Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I’ve spent the day at the headquarters of Channel Four watching image after image of war, disease and death as part of the judging panel for the Rory Peck Trust Hard News award.

It was a difficult, moving and at times bleakly funny experience. The films on the short list seemed like a compilation of all the TV news reports from the past year that began with the presenter warning that “this piece contains images which some viewers may find disturbing.”

From Liberia to Ramallah and of course from across Iraq, the films showcased the bravery and artistry in extremis of the cameramen that shot them – as well as the sheer awfulness of daily life in so many parts of the world. Yet many captured the beautiful, visceral poetry amid the unspeakable horror; an American sidewinder missile looping into the sky on its way to its enemy target at Baghdad Airport, a severely malnourished Angolan child, a feeding tube taped to its nose, struggling to hang on to life, a Liberian rebel loading his machine gun with shiny brass bullets as he prepared for an assault on Monrovia.

The sounds captured the chaos and terror of life in a war zone; the shallow, panicked breathing as a colleague is shot and injured in the West Bank, the heavy thump of a rocket propelled grenade as it pounds into an American-controlled building in Iraq, the staccato rattle of small arms fire as heard from inside an armoured patrol carrier.

I found myself reliving many of the emotions I felt in Iraq and elsewhere.

Over the course of the day we whittled the entries down to a shortlist of three – Attack on Monrovia by James Brabazon, a portfolio of work by Glenn Middleton and the Northern Iraq Friendly Fire Incident filmed by Fred Scott (which I’ve already spoken about many times here). The winner will be announced at the Rory Peck Awards on October 30th and until then I’m sworn to total secrecy!


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