LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 07, 2012) (REUTERS) - Ken Burns and Werner Herzog were just some of the top documentary filmmakers seen on the red carpet ahead of the IDA Awards ceremony on Friday (December 7) in Los Angeles.
"Searching for Sugar Man," Malik Bendjelloul's film about the unlikely career revival of '70s rock singer Rodriguez, was named the best documentary of 2012 by theInternational Documentary Association.
"Because it's good, it's really good, and the reason why he wasn't famous here, which is the true question, is because he's that good," said director Malik Bendjelloul on Rodriguez's fame and music in South Africa. "In South Africa, I ask people, 'Do you know this guy?' I walk with a photograph of him in the streets. And they're like, 'What do you mean, do I know this guy?' 'Yeah, do you know this guy? His name is Rodriguez.' It's like asking me if I know Jimi Hendrix. I mean that's who he is."
Herzog, the German filmmaker behind such documentaries as "Grizzly Man" and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" took home the IDA Best Limited Series Award for "On Death Row." He partly filmed the four-part Investigation Discovery series on death row inmates inTexas. He said the state believes in the death penalty so strongly that it has nothing to hide, which allowed him great freedom to interview inmates. Because prison guidelines required him to wrap up his interviews with death row inmates in just 50 minutes, Herzog had to quickly establish a tone with his subjects. The quick rapports didn't keep him from recognizing the horror of their crimes.
"People sometimes are curious that I have filmed in so many countries, but that's horizontally spreading out in all continents, wherever I film," he said. "But people normally, our audiences, quite often overlook that it's always a vertical look deep into the abyss of the human soul."
Last year's Oscar winner, "Saving Face," about women in Pakistan who are attacked with acid, won the IDA Award for best documentary short.
"The subject is utterly horrific," said director Daniel Junge. "But I think the challenge to us wasn't to focus on the horror but to look for the positive things and there actually were some positive things that happened while we were in Pakistan, and that's what we focused on."
And although Ken Burns' tale of injustice in New York, "The Central Park Five," didn't win any awards for the night, he perhaps summed it up best when he talked about the importance of continuing the documentary filmmaking tradition.
"They're willing to embrace the complexity of life," Burns said. "That's a huge important thing and sometimes that's not already said. Sometimes it is, as in the case of 'The Central Park Five' a huge miscarriage of justice. Sometimes we have to hold the powers that be feet to the fire and this is the role of documentary, one of the many, many roles."
Because of a different body of voters, a different eligibility period (July to June, not the calendar year) and a different nominating process, the IDA Awards often have little overlap with the Oscars - though in previous years, Lucy Walker's "Waste Land," Banksy's "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and James Marsh's "Man on Wire" are among the films that were recognized by both the IDA and the Academy.