Al Jazeera English Online’s new digital vérité series, Fly on the Wall, has won a prestigious Association of International Broadcasters (AIB) award for best short documentary. Taking a purely observational approach, the series explores stories using only image and sound – no narration – with characters speaking directly to the camera.
The win came for the series’ first episode, The Virus, in which filmmaker Raul Gallego Abellan became one of the first in a small wave of journalists allowed into hospitals, morgues and elder care facilities in and around his native Barcelona.
Relying on keen documentary instincts – and at great risk to himself – Abellan’s camera immerses viewers into Spain’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak in late March 2020, as doctors, nurses and paramedics battled what is believed to have been the highest rate of infections amongst healthcare workers in Europe at the time.
In The Virus, medical staff open up about the stress of working double shifts with no days off for weeks on end, not having adequate protective gear or resources to handle the numbers of dying and of being forced into decisions on who would be administered life-saving treatments, or not.
“Our judges felt this was a clear winner as the piece perfectly reflected the eerie and bizarre atmosphere of this early stage of COVID-19,” the AIB organisers said during a virtual ceremony on November 13 that marked the 16th annual AIB Awards recognising excellence in factual journalism. The Virus is a “bold story very well told [with] great visuals and an incredible soundtrack”.
“We’re very proud of the Fly on the Wall team who showed resourcefulness launching in the early days of the pandemic,” said Carlos van Meek, director of Digital Innovation and Programming.
“This series is an example of intrepid, behind-the-scenes reporting. It’s unique in its ability to use long-form video as a way of deepening our understanding of the news. We congratulate the team for their excellent work.”
The Digital podcast team also received a Highly Commended distinction for Diplomats for Sale, a series based on the Al Jazeera Investigations unit’s documentary by the same name.
The Al Jazeera English channel also emerged with a win in the Science and Technology category for The Big Picture – The World According to A.I., as well as two Highly Commended distinctions for 101 East: Selling out West Papua and Witness documentary, The Dancer Thieves.
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