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Head of Documentary Film Group Trumpets an Active, Get-Tough Policy


The International Documentary Assn.'s support of a lawsuit against the United States Information Agency signals a new activism by the 4-year-old Los Angeles organization.

There's more where that came from, IDA President Robert Guenette said in an interview. "We're growing teeth."

The association represents about 300 documentary film makers, primarily in Southern California and New York. It claims to be the only trade association in its field.

"We are in the process of turning the IDA into a very aggressive organization that is out there for its membership. We want to take issues of concern to documentary film makers forward," said Guenette, a writer-producer-director whose credits include the TV movies "Children of the Night" and "Victory at Entebbe" and the documentaries "Sexual Abuse of Children: Beyond the Secret" and "Counterattack: Crime in America."

The USIA case and the ongoing lawsuit against the Justice Department for its ruling that three Canadian-made documentaries are "propaganda" trouble Guenette, himself a former USIA film maker.

Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 29, 1986 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 10 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
An article in Monday's Calendar regarding the lawsuit against the United States Information Agency contained a misstatement, due to an editing error. A 1949 international agreement that allows makers of educational, scientific and cultural films to avoid paying import taxes overseas does not apply to feature-length entertainment films or to product-promotion films.

"It's deplorable," he said, shaking his head. "This labeling or non-certification is more overtly evil than it might seem. The fact that a film is labeled makes exhibitors more likely to avoid what they perceive as trouble and not play the film. The same goes in foreign markets where distributors see that a U.S.-made film is not certified by the government--that indicates problems to them."

Another major area of work for the IDA, Guenette said, is in the broadcast arena.

"The (television) networks, local stations and cable franchises are areas that we want to get very aggressively involved in," he said.

"I think that a lot of broadcasters don't understand that there is an audience for documentary films," he added. "After all, the appetite in this country for nonfiction is greater than fiction on every level--with books, newspapers and magazines. There is no reason to believe that it shouldn't somehow translate into what we see on television."

Guenette stopped and grinned: "My ideas are pretty grandiose and our delivery system is not yet established. I don't know how far we can take the fat cats, but the communicators have got to be responsible. And we're ready to go to work to see that they are."

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