Friday, July 22, 2022

'A Thousand Cuts," documentary on Maria Ressa, wins Peabody Award

Two Jersey girls making waves: journalist Maria Ressa, left, and filmmaker Ramona Diaz.

As journalist Maria Ressa fights off attempts of the Philippine government to muzzle her online news site Rappler and to jail the Nobel Peace Prize winner, a documentary of her fight for freedom of the press won the prestigious Peabody award.

A Thousand Cuts — Frontline’s 2021 documentary on the escalating war between the government and the press in the Philippines — was honored with a George Foster Peabody Award in the documentary category.

Directed by Filipino American filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz, the award-winning feature-length documentary follows renowned journalist Maria Ressa, CEO of the independent news site Rappler and a top target of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on press freedom. In December 2021, Ressa went on to be named a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Like Ressa, Diaz immigrated with her family as a young girl and grew up in New Jersey.

As one of the most prominent Filipino American filmmakers in the US, Diaz is the director of numerous feature documentaries including: 
  • Spirits Rising (1996), about Corazon Aquino and the People Power Revolution, which won a Student Academy Award and the Ida Lupino DGA Award; 
  • Imelda (2004), the definitive portrait of the infamous former First Lady of the Philippines, which won the Sundance Cinematography Prize for director of photography; 
  • Ferne Pearlstein (full disclosure: my wife); and 
  • Motherland (2017), a cinéma vérité portrait of a hospital in one of the poorest parts of Manila, home to the busiest maternity ward on earth, which won a Special Jury Award at Sundance.
In the Peabody Award jurors’ citation, A Thousand Cuts was recognized for its “astonishing access and chilling precision” and was honored as “a journalistic profile in courage for our time and a cautionary tale for global press freedom straining against the rise of populist autocracies around the world.”

A Thousand Cuts premiered on PBS in January 2021 following a decorated theatrical release in the summer of 2020 by PBS Distribution. Most recently, the film was awarded a 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the International TV category.

“We are thrilled to see Ramona Diaz’s A Thousand Cuts be recognized by the George Foster Peabody Awards,” said Frontline Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. 

“At a time when the critical practice and public service of journalism is increasingly under attack in countries across the globe, we are proud to share Maria’s courageous story with our PBS audiences. We share this honor with our production partners at CineDiaz, Motto Pictures and Concordia Studios, and we will continue to champion Maria and other journalists in pursuit of the truth.”

In the last days of the Presidency of President Rodrigo Duterte before he handed over the  government to incoming , the Philippine government ordered Rappler to stop its online operation. Two weeks later, the Court of Appeals upheld libel charges against Ressa which carries with it a six-year prison. sentence.

Meanwhile, Ressa remains free on bail and Rappler is continuing to operate as appeals are being made to the newly installed government of President Bongbong Marcos to drop the charges against the news site and the journalist.

“I’m very honored to receive a Peabody Award for A Thousand Cuts,” said Diaz. “It’s been a privilege to be able to tell Maria Ressa’s story. She has been sounding the clarion call for social media disinformation and its effects on democracy since 2016. This important recognition from Peabody goes a long way in helping us amplify this universally resonant story.”

Since 1940, the prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards have honored excellence in broadcasting. The awards now recognize excellence in digital storytelling as well.

Including the award for A Thousand Cuts, Frontline — which is produced at GBH in Boston and airs nationwide on PBS — has garnered 27 Peabody Awards to date

Stream A Thousand Cuts below.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For additional commentary, news and views from an AANHPI perspective, follow @DioknoEd on Twitter.

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