The International Documentary Association (IDA) has named a new executive director to lead the non-profit documentary advocacy organization following the previous executive director’s resignation almost a year ago to date.

The IDA has appointed Dominic Asmall Willsdon executive director, taking over for interim executive director Ken Ikeda, who has been in the role since January 2023. Willsdon will begin effective January 8, 2024.

Willsdon, a curator, educator, and veteran non-profit executive, is known for founding the film program at the Tate Modern in London alongside the British Film Institute. He joins the IDA from the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as executive director for the last five years.

Willsdon succeeds Rick Pérez in the role, who resigned last December just days before the non-profit’s annual IDA Awards recognizing the best in documentary film. Pérez’s resignation came on the heels of a staff exodus at IDA over accusations of a hostile and intimidating work environment and abusive leadership style. More than 75 percent of the staff — 18 out of 23 people who were on staff in January of that year — had exited the organization under Pérez’s tenure. The internal crisis led to the formation of an employee union, which earlier this year ratified its first collective bargaining agreement. IndieWire investigated the internal crisis in more detail back in March 2022.

Willsdon will be responsible for setting organizational strategies within IDA, with a focus on advocacy efforts and expanding the organization’s global reach.

“Dominic’s ability to work fluidly with independent storytellers from around the globe, across disciplines and audiences, is an extraordinary skill. He’s really an educator at heart, someone who is deeply committed to sharing knowledge, access, and culture from all parts of society. Combined with his extensive management, financial, and curation experience, we believe IDA will flourish under Dominic’s leadership,” said Grace Lee and Chris Perez, co-presidents of IDA Board of Directors, in an official statement.

“The IDA Board and staff are a wonderful team: brilliant, dedicated, inclusive. It has already been a pleasure to share ideas with them,” Willsdon said in a statement. “Together, in the coming years, we will ensure that IDA is an organization that is for anyone, anywhere in the world who cares about documentary filmmaking and its contribution to the common good.”

Willsdon also worked at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as the Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs between 2006-18. At SFMOMA, he relaunched the film program beginning with a season of Werner Herzog’s films, and launched Wide Lens, a documentary series co-organized with AMPAS. In partnership with SFFILM, Willsdon created Modern Cinema, a reinvention of SFMOMA’s commitment to film in the context of visual art.

From 2018 at VCU, Willsdon formed a partnership with the annual Afrikana Independent Film Festival, which combined screenings with public dialogue and education. His conversations have featured documentary filmmakers such as John Akomfrah, Sam Green, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Pratibha Parmar, and Anand Patwardhan. In addition to these leadership roles, Willsdon has served as a curator for international contemporary art biennials: the Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2013) and the Liverpool Biennial, UK (2016). He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Visual Culture.

Willsdon is originally from London, England, his family having migrated there from South Africa and India in the 1960s. He was raised in the west of England (by parents who met in film school), and educated in art history and philosophy at the Universities of Edinburgh, Essex, and Paris.

The IDA Documentary Awards take place December 12. Year-round the organization provides screenings and defends the rights of doc filmmakers, activists, and journalists.

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