"The Square," a film that follows activists in Cairo's Tahrir Square following the 2011 overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, won the award for best feature documentary for 2013 on Friday from the International Documentary Association.
The IDA award for Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim's work comes after honors at the Toronto and Sundance film festivals, setting it up as a favorite for an Oscar, for which it is short-listed.
"The Square" also made history last month as the first documentary acquired by Netflix Inc, the online streaming and DVD company that is hoping to lure more subscribers with its own original programming.
"The Square" follows a handful of activists as they battle leaders and regimes, and risk their lives to try to build a new democratic society.
The IDA's best limited series award went to CNN original series "Inside Man," hosted by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. The series investigates diverse sectors of American life, from medical marijuana to migrant farmworkers.
The IDA, a 30-year-old non-profit that aims to support the documentary culture, recognized Oscar-winner Alex Gibney with the 2013 Career Achievement Award.
Gibney's most recent film, "The Armstrong Lie," about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, is also on the shortlist of 15 documentaries vying for one of the five nominations for an Academy Award.
Laura Poitras, the filmmaker who helped former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden reveal vast amounts of information on government surveillance, was honored with the IDA's Courage Under Fire Award. She was recognized by the IDA for "conspicuous bravery in the pursuit of truth."
The awards were presented in a ceremony Friday night in Los Angeles, but Poitras accepted hers via link-up from Berlin, where she is currently editing the third film in her post-9/11 trilogy, this one about NSA surveillance, the IDA said.