near extinction. The film comes from National Geographic, which is also behind Fayyad's The Cave.
Apollo 11, directed by Todd Douglas Miller, the top-grossing documentary released this year. His film tells the minute-by-minute story of NASA's historic mission to land the first human on the moon.
One Child Nation, from directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, explores the brutal implementation of China's one child policy. The film won the top prize for U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
Our Time Machine, directed by S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun on gifted Chinese artist Maleonn. The film follows Maleonn's effort to honor his aging father by creating a kind of memory play with mechanical puppets. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival where it won the cinematography award.
The Apollo, Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams' film on the legacy and continuing relevance of the historic Harlem theater.
The Biggest Little Farm, directed by John Chester, a documentary that explores Chester's attempt, along with his wife Molly, to turn 200 acres of "barren farmland" into an organic paradise. The film has made $4.3 million in theaters so far.
Cunningham, the 3D documentary about choreographer Merce Cunningham directed by Alla Kovgan.
Among the surprise omissions is Knock Down the House, the acclaimed documentary by Rachel Lears that follows the 2018 Democratic primary campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other insurgent women candidates who tried to topple entrenched incumbents. The film may not have been nominated, but as previously announced Lears will receive the IDA's Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award.
Likewise snubbed was The Kingmaker, the documentary by Lauren Greenfield about former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos. Greenfield's film was named to the DOC NYC shortlist released last month. The Great Hack also made DOC NYC's shortlist, but was left off the IDA's honor roll. Same for The Elephant Queen, which made the DOC NYC shortlist, but not the IDA's.
Among surprise inclusions on the IDA list was Amazing Grace, the film realized by producer Alan Elliott from footage of an Aretha Franklin gospel concert shot more than four decades ago by the late Sydney Pollack. I thought that film had completed its awards run last year, but the IDA deemed it eligible this year. It qualified for Oscar consideration in 2018 with a late week-long booking in theaters in LA and New York.
Amazing Grace is one of four films from distributer NEON to make the IDA shortlist, along with The Biggest Little Farm, Apollo 11 and Honeyland.
Nominees in all the categories for the IDA Awards will be revealed October 23. The 2019 IDA Awards will be presented Saturday, December 7 at a ceremony on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood.
Look for our coverage of the IDA's shortlisted short documentaries as a separate article. Below is the full list of the IDA's shortlist of feature documentaries.
IDA Documentary Awards 2019 Features Shortlist
Advocate (Israel, Canada, Switzerland. Directors and Producers: Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche. Producers: Paul Cadieux and Joelle Bertossa)
Amazing Grace (USA / NEON. Producers: Alan Elliot, Tirrell D. Whittley, Sabrina V. Owens, Joe Boyd, Rob Johnson, Chiemi Karasawa, Spike Lee, Angie Seegers and Joseph Woolf)
American Factory (USA / Netflix. Directors and Producers: Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Producers: Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello)
Apollo 11 (USA / NEON and CNN Films. Director and Producer: Todd Douglas Miller. Producers: Thomas Petersen and Evan Strauss)
Aquarela (UK, Germany, Denmark / Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Victor Kossakovsky. Producers: Aimara Reques, Heino Deckert and Sigrid Dyekjær)
Black Mother (USA / Grasshopper Film. Director and Producer: Khalik Allah. Producer: Leah Giblin)
Cunningham (USA, Germany / Magnolia Pictures. Director and Producer: Alla Kovgan. Producers: Helge Albers, Ilann Girard, Elizabeth Delude-Dix, Kelly Gilpatrick and Derrick Tseng)
Dark Suns (Canada / Dogwoof. Director and Producer: Julien Elie)
Diego Maradona (UK / HBO. Director: Asif Kapadia. Producers: James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin)
EARTH (Austria / KimStim. Director and Producer: Nikolaus Geyrhalter. Producers: Michael Kitzberger, Markus Glaser and Wolfgang Widerhofer)
For Sama (UK, Syria / PBS Distribution, FRONTLINE. Director and Producer: Waad al-Kateab. Director: Edward Watts)
Hail Satan? (USA, Sweden / Magnolia Pictures. Director: Penny Lane. Producer: Gabriel Sedgwick)
Honeyland (Macedonia / NEON. Director: Tamara Kotevska. Director and Producer: Ljubomir Stefanov. Producer: Atanas Georgiev)
Kabul, City in the Wind (Netherlands, Afghanistan, Germany. Director: Aboozar Amini. Producer: Jia Zhao)
Lemebel (Chile, Colombia / Compañía de Cine. Director and Producer: Joanna Reposi Garibaldi. Producer: Paula Sáenz-Laguna)
Midnight Family (Mexico, USA / 1091. Director and Producer: Luke Lorentzen. Producers: Kellen Quinn, Daniela Alatorre and Elena Fortes)
Midnight Traveler (USA, UK, Qatar / Oscilloscope Laboratories. Director: Hassan Fazili. Producers: Su Kim and Emelie Coleman Mahdavian)
One Child Nation (USA / Amazon Studios. Directors and Producers: Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang. Producers: Christoph Jörg, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn)
Our Time Machine (China / POV, Da Xiang. Directors and Producers: Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang)
Present.Perfect. (USA, Hong Kong / Burn The Film. Director: Shengze Zhu. Producer: Zhengfan Yang)
Roll Red Roll (USA / POV. Director and Producer: Nancy Schwartzman. Producers: Steven Lake and Jessica Devaney)
Sea of Shadows (USA, Austria / National Geographic. Director: Richard Ladkani. Producers: Walter Kohler and Wolfgang Knopfler)
The Apollo (USA / HBO. Director and Producer: Roger Ross Williams. Producers: Lisa Cortés, Jeanne Elfant Festa and Cassidy Hartmann)
The Biggest Little Farm (USA / NEON, LD Entertainment. Director and Producer: John Chester. Producer: Sandra Keats)
The Cave (USA, Syria, Denmark / National Geographic. Director: Feras Fayyad. Producers: Kirstine Barfod and Sigrid Dyekjaer)
The Edge of Democracy (USA, Brazil / Netflix. Director and Producer: Petra Costa. Producers: Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris and Tiago Pavan)
The Feeling of Being Watched (USA / POV. Director: Assia Boundaoui. Producer: Jessica Devaney)
The Hottest August (USA, Canada / Grasshopper Film. Director and Producer: Brett Story. Producer: Danielle Varga)
The Proposal (USA / Oscilloscope Laboratories. Director: Jill Magid. Producers: Charlotte Cook, Laura Coxson and Jarred Alterman)
This is Not a Movie (Germany, Canada / National Film Board of Canada. Director: Yung Chang. Producers: Anita Lee, Allyson Luchak, Nelofer Pazira and Ingmar Trost)
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.