Another News Story: Behind the scenes of reporting on migration
by Giampietro Balia
- KARLOVY VARY 2017: British director Orban Wallace reveals how journalists and reporters capture the footage of migrants that we see on our news channels
Selected with his debut feature, Another News Story [+see also:
film profile], in the Documentary Competition of the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, British director Orban Wallace follows the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean, pulling the focus of his lens out to the journalists involved in the ethically intricate duty of reporting on the convoluted refugee crisis. We are used to seeing the stirring images televised by the ratings-driven TV networks, but how are these fragments of life captured, and what really happens behind the camera?
Another News Story opens on the Serbian-Hungarian border on 13 September 2015, in the Roszke refugee camp, 674 km from Germany. It’s late at night, and Richard Engel, NBC News' chief foreign correspondent, is closing a short introduction for a bigger reportage he will record later. In the meantime, photographers and other journalists, sensing an opportunity for a scoop, are running frantically, trying to capture the right shot or record the interview that will make the headlines. The director then shifts to the Greek island of Lesbos, where photographers and news reporters try to capture the rafts and boats that carry the thousands of refugees who have paid to be smuggled by sea to Greece from Turkey, the main transit route into the EU. Most of these migrants are from the war zones of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are greeted by the flashes and microphones of journalists looking for a story to report or a weeping face to broadcast. The documentary swings back and forth in time and moves on to other locations, like a refugee camp on the Macedonian border, where police in riot gear are containing the refugees to stop them from crossing the border – they are trying to get through Hungary to Budapest, and then on to Western Europe.
Wallace’s project started off as a documentary about migrants and their journey to and through Europe. But as they reached the Hungarian border, they saw a thousand people who had just escaped from a refugee camp running towards them. Dozens of anchor men were reporting live. That is when they decided to take the unconventional route of filming the reporters and disclosing what happens behind the cameras. An even-keeled selection of live footage and TV news reports constitutes the backbone of Another News Story, but some of the most powerful messages come from the experiences of the refugees themselves, who recount their journeys. Another News Story has a multi-layered narrative with myriad locations, and it follows multiple characters, documenting the roots of the mounting distrust of the media and their fluctuating position on refugees – one day sympathetic and compassionate, the next hostile. But as Bruno, a photographer who spoke with Wallace, says, “Tolstoy said happiness is universal; misery is individual.”
Another News Story is a British production by Wislocki Films and Gallivant Film. It will probably enrage some of the journalists pictured in the course of filming, but will certainly ignite a burning discussion about journalism ethics.
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