Oscars rule change leads to IDA ending DocuWeeks screening series

The International Documentary Assn. had great success with DocuWeeks, a theatrical showplace for films that needed an L.A. run to qualify for Oscar consideration.

Indeed, over the 16-year run of the series,  30 of the films presented went on to reap Oscar bids. And seven of them won including “Smile Pinki” (2008), “Taxi to the Dark Side” (2007) and “The Blood of Yingzhou District” (2006).

However, the academy has introduced several new requirements that have caused the IDA to pull the plug. A documentary feature now must have a commerical run of at least one week in both L.A. and New York. And it must be reviewed by a film critic from at least one of the Los Angeles and New York Times.

The IDA is still going to present new works, just in a different format with the introduction of an invitation-only screening series of 15 documentaries from September to January. The evenings will include Q&As with the filmmakers. 

The IDA is hoping to attract Oscar voters to these events. With the elimination of the screening committees, all members of the documentary branch are now eligible to take part in the nomination process using a preferential ballot. A shortlist of 15 will be winnowed down to the final five contenders.  

While final voting for the short documentary category was opened up to the academy membership as a whole this year, the feature race remains restricted to just those who attend special screenings of all five nominees. 

In making the announcement, IDA Executive Director Michael Lumpkin explained, “As the industry evolves so will we. With this new screening series, along with programs like our annual IDA Documentary Awards and DocuDay, we will continue to celebrate and champion the art of documentary filmmaking worldwide.”

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