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Strong Human Stories Dominate this Year’s Rory Peck Awards

London, 26th October 2009 – The Rory Peck Trust today announced the nine finalists for the 2009 Rory Peck Awards, sponsored by Sony Professional. All winners will be announced at The Rory Peck Awards ceremony on Thursday 19th November 2009 at London’s BFI Southbank.

Strong human stories dominate the shortlist for this year’s awards, which remains the only showcase in the world to recognise the skill and achievement of freelance cameramen and camerawomen in international broadcast news and current affairs.
 
From Burma and Afghanistan to China, Nigeria, the DRC and Somalia, the films selected in the Sony Professional Impact Award and Rory Peck Award for Features reveal the devastating human consequences of abuse, conflict, corruption and natural disaster on ordinary families - and most of all, children.
 
In the Rory Peck Award for News, the everyday struggles of soldiers and civilians caught in the midst of war are the focus of powerful pieces from South Ossetia, Afghanistan and Gaza.
 
“It’s easy to get complacent and blasé about the images that reach our television and computer screens every day, but these are all staggering pieces, brought about by sheer hard work and filmed with immense skill and judgement – often in difficult and risky situations. The storytelling commitment of each finalist shines through,” explained Tina Carr, Director of The Rory Peck Trust.  “Without the freelance community we wouldn’t have known about these events and the people who are affected by them.”
 
 “The power of images and responsibility towards those being filmed dominated debate in this year’s judging panels, said Olivier Bovis, General Manager, Sony Professional. “Once again, this year’s entries showed great enterprise and their global impact and journalistic value cannot be overestimated”.


FINALISTS - THE SONY PROFESSIONAL IMPACT AWARD 2009
 

JON ALPERT AND MATTHEW O’NEILL (American)

China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
Shot in China, May-June 2008.  DCTV for HBO

Alpert and O’Neil’s film looks at the devastating aftermath of the 2008 earthquake in central China that killed nearly 70,000 people, many of them children crushed beneath the rubble of collapsed school buildings. They follow a group of grieving parents in the days and weeks following the disaster, as they come to terms with their loss and challenge government officials to explain the shoddy construction of the schools. In a scene which has become famous throughout China, the film shows a local party official on his knees begging the parents to halt their protest march.
 
JAMAL OSMAN (Somali)
World Food Programme
Shot in Somalia and Kenya, April-June 2009.
SMI Productions for ITN / Channel 4 News Independent Fund

The head of the United Nations aid operation in Somalia launched an inquiry after this film revealed wholesale corruption in its aid operation there.  The film exposes food theft on a massive scale, refugees forced to pay for aid at gunpoint and a network of corrupt businessmen profiteering from the country’s suffering. Jamal visited a refugee camp where the only food he saw being prepared was boiled leaves.
 
JOOST VAN DER VALK (Dutch)
Saving Africa’s Witch Children
Shot in Nigeria, February and May, 2008. 
Red Rebel Films / Oxford Scientific Films for Channel 4 Dispatches

In some of the poorest parts of Nigeria, where evangelical religious fervour is combined with a belief in sorcery and black magic, many thousands of children are being blamed for catastrophes, death and famine - and branded witches. This film follows the work of Englishman Gary Foxcroft who has devoted his life to helping the so-called “witch” children who are abandoned, tortured, starved and sometimes murdered. Its broadcast led to the arrest of several pastors and pushed the local state government to declare the branding of children as witches illegal.
 
 
FINALISTS - THE RORY PECK AWARD FOR FEATURES                               
 

MEHRAN BOZORGNIA (German) - Afghan Life Crumbles Despite Foreign Aid
Shot in Afghanistan, October - December 2008;
Commissioned by ITN / Channel 4 News Independent Fund for Channel 4 News

A startling account of life for ordinary Afghans seven years after the arrival of NATO.  Mehran’s film reveals how the Taliban have stepped into the lawless power vacuum as kidnappers in Kabul operate without fear of arrest and ordinary families face desperate poverty. In one heartbreaking scene we witness a family selling their nine year old son for money to survive the winter.
 
DAVID NIBLOCK (Irish) - Congo's Forgotten Children
Shot in DRC, November - December 2008; 
Blakeway for Channel 4 Dispatches

A moving examination of how the DRC’s 12 year conflict has scarred an entire generation and led to the deaths of more than 3 million children.  As rebel troops seized large areas of Eastern Congo, David Niblock and team were the only journalists to reach Kanyabayonga where children recounted tales of war and described how they hid in the forest for days. Separated from their parents and without shelter clean water and food, many died.
 
“Z” and “T” (Burmese) Orphans of Burma's Cyclone
Shot in Union of Myanmar / Burma, May 2008 - March 2009
Quicksilver Media for Channel 4 Dispatches

Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) cameramen “Z” and “T” risked a 30 year jail sentence to secretly film the lives of eight Burmese children orphaned by Cyclone Nargis.  As country officials refused outside aid and told the population not to “dwell on sadness” their film reveals the reality of day-to- day life for Burmese children, struggling to rebuild their lives as the bones of friends and family lie scattered in adjacent fields.
 
Note: The Democratic Voice of Burma is a non-profit Burmese media organization committed to providing responsible, accurate and unbiased news to the people of Burma. Their news is gathered by a network of undercover reporters and cameramen.

FINALISTS - THE RORY PECK AWARD FOR FEATURES


KAZBEK BASAYEV (Russian) South Ossetia Conflict
Shot in South Ossetia, Georgia, August 2008
Commissioned & broadcast by Reuters Video News

Kazbek Basayev entered Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia with the first wave of Russian troops.  A remarkable series of images reveal the human casualties of war -– the dead and injured soldiers and civilians, shocked and displaced survivors in devastated streets – and provided the first coverage of burning Georgian villages in territory taken under Russian/Ossetian control.
 
MAHMOUD EL AJRAMI (Palestinian) Beth Lahia School
Shot in Gaza, January 2009,
Self funded and broadcast internationally

Mahmoud El Ajrami’s footage shows the panic and distress at the UN-run school at Beth Lahia in Gaza as it is hit by white phosphorous shells.  Mahmoud reached the school while the attack was in progress; his pictures capture shells landing as emergency crews struggle to extinguish the flames and lead people to safety. In a separate sequence filmed a few days earlier, Mahmoud captured the terrifying image of a tank shell being fired along an alley-way almost directly towards his camera.
 
JOHN D McHUGH (Irish) - Combat Outpost
Shot in Afghanistan, October 2008.
Commissioned by Guardian Films. Broadcast by ITN / ITV News

Shot over a four-week period, John D McHugh’s film reveals the realities of daily life for US soldiers living and fighting in one of the US military’s most dangerous outposts. His pictures capture the base under sustained attack from Taliban fighters, as they fire small arms, rockets and heavy machine guns, and reveal the vulnerability and danger felt by soldiers effectively trapped in an isolated base, surrounded by land mines.

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