I wonder if the International Documentary Association assumed that there would be a certain amount of backlash when they published their 25 Best Documentaries list or if this came afterwards. On their website under the link to the list, it says:

The above link will lead you to the list, representing a range of styles, sensibilities and eras. While any list is subject to discussion, debate and dispute, we offer these titles as a jumping off point, an opportunity to revisit, reassess and reclaim, and a means to remind you of why you’re part of this community in the first place. Link

As a member, I voted. I remember looking through the original list of some 600 films to choose plus write-in spots… well, let’s just say it’s impossible to choose 25 and of course, many of us haven’t seen all or even nearly all of the possibilities. I approached my vote by trying to pick some newer films (because often such lists feel irrelavant with the lack of acknowledgment for modern work) as well as foreign films in with the more widely known domestic choices. I don’t remember thinking about choosing for diversity of filmmaker or subject, or topically limiting myself. Some of the films I chose are on the list and some are not. I was surprised by the backlash of criticism both here, here, and on Doculink, a listserv in the doc community.

Any such list is going to be subjective, no matter who is curating, and odd that anyone would think IDA was naive enough to suppose they could narrow great docs to only 25. IDA wanted to celebrate their 25th year anniversary by helping publicize great works of documentary. By creating a partnership with Netflix and a best-of list, perhaps people who don’t normally watch docs might consider renting one or two of the fantastic films that are on that list. They aren’t the only 25 great films made, but they are accessible and worthy of study, discussion and praise.

Films on my “tops” list that didn’t make IDA’s: Stranger with a Camera, The Five Obstructions, An Injury to One, Burden of Dreams (pictured top right, by Les Blank), The Gleaners and I, Baraka, Promises, The White Diamond, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, The Man with a Movie Camera. Anyone want to add to the list with their own suggestions? Are such lists worthwhile or helpful to you?

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