March 2002

The International Documentary Association's (IDA) 2002 DocuDay Academy Award® nominated documentary screenings were held on Saturday, March 23, 2002 at the Raleigh Studios Chaplin Theatre at 5300 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, California.


9:55 a.m.

The compact Chaplin Theatre filled quickly to capacity and dozens were turned away from the all-day event.

11:55 a.m.

Cinematographer Albert Maysles (left), co-director and editor Deborah Dickson, and producer-director discuss Lalee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton with IDA moderator .

"LaLee’s Kin takes us deep into the Mississippi Delta and the intertwined lives of LaLee Wallace, a great-grandmother struggling to hold her world together in the face of dire poverty, and Reggie Barnes, superintendent of the embattled West Tallahatchie school system. Through the technique of direct cinema, pioneered in the 1960s as a way to bring real-life stories to audiences with unprecedented intimacy, LaLee’s Kin explores the painful legacy of slavery and sharecropping in the Delta." *

This engaging film is a stark reminder of the inadequacy of our current "test-scores-are-everything" national education policy. A frustrated superintendent Barnes suggests that if he could have just 2% per student of the $30,000 it takes to feed and house one prisoner in the state's penetentiaries, they could better compete with more prosperous school districts.

*All synopses taken from the printed DocuDay program.


Laylee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton



12:15 p.m.

The theater is emptied after each program and already cramped and cranky attendees erupted in protest when event organizers suspended the long-standing policy of allowing all-day-pass holders to save their seats for the next show.

12: 20 p.m.

The seat-saving policy is reinstated.  : )

(left) This experienced DocuDay seat-holder marked her territory with a preprinted sign. Thinking about attending all day next year?   Survival tip: don't forget to spirit in your own snacks and drinks to discretely munch and sip on during the day.  There are no breaks between programs!

2:15 p.m.

Already enthusiastic applause burst into a standing ovation with the appearance of Murder on a Sunday Morning's subjects, public defenders Patrick McGinnis and Anne Finnell.

"On May 7,2000, in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn in Jacksonville, Florida, 65-year-old Mary Ann Stephens is shot in the head before her husband's eyes. Ninety minutes later, a 15-year-old Brenton Butler is arrested. For the investigators and media who cover the story, it is just another messed-up youth, just another wasted life."

This riveting film was an audience favorite.  While we know most law enforcement personnel are honest, honorable, and hard-working, it only takes one bad cop to really ruin your day...or your life. MORE


Murder on a Sunday Morning



Producer Denis Poncet (left), attorneys McGinnis and Finnell, director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, and IDA representative Mary Schaffer respond to audience questions..
2:30 p.m.

Discussions between Murder's "stars" and charmed movie-goers continued outside between programs.

War Photographer


2:30 p.m.

Cinematographer Peter Indergand, editor Barbara Muller, director Christian Frei, and IDA's Tom White discuss the special techniques and the special man featured in War Photographer.

"Director Christian Frei followed war photographer James Nachtwey for two years to such trouble spots as Kosovo, Indonesia and Palestine. In addition to filming Nachtwey, Frei attached a mini film camera to Nachtwey’s still camera, giving a viewer an intimate sense of his process. Nachtwey’s calmness and circumspection, unusual for a war photographer, reflects the inner confidence and conviction that allow him to persevere with this tough job. His photographs are not a purpose, but a means. In the end, the war photographer becomes an anti-war photographer."

Nachwey's belief that images of the world's violent clashes may be a deterant to violence was inspiring.  I couldn't help but wonder how he endures the perpetual darkness of the human condition he explores.


These are what ghost-hunters sometimes refer to as spiritual "orbs."  (Perhaps Chaplin and a few close friends joined us for DocuDay.)

They are what I refer to as tiny reflections from the camera's built-in flash bouncing around inside a cheap lens and spilling over the surface of the mediocre imaging chip inside my Kodak digital camera.

There's nothing spiritual about a bad photograph. : )


Artists and Orphans: A True Drama


Thoth (Thoth's Website)



7:00 p.m.

The documentary short filmmakers discuss their films with the audience.

"Artists and Orphans: A True Drama--In a country torn by civil war, economic collapse and political upheaval, the unseen victim is the child. Children suffer for long years after the immediate crisis passes. This is what director/actress Sharon Gans and her troupe of American artists disocver when they travel to the Republic of Georgia for a theater festival. Vowing to help, the artists walk off the stage and into a real-life drama."

"Sing!--How do croaky-voiced eight-year-olds become amazing singers? It is the story of how a community group, amid severe cuts in the arts, is able to develop a children’s chorus that Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen says is the best he has ever heard. Sing! focuses on the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, which has worked out of two rooms in a basement for 15 years to create extraordinary music under the guidance of Anne Tomlinson. Sing! is about the importance of art and music in children’s lives."

"Thoth--In 2000, filmmaker screenwriter Sarah Kernochan was strolling through Central Park near nightfall when she felt—and heard—music that sounded as though it were coming from another world. It was Thoth, a street musician of mixed-race origins, who wants to help heal the disunity of all people through his performance of a one-man opera."


9:30 p.m.

B.Z. Goldberg (left) and Justine Shapiro (center) respond to questions about their documentary feature Promises.

"Between 1997 and the summer of 2000, three filmmakers went to Jerusalem to ask children what they thought about war and peace in the Middle East. The result is a prescient account of the bitter and historically complex struggle from the point of view of those who will inherit it."

This film should be required viewing for Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat.





Children Underground




Filmmaker Edet Belzberg talked about how she chose the children she featured in the film and the difficulties associated with filming in the streets of Romania.

"Today, more than 20,000 children live on the streets of Romania’s cities and towns, a tragic legacy of former President Nicolae Ceaucescu’s regime, during which he outlawed the use of contraception and abortion in an effort to increase the nation’s work force. In Children Underground, Edet Belzberg lets the subjects speak for themselves, telling their own stories of abuse, abandonment and loneliness in their own natural and very candid fashions. What emerges are portraits of five individuals, each dealing with the tragedies, losses and sadness of their lives in very different ways."

During the post-screening discussion, Belzberg mentioned a sobering United Nations statistic that estimates as many as 150,000,000 children are living in the streets world-wide.

This year's event was sponsored by the new Sundance Documentary Channel.

On Sunday, March 24th Jean-Xavier de Lastrade and Denis Poncet received the Academy Award® for best documentary feature for Murder on a Sunday Morning.

(The Academy Awards® broadcast is ©2002, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Academy Award® ceremony screen shots are provided here for information purposes only.)

Sarah Kernochan and Lynn Appelle also received an Oscar® for their documentary short Thoth.

For more information on the International Documentary Association, visit their website at:

Or visit the Academy's website at:

(The Academy Awards® broadcast is ©2001, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.)

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