Magazine article American Cinematographer

IDA Honors Cousteau and Seven Others

Magazine article American Cinematographer

IDA Honors Cousteau and Seven Others

Article excerpt

It's hard to impress the documentary community. By definition, documentarians are fearless and cool, but last November 17, at the annual International Documentary Association Awards luncheon, even those who have shaken the hands of presidents and kings were whispering and pointing, "There he is!" "Did you see him?" "I got to shake his hand!"

They were speaking of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who was present to receive the Career Achievement Award. As IDA president Harrison Engle put it, Cousteau was selected for his "six decades of contributions to the artistic development of the documentary, for his numerous technical achievements and for his unique vision and leadership in fostering a harmony between mankind and the natural world."

Few men in any field are as accomplished or as beloved as the 79-yearold Cousteau. Besides making more than 100 films, he is the co-inventor of the aqua-lung, created the first small submarine for undersea work, carried out the first successful experiments in undersea living and invented the first underwater television system.

He has loved film since his youth. At the tender age of 16 he began making melodramas, often casting himself as the villain. He began his documentary career in 1930 when he joined the French Naval Academy and traveled throughout the world recording life with a movie camera.

In 1953, a British philanthropist gave Cousteau the mobility that he needed to fulfill his destiny. With the American minesweeper Calypso refitted as a research vessel, Cousteau began the odyssey that hundreds of millions have shared. In 1956 Cousteau won his first of three Academy Awards for his theatrical presentation of The Silent World.

It seems fitting that David Wolper, last year's Career Achievement Award winner, would conspire with Cousteau to introduce the world to the beauties under the sea. Their collaboration resulted in The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, which became the most popular documentary series in broadcasting history.

Cousteau's adventures have given him firsthand knowledge of the environmental disasters mankind has visited on his only planet. In recent years much of Cousteau's time has been spent lobbying governments and educating the public in the ways of planetary stewardship.

At the same ceremony, the IDA presented five awards for Distinguished Documentary Achievement along with the David L. Wolper Student Award and the Preservation and Scholarship Award. The subjects of the honored films range from the intimate to the comprehensive. Reece Auguiste's Twilight City is a very personal look at the changing face of London through the eyes of a young, black woman. …

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