‘For Sama’ Wins Top IDA Documentary Award; ‘Finding Neverland’ and ‘The Cave’ Also Score

Filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts’ “For Sama” (PBS) took top honors at the 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards at the Paramount Theatre Saturday night. The harrowing and intimate portrait of a young couple who continued to live in Aleppo with their new baby while under intense fire from government troops took home Best Feature. a

Al-Kateab also accepted the coveted Courage Under Fire award, given to someone who demonstrates extraordinary courage in pursuit of the truth. The Channel 4 film has already notched documentary wins from the European Film Awards, the British Independent Film Awards, and Cannes, as well as a PGA nomination.

Another Syrian film, “The Cave” (NatGeo) took home Best Writing for Alisar Hasan and Feras Fayyad. Dan Reed’s searing Michael Jackson exposé “Leaving Neverland” scored Best Multi-Part Documentary; HBO did not submit the Sundance premiere for the Oscars.

Other winners include Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, who accepted IDA’s inaugural Best Director Award for their China-Ohio culture clash “American Factory,” produced by the Obamas’ Higher Ground and Netflix.

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IDA executive director Simon Kilmurry also announced a new initiative, the IDA Global Grant. Underwritten by Netflix, in its first year the grant will provide a $25,000 cash award and ongoing support to an emerging filmmaker from one of four countries – Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and India.



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Netflix’s “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé,” directed by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Ed Burke, won Best Music Documentary. Neon’s “Honeyland, by directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, came away with two prizes: Best Cinematography and IDA’s Pare Lorentz Award. A & E and Lifetime’s “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl)” landed Best Short.

Honorary awards were presented throughout the ceremony. The Career Achievement Award went to Oscar-winner Freida Lee Mock (“Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision”). Documentary funder Cinereach accepted the Pioneer Award, per the IDA, “for its bold support of filmmakers.” The Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award went to Rachel Lears, whose Netflix film “Knock Down the House” won the Audience Award at Sundance 2019.

Leah Remini took home the inaugural Truth to Power Award for exposing abuse within the Church of Scientology in her series “Leah Remini: Scientology and its Aftermath.” The Amicus Award went to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for their work in defending press freedoms for almost 50 years.

Here’s the full list of 2019 IDA award winners.

Best Feature
“For Sama” (Syria, UK / PBS Distribution, Channel 4, FRONTLINE. Director/Producer: Waad
al-Kateab. Director: Edward Watts)

Best Director
Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (“American Factory,” USA / Netflix)

Best Short
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl)” (Afghanistan, UK, USA / Lifetime
Films, A&E IndieFilms. Director: Carol Dysinger. Producer: Elena Andreicheva)

Best Curated Series
“Dokumania” (Denmark / Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Executive Producer: Anders Bruus)

Best Episodic Series
“Abstract: The Art of Design” (USA / Netflix. Executive Producers: Scott Dadich, Morgan Neville, Dave O’Connor, Justin Wilkes and Jon Kamen)

Best Multi-Part Documentary
“Leaving Neverland” (USA / HBO. Director/Producer: Dan Reed. Executive Producers: Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller)

Best Short Form Series
“A Moment in Mexico — The New York Times Op-Docs” (Mexico, USA / The New York Times. Executive Producer: Kathleen Lingo. Coordinating Producer: Lindsay Crouse)

Best Audio Documentary
“A Sense of Quietness” (UK / BBC Radio 4. Producer: Eleanor McDowall. Executive Producers: Alan Hall and Rachel Hooper)

Best Music Documentary
“Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” (USA / Netflix. Director/Producer: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Director: Ed Burke. Producers: Steve Pamon and Erinn Williams)

David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award
“Brewed in Palestine” (USA, Israel, Palestine / UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Director/Producer: Emma Schwartz)

Best Cinematography
“Honeyland” (Macedonia / NEON. Cinematographers: Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma)

Best Editing
“Midnight Family” (Mexico, USA / 1091. Editor: Luke Lorentzen. Co-Editor: Paloma López Carrillo)

Best Music Score
“The Raft” (Denmark, Sweden, USA / Metrograph Pictures. Composer: Hans Appelqvist)

Best Writing
“The Cave” (Denmark, Syria, USA / National Geographic. Writers: Alisar Hasan and Feras Fayyad)

Pare Lorentz Award
“Honeyland” (Macedonia / NEON. Director: Tamara Kotevska. Director/ Producer: Ljubomir Stefanov. Producer: Atanas Georgiev)

Honorable Mention
“Anthropocene: The Human Epoch” (Canada / Kino Lorber. Directors: Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky. Producer: Nadia Tavazzani)

ABCNEWS VideoSource Award
“Mike Wallace Is Here” (USA / Magnolia Pictures. Director/Producer: Avi Belkin. Producers: Rafael Marmor, John Battsek, Peggy Drexler and Christopher Leggett)

2019 IDA Documentary Awards Honorary Awards

Amicus Award
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Career Achievement Award
Freida Lee Mock (“Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision,” “Anita”)

Courage Under Fire Award
Waad al-Kateab (“For Sama”)

Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award
Rachel Lears (“Knock Down The House,” “The Hand That Feeds”)

Pioneer Award

Truth to Power Award
Leah Remini

See details on all winners here.

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