Iraqi freelance wins Rory Peck award

An Iraqi doctor turned freelance cameraman who received death threats for filming the war’s effects on ordinary Iraqis has been applauded by the Rory Peck Awards,.

Ali Fadhil’s film ‘Iraq Missing Billions,’ lifted the lid on the day-to-day survival of natives living in the aftermath of war, made worse by a failed reconstruction process, authored by Western forces.

The film was broadcast by Channel 4 as part of the Dispatches series in March, when British audiences saw how billions of dollars were being squandered by the US-led coalition.

Using his experience as a native and a doctor, the freelance broke away from so-called ‘press pack’ journalism to capture emotive scenes in hospitals which supposedly received millions in aid.

But his film showed medical efforts hampered by a complete lack of basic drugs and equipment – a situation made worse by operating areas being flooded with sewage.

Because of the grim realities he uncovered, Ali received death threats and intimidation from local contractors, corrupt government officials and American troops.

During filming, his house was even raided by collation-led forces troops, forcing him and his family to flee.

The tremendous sacrifice the freelance made was one reason why judges at the Rory Peck awards awarded Ali the Sony Impact Award.

The award, which is one of three given in tribute to Rory Peck, recognises humanitarian footage shot by a freelancer, which has had an impact worldwide.

Judging criteria states that the film must contain footage that has either changed perception or policy – an objective reached by numerous clips in the documentary.

One of them captures the moment a senior member of the coalition authority admits his team failed in their reconstruction project. Supporting footage of hospital scenes confirms the claim.

“The way that Ali uses his camera to capture such raw and personal images is tremendous,”" said one of the judges, Chris Hampson, London bureau chief at NBC News.

“His camerawork tells this shocking and very real story with absolute integrity and sensitivity. It shows real intelligence - true journalism.”

The freelance said that in shooting the film, he had connected to a “deep emotional level” with his fellow natives, many of whom “struggle to survive every day.”

“Despite the threats and intimidation that made my task extremely difficult, I was determined to show the rest of the world how innocent Iraqis are paying the price of the coalition's broken promises,” he added.

Naomi Climer, vice president at Sony Europe, which sponsors the awards, said freelance professionals often work in dangerous conditions in order to “uncover the truth behind the story.”

Freelancers wishing to break into TV news production or set up their own production company can realise their dream by undergoing intensive training from industry professionals.

The Documentary Filmmakers' group is offering courses in November and December for a one day masterclass in Freelance TV news training (£150) or a five-day course in how to run your own production.

For further details, please see the group’s portfolio of ‘Short Courses’ available online at:


14th November 2006

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