‘Going To Mars,’ ‘Bobi Wine,’ ‘In The Rearview’ Nab Spots On IDA’s Shortlist Of Year’s Best Documentaries

The International Documentary Association announced its shortlists of features and shorts in the running for the 39th IDA Documentary Awards, a list as notable for what was left out as for what films made the cut.

A total of 17 feature docs earned a place on the shortlist, including Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, directed by Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, National Geographic’s Bobi Wine: The People’s President, Cannes winner The Mother of All Lies, and the Ukraine-themed film In the Rearview.

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Among notable films left off the list: The Errol Morris documentary The Pigeon Tunnel, Kokomo City, Sundance winner The Eternal Memory, Roger Ross Williams’ Stamped From the Beginning from Netflix, and another Netflix title, American Symphony — the Matthew Heineman documentary about musician Jon Batiste. Scroll for the full list of nominated films.

39th IDA Documentary Awards logo
39th IDA Documentary Awards logo

Up to 10 nominees in the feature and short documentary categories will be selected from among the shortlisted films. The nomination announcement will be made on November 21. The shortlists, as well as the nominees, “are selected by independent committees of 280 documentary makers, curators, critics, and industry experts from 40 countries,” according to the IDA. The organization says it received 669 total submissions across all categories, from 48 countries.

“The 39th IDA Documentary Awards continues the tradition of celebrating the best of international nonfiction media of the year,” Ken Ikeda, IDA’s interim executive director, said in a statement. “This year’s Best Feature Documentary and Best Short Documentary shortlists reflect important work from 21 countries. We are excited to celebrate the work of our community and present winners this December in Los Angeles.”

IDA Awards trophies
IDA Awards trophies

The awards ceremony will be held the week of December 11 at a yet-to-be-announced venue. IDA members will be able to view each of the shortlisted films through the IDA Virtual Cinema beginning November 7; once the nominees are announced, IDA members will vote to determine the ultimate winner in the feature and shorts categories. The IDA Documentary Awards presents prizes in a variety of additional categories, including Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Writing, Best Curated Series, and Best Episodic Series, among others.

In recent years, the diversity of the independent committees that determine the IDA shortlists and nominees for feature and short doc has favored a broad array of films that don’t necessarily end up overlapping with the Oscar documentary shortlists, or nominations for the Cinema Eye Honors and Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards. American Symphony, for instance, dominated the Critics’ Choice nominations announced last week.

Below is the full list of films to make the IDA’s shortlists:

Best Feature Documentary Shortlist:

Against the Tide (India | BBC Storyville | Director: Sarvnik Kaur | Producer: Koval Bhatia, Sarvnik Kaur)

ANHELL69 (Colombia | Square Eyes | Director: Theo Montoya | Producers: Bianca Oana, David Hurst, Theo Montoya, Juan Pablo Castrillon, Balthasar Busmann, Maximilian Haslberger)

Anonymous Sister (United States | Long Shot Factory | Director: Jamie Boyle | Producers: Marilyn Ness, Elizabeth Westrate, Jamie Boyle)

Apolonia, Apolonia (Denmark | HBO Max | Director: Lea Glob | Producer: Sidsel Lønvig Siersted)

Bobi Wine: The People’s President (Uganda | National Geographic Documentary Films | Directors: Moses Bwayo, Christopher Sharp | Producers:  Christopher Sharp, John Battsek)

De Humani Corporis Fabrica (France | Grasshopper Film | Directors: Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor | Producers: Valentina Novati, Charles Gillibert, Pauline Gygax, Max Karli, Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor)

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (United States | HBO Documentary Films | Directors: Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster | Producers: Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster, Tommy Oliver)

In The Rearview (Poland | Cinephil | Director: Maciek Hamela | Producer: Maciek Hamela, Piotr Grawender)

Milisuthando (South Africa | Director: Milisuthando Bongela | Producer: Marion Isaacs, Viviana Gomez, Sonia Barrera, Milisuthando Bongela, Hankyeol Lee)

Motherland (Sweden | Lightdox | Director: Alexander Mihalkovich & Hanna Badziaka | Producer: Mario Adamson, Ashley J. Smith, Alexander Mihalkovich, Anita Norfolk)

Nathan-ism (United States | Director: Elan Golod | Producer: Elan Golod, Melanie Vi Levy)

Q (United States | Director: Jude Chehab | Producer: Jude Chehab, Fahd Ahmed)

Rewind & Play (France | Grasshopper Film | Director: Alain Gomis | Producers: Anouk Khélifa, Arnaud Dommerc)

The Mother of All Lies (Morocco | Arizona Distribution | Director: Asmae El Moudir | Producer: Asmae El Moudir)

Twice Colonized (Canada | EyeSteelFilm | Director: Lin Alluna | Producers: Aaju Peter, Emile Hertling Péronard, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Stacey Aglok Macdonald, Bob Moore)

unseen (United States | POV | Director: Set Hernandez | Producers: Set Hernandez, Day Al-Mohamed, Félix Endara, Dorian Gomez-Pestaña)

While We Watched (United Kingdom, India | POV, BRITDOC Films | Director: Vinay Shukla | Producers: Vinay Shukla, Khushboo Ranka, Luke W Moody)

Best Short Documentary Shortlist:

Away (Hungary | The New York Times Op-Docs | Director/Producer: Ruslan Fedotov)

Belle River (Canada | Spira, The New Yorker | Director: Guillaume Fournier | Producers: Samuel Matteau, Yannick Nolin)

Between Earth & Sky (United States | POV Shorts | Director: Andrew Nadkarni | Producers: Andrew Nadkarni, Swetha Regunathan, Katie Schiller)

Birdsong (Lao People’s Democratic Republic | The Guardian | Director: Omi Zola Gupta, Sparsh Ahuja | Producers: Sparsh Ahuja, Omi Zola Gupta, Dorn Bouttasing)

Clean (United Kingdom | The New York Times Op-Docs | Director: Miranda Stern | Producer: Reece Cargan)

Eat Flowers (United States | Reluminati Media | Director: River Finlay | Producer: River Finlay, Sashka Rothchild)

Ebony (United States | Director/Producer: Sean-Josahi Brown)

Freshwater (United States | The New York Times Op-Docs, POV Shorts | Director: Dream Hampton | Producers: Ill Weaver, Dream Hampton)

Hardly Working (Austria | The New York Times Op-Docs | Directors: Total Refusal, Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf | Producers: Total Refusal, Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf)

How to Carry Water (United States | Multitude Films | Director: Sasha Wortzel | Producers: Colleen Cassingham, Jess Devaney, Anya Rous)

How We Get Free (United States | HBO Documentary Films, The New York Times | Directors: Geeta Gandbhir, Samantha Knowles | Producers: Kathleen Lingo, Sweta Vohra, Jess Devaney)

Incident (United States | Hypnotic Pictures | Director: Bill Morrison | Producers: Bill Morrison, Jamie Kalven)

Jack and Sam (United States | Blue Bus Productions | Director: Jordan Matthew Horowitz | Producers: Jordan Matthew Horowitz, Andrew Carlberg)

Liturgy of Anti-Tank Obstacles (United States | The New Yorker, Condé Nast Entertainment | Director: Dmytro Sukholytkyy Sobchuk | Producer: Daniel Lombroso)

Mãri hi – The Tree of Dream (Brazil | Aruac Filmes | Director: Morzaniel Ɨramari | Producers: Eryk Rocha, Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha)

Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) (Australia | Other Pictures | Directors: Derik Lynch, Matthew Thorne | Producers: Matthew Thorne, Patrick Graham)

Mighty Penguins (United States | It Was All a Dream Productions | Directors: Louis Myles, Ahmed Twaij | Producers: Louis Myles, Ahmed Twaij)

Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó (Grandma & Grandma) (United States | Director: Sean Wang | Producer: Sean Wang, Sam Davis)

Neighbour Abdi (The Netherlands | The New York Times Op-Docs | Director: Douwe Dijkstra | Producer: Richard Valk)

Raat: Night Time in Small Town India (India | The Third Eye | Directors: Arti Ahirwar, Ashraf Hussain, Rajkumari Ahirwar, Vikas Khatri, Tabassum Ansari, Kulsum Khatoon, Khushi Bano, Parmeshwar Mandrawaliya, Santra Chaurthiya, Rajkumari Prajapati, Manisha Chanda, Anita Sen, Rani Devi, Ajfarul Shaikh | Producers: Rima Dairi Morris, Chris Collins, Jaden Pan)

Suddenly TV (Sudan | Gisa Productions | Director/Producer: Roopa Gogineni)

The Script (United States | Multitude Films | Directors: Brit Fryer, Noah Schamus | Producers: Colleen Cassingham, Jess Devaney)

The Unicorn in Snowpants Suddenly Ran Off (Germany | Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg | Director: Philipp Schaeffer | Producer: Fabian Leonhardt)

The Veiled City (United Kingdom | JSH Films | Director: Natalie Cubides-Brady | Producer: Jacob Swan Hyam)

Victoria (Mexico | The New York Times Op-Docs | Director: Eloisa Diez | Producer: Suleica Pineda)

39th IDA Documentary Awards Key Dates:

• IDA Member Viewing Begins with all Shortlisted Films: Tuesday, November 7, 2023

• Nominee Announcement: Tuesday, November 21, 2023

• IDA Member Voting Begins: Tuesday, November 21, 2023

• IDA Member Voting Ends: Tuesday, December 5, 2023

• Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles: Week of December 11. The exact date/venue TBA.

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