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Utah’s Geralyn Dreyfous earns ‘rare’ honor for film work

The last time Geralyn Dreyfous attended the International Documentary Association’s award ceremony, it was 2004 and the film she executive-produced, “Born Into Brothels,” tied for top honor with Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Dreyfous will be attending this year’s IDA Awards tonight in Los Angeles, and again she’ll be getting an award.

Dreyfous, founder of the Utah Film Center, will receive IDA’s Amicus Award, a career-achievement recognition for her work fostering independent film.

“Amicus,” Dreyfous said in a phone interview earlier this week, “literally means ‘friends of the field.’”

It’s one of IDA’s rarer honors. In the organization’s 29 years, only three other people have received it: Entertainment lawyer and fair-use advocate Michael Donaldson, Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks, and director Steven Spielberg (whose support for documentaries includes the founding of the USC Shoah Foundation, which compiles oral histories of Holocaust survivors).

Dreyfous points to three different aspects of her career that the IDA is honoring:

• The Utah Film Center, whose free programming is “a unique model for exhibition and understanding the role of documentary in democracy building and society building.”

• The establishment, with Dan Cogan, of Impact Partners, a fund for socially releveant documentaries that has so far given support to more than 40 films.

• Her work at the now-defunct DoubleTake magazine, a quarterly journal that founded the first film festival for documentaries (what is now the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Dreyfous said that the documentary genre — sometimes called “nonfiction narrative” — “has really found its voice in the last 10 years.”

“I would say that documentary filmmaking right now is going through such an explosion of creativity and experimentation,” she said. “The different narrative ways that it’s telling stories, whether it’s first person narrative, whether it’s character narrative, whether it’s blending genres with animation and verite — it’s just so different than it was 20 years ago.”

The award comes just as the 2014 Sundance Film Festival is announcing its slate — and, as in most years, Impact Partners has some entries in the competitions.

Two that Dreyfous touted are “Web Junkie,” about “internet addiction” in China, and “E-TEAM,” which follows the work of Human Rights Watch’s emergency team investigating rights abuses in conflict zones. (One of “E-TEAM’s” directors is Ross Kauffman, who also co-directed “Born Into Brothels.”)

Dreyfous is branching into narrative films, as one of the founders of Gamechanger Films. This company aims to support women filmmakers who have projects that cost less than $5 million. Gamechanger just landed its first movie in Sundance: “Land Ho!,” a road-trip movie about two ex-brothers-in-law trying to reclaim their youth in Iceland.

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