The International Documentary Association (IDA) has just announced its list of the "25 Best Documentaries," with Hoop Dreams, The Thin Blue Line, and Bowling for Columbine topping the list. It is obligatory, of course, for film snobs and pundits to start complaining as soon as a list like this is released: We’ve done it before with the Oscars, the AFI, and others. So perhaps now is the time to offer our sincere apologies to the Academy and the AFI and everyone else, because this IDA list is, well, wack. We certainly have no problems with the fact that the Maysles Brothers are slathered all over it like a fine nutty paste, or with the repeat appearances of Errol Morris and even Michael Moore. We love them. And we love Ross McElwee, too. But we have to ask: Does the IDA have anything resembling a memory? Or any grasp of the world outside the U.S.? Are the voters even aware that the first word in their organization’s name is, um, "International"?
The French are represented by Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog at No. 24 and Jacques Perrin’s Winged Migration at 22 (though who knows if the IDA is even aware that the latter was one of them furrin’ films). And that’s about it for the rest of the world. No Up series. No Shoah. No Sorrow and the Pity. No Hour of the Furnaces. No Chronicle of a Summer. No Nanook of the Fucking North. And judging by their list, we suspect that appears that the IDA folks are more eager to forget the Vietnam War (which spurred some of the most urgent documentary filmmaking of all time) than your average wing-nut loon. Instead, we’ve got cute spelling-bee kids at No. 4 and Morgan Spurlock eating himself silly at No. 11, and no less than three rock docs. All fine films, but c’mon, really? —Bilge Ebiri