Stories of refugees and migrants feature prominently among the finalists the Rory Peck Awards 2016, which honour the work of freelance cameramen and camerawomen in news and current affairs.

News finalist Will Vassilopoulos and News Features finalists Marco Salustro and Lottie Gammon, uncover stories of desperation, detention and kidnapping in Greece, Libya and Macedonia respectively.
Syrian and Yemeni freelancers living and working in the midst of conflict are News finalists for intense footage from the frontlines. Waad Al Kateeb – a 24 year old Syrian mother from Aleppo – and Yemeni video journalist Nabil Hassan from Aden, show us the devastation wrought on their home cities and the people who live in them.
The struggles and motivations of soldiers fighting for and against extremism in Syria and Iraq are revealed in detail by Sony Impact finalist Paul Salahadin Refsdal in an unsettling portrait of Jabat al Nusra’s suicide bombers, and by News Features finalists Ayman Oghanna and Warzer Jaff who embed with Iraq’s elite Golden Division as they fight to expel Islamic State from Anbar Province.
And the resilience of families and children rebuilding lives devastated by conflict in Syria, and by Ebola in Sierra Leone are explored by Sony Impact finalists Marcel Mettelsiefen and Ben Steele.

“The work of this year’s finalists shows very clearly that freelancers are at the forefront of news and current affairs, uncovering stories that shape the agenda, inform our lives, challenge our views and inspire us to act. Their curiosity, bravery and dedication is inspiring, says Tina Carr, Director of the Rory Peck Trust. “But as journalists around the world continue to be targeted, freelancers are the most vulnerable – many still work alone without any backup. We recognise the value of freelancers and we are proud to support them through the awards and through our work at the Trust.”
This year’s winners will be announced at the Rory Peck Awards ceremony which takes place at London’s BFI Southbank on Wednesday 7th December.  The event is the main fundraiser for the Rory Peck Trust which is dedicated to the support of freelance journalists and their families worldwide.  

The Rory Peck Awards are sponsored by Sony.

Rory Peck Award for News – Finalists 2016

Waad Al Kateeb (Syrian)
A Life in the Day of Aleppo
Shot in Syria,  May 2016
Self-funded. Broadcast by Channel 4 News / ITN
Waad’s entry focuses on the lives of one family caught up in the Syrian conflict. As the bombing of Aleppo intensified in May 2016, three young brothers went out to play and were hit by an air strike. They ended up at the al-Quds hospital where freelance camerawoman Waad (not her real name) – a 24 year old mother living in Aleppo – was filming doctors at work. Waad then captured the harrowing story of what happened to six-year-old Mohammed and the immediate impact on his devastated family, giving us a rare and intimate glimpse into what thousands of families have gone through in this city during the last five years. Judges said the report was a “delicate, discrete story of human tragedy” and that Waad’s “pictures told one very simple story so tightly and so well.”

Nabil Hassan (Yemeni)
The Battle for Aden
Shot in Yemen, June to August 2015
Commissioned and broadcast by Agence France Presse
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab air forces began air strikes on Iranian-backed Shia Houthi rebel forces in Yemen as they moved to seize the port of Aden where President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi had taken refuge. Three months later, Nabil – a 32 year old freelance video journalist and former mechanic – was embedded with the loyalists, the local anti-rebel militiamen from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), as they fought to recapture the southern port city from the rebels. He was with the PRC on the ground during this major offensive, getting close to the frontline, and witnessing the heavy fighting and intense shelling between the warring factions as well as the devastating impact of the conflict on civilians. Judges said this was  “rare and outstanding” footage from a tragic war we never see.

Will Vassilopoulos (Greek)
Fear and Desperation: Refugees and Migrants Pour into Greece
Shot in Greece, October 2015 – March 2016
Commissioned and broadcast by Agence France Presse
Since 2015, Greece has become one of the main entry points into Europe for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war, poverty and persecution. Will’s footage shows desperate migrants and refugees arriving on its shores from Turkey, in overcrowded, rickety boats and rubber dinghies and their rescue from open water in the middle of the night. His entry is focussed on the island of Lesbos which has seen the highest number of arrivals, and on the makeshift, sprawling Idomeni camp on Greece’s northern border with Macedonia which became a flashpoint in the migrant crisis. Judges said Will’s footage stood out because of his storytelling and eye for detail. “It’s difficult to do something exceptional when everyone is shooting it, however tragic and important the story is, and Will really managed that.”

Rory Peck Award for News Features – Finalists 2016:

Lottie Gammon (British)
Tracking Down Macedonia’s Refugee Kidnap Gangs   
Shot in Hungary, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia, May 2015
Commissioned and broadcast by Channel 4 News / ITN
Lottie’s film exposes an organised criminal network of people smugglers, kidnapping and extorting money from refugees crossing from Greece into Macedonia en route to Serbia. Following a tip-off from a victim, Lottie – a freelance documentary director and journalist – and reporter Ramita Navai tracked down the house where hundreds of refugees were being held against their will, and unearthed evidence of corruption by local police and customs officials turning a blind eye to the trade. The film had a significant impact in Macedonia and put pressure on the authorities to take action. The judges said the report showed, good, old-fashioned “brave and bold journalism and it was very well shot.”

Ayman Oghanna (British) and Warzer Jaff (American)
The Road to Fallujah   
Shot in Iraq, April 2016
Commissioned and broadcast by VICE News
After 18 months of careful negotiation with Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism force known as the Golden Division, Ayman secured an unprecedented level of access for him and Warzer to embed with the unit on the front lines as it fought to take back control of towns and cities across Anbar Province. We see the desperation and chaos left behind after ISIS had been driven out, and witness the soldiers trying to persuade local communities with a deep distrust of the Iraqi government to reveal any remaining ISIS sympathisers living amongst them. The judges said “this was an example of a military embed at its very best” and showed “an unfolding story full of quiet moments which revealed how complicated the situation is right now in Iraq.”

Marco Salustro (Italian)
Libya’s Migrant Trade: Europe or Die   
Shot in Libya, June 2015
Commissioned and broadcast by VICE News
Thousands of refugees and migrants desperately seeking a better life in Europe travel to Libya to cross the Mediterranean sea every month. To cope with the numbers and growing pressure from the international community, the Tripoli government is relying on militias to help deal with the migration flow. Marco secured repeated first-hand access to an unofficial detention camp in Tripoli, where he witnessed the local militia detain, abuse and mistreat migrants, forcing them to live in sub-human conditions. The militia claim to be bringing order to the country and to have the migrants’ interests at heart, but what emerges in Marco’s film is a very different and shocking story. Judges Marco gave a real sense of the “fear, insecurity and lack of home these migrants have.” “You don’t just want away from this film and forget it instantly, it really stays with you.”

Sony Impact Award for Current Affairs – Finalists 2016

Marcel Mettelsiefen (German)
Children on the Frontline: The Escape
Shot in Syria, Turkey and Germany, July 2013 until April 2016
Part self-funded. ITN Productions for Channel 4 Dispatches in association with ZDF and WGBH
In 2013, Marcel – who was raised in Spain and Germany – spent nine months filming the moving story of the children of a leading rebel commander in Aleppo whose lives had been changed forever by the war in Syria. In this second film, he returns to follow the fortunes of the three young sisters and their brother after the capture of their father by ISIS. He tells a story of loss, resilience and ultimately hope, astheir mother decides they must leave their home and the ruins of their lives in a city they had once loved. Marcel follows their escape to Turkey and their new lives as refugees in the sleepy town of Goslar in Germany. The judges said Marcel’s film was “honest, emotional, intimate and poetic.” “This is a touching documentary from a mature and responsible filmmaker who has made a film that we all need to see at this time.”

Paul Salahadin Refsdal (Norwegian)
Dugma: The Button
Shot in Syria, December 2014 – June 2015
Funded by the Norwegian Film Institute, Viken Filmsenter and Fritt Ord        
Broadcast on NRK
Paul – who specialises in reporting with insurgent groups – spent months inside rebel-controlled Northern Syria securing unprecedented access to film with Jabhat al Nusra, the local branch of al-Qaida. The result is an intimate portrait of a group of suicide bombers in waiting. In sharp contrast to how al-Qaida likes to portray themselves, the characters in this film are not just soldiers, but human beings with weaknesses, faults and self-doubt. Among the people we meet, waiting for his turn on the list to undertake martyrdom operations, is a Saudi man with a love for life and a love for deep fried chicken. Another fighter waiting for his turn is a British convert who gradually doubts that pushing the button – the Dugma – would be the right thing for him to do. The judges praised Paul’s way of looking at suicide bombers as “horribly human.” “He gets across the banality of evil, the mundaneness of war. There is great value to that.”

Ben Steele (British)
The Children Who Beat Ebola
Shot in Sierra Leone, January – April 2015
Blakeway TV Productions for Channel 4 Dispatches
This is an intimate, heartbreaking portrait of life after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa told from the perspective of five children living through and surviving a disease that has taken their parents, siblings and other family members. Filmed over four months, Ben – a Rory Peck Award winner in 2014 – follows the events in these children’s lives from the time the infection rate peaked in Sierra Leone, filming with families in quarantine, showing the impact of the devastation on individual young lives.  As the virus is brought under control and schools reopen, Ben shows us how the children start to come to terms with their loss and stigma as they start to rebuild their lives and look to the future. Judges called Ben’s film “a masterclass in filmmaking”. “He cleverly wins the children’s trust, telling the story from their perspective, from their eyeline, managing to capture many terrible, immensely moving and magical moments.”

Staff Reporter

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