'Fragments,' 'Fire' top IDAs

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Documentaries about the war in Iraq and forced child labor in South America earned top honors at the annual International Documentary Assn.'s awards gala benefit.

James Longley's "Iraq in Fragments," the HBO Documentary Films and Typecast Releasing docu that provides intimate portraits of life among everyday Iraqis, won IDA's feature documentary award Friday night at the DGA Theatre in Hollywood.

The IDA's documentary short film award went to Marcelo Bukin for "Angel's Fire" (Fuego de Angel). In his speech, he described his visually ambitious film as "a kind of poem about sacrificing souls and bodies."

Both awards were presented by Morgan Freeman, who acknowledged former Vice President Al Gore after taking the stage.

Gore gave the evening's opening remarks to an overflow crowd, stressing the importance of documentaries to the health and vitality of American democracy and comparing Guttenberg's publishing revolution to today's digital-media revolution.

Gore warned that ownership of the networks by conglomerates has not helped challenge the prevailing dogma of our times.

"Newspapers are increasingly shrinking and losing advertising, and, as a result, our national conversation of democracy has been shrinking," he said. "There are lots of people who know the details of Russell Crowe and K-Fed. What's missing is serious discussion about serious issues. ... Our democracy is achieving an opportunity for new life and receiving newfound energy because of the vitality and creativity of documentary filmmakers."

Gore was the inspiration behind Davis Guggenheim's "An Inconvenient Truth," which Friday was honored with the Pare Lorentz Award for representing both an activist spirit and a lyrical vision.

Jane Fonda presented Haskell Wexler's career achievement award but addressed Gore first. "I pray you find a platform -- whether as a documentary filmmaker or president of the United States," she said, "so that your democratic values are embedded in the DNA of this country."

Christopher Quinn, who was presented with the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award for "God Grew Tired of Us" by his friend, Dermot Mulroney, cited Wexler's inspirational documentary work during his speech.

Robert Wuhl injected the heady event with a few moments of well-received humor when he addressed Gore by welcoming him to Hollywood. "Any fool can be president of the United States, but you have a legitimate shot at an Academy Award," Wuhl said. But when Oscar campaigning kicks in to high gear, "you may wish you were back in Florida with Katherine Harris rather than have to face Harvey Weinstein."

Wuhl also noted how violent films had become, citing Mel Gibson, calling the director "Borat of Malibu."

PBS' "American Experience" series captured the IDA award for a continuing series. The prize for limited series went to "Off to War," by filmmaker brothers Brent and Craig Renaud, which aired on the Discovery Times Channel.

The ABC News Video Source Award went to Stanley Nelson for "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple."

Andrew Berends received the Courage Under Fire Award for "The Blood of My Brother." Scholar and critic Dr. Patricia Aufderheide was honored with the IDA Preservation & Scholarship Award for her Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of "Best Practices in Fair Use."

In one of the evening's lighter moments, Bahman Naraghi, Netflix's head of Red Envelope Entertainment, also addressed Gore. "(NetFlix) is shipping more (copies) of 'Inconvenient Truth' (to customers) than 'Mission: Impossible III,' " Naraghi said. "They must be loving you more at Paramount than Tom Cruise."
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