Prolific documentary director Alex Gibney’s career has accelerated to the point where you could be forgiven for losing track of what his latest project actually is. This year alone, the Oscar winner has brought us two topical, well-received docs: “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” premiered at Sundance and was released theatrically in May, while his study of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, “The Armstrong Lie,” premiered at Venice earlier this month. It opens in early November.
“We Steal Secrets,” meanwhile, appeared mere months after his remarkable film about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” appeared in theaters and on the Academy’s pre-nomination shortlist. This month, “Mea Maxima Culpa” scooped three Primtime Emmy Awards, including one for Exceptional Merit in Docmentary Filmmaking. All told, Gibney has directed (or co-directed) over 10 features since winning the 2007 Oscar for “Taxi to the Dark Side.” (It was his second nomination; 2005’s “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” earned him his first.)
With this having been a typical work rate for the New York-based Gibney these past few years — and with the films themselves remaining notably consistent in quality — it’s no surprise to see the director rewarded with the Career Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association. The honor, which aknowledges “a filmmaker who has made a major impact on the documentary genre through a long and distinguished body of work,” will be presented at the IDA Awards ceremony on December 6. Past recipients of the award include Werner Herzog, Michael Moore, Barbara Kopple and Errol Morris.
The IDA also announced two other honorary award winners alongside Gibney. Executive producer Geralyn Dryfous, whose credits include 2004 Oscar winner “Born Into Brothels” and last year’s nominee “The Invisible War,” will receive the rarely-awarded Amicus Award for “friends of the documentary genre.” Only three people, including Steven Spielberg, have been awarded the prize in its 29-year history. Meanwhile, docmaker Laura Poitras will accept the Courage Under Fire Award for “conspicuous bravery in the pursuit of truth.” Her 2007 film “My Country, My Country” — the first in a planned three-part series on post-9/11 America — got her an Oscar nod.
IDA head Michael Lumpkin states: “The outstanding individuals IDA has chosen to honor this year represent the very best of our thriving documentary filmmaking community. The dedication of Gibney, Poitras and Dreyfous to the art and craft of nonfiction storytelling has contributed greatly to expanding our understanding of the shared human experience and creating a more informed, compassionate and connected world.”