FRONTLINE Wins Three Overseas Press Club Awards

April 28, 2016
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by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

Former ISIS captives escape to safety in a scene from the FRONTLINE documentary "Escaping ISIS."

The Overseas Press Club of America has announced that David Fanning, who founded the PBS investigative series FRONTLINE in 1983 and served as its executive producer for more than 30 years, is the winner of the organization’s 2016 President’s Award for lifetime achievement.

Additionally, two FRONTLINE documentaries — ISIS in Afghanistan, a rare, on-the-ground view of the terror group’s emergence in Afghanistan, and Escaping ISIS, a look at how enslaved Yazidi women and children are fleeing their brutal captors — were named award winners. FRONTLINE’s My Brother’s Bomber received two award citations.

In offering the President’s Award to Fanning, OPC President Marcus Mabry said that he “could not imagine a more worthy recipient than you and the team at FRONTLINE, given your extraordinary, defining, work lasting more than three decades.”

“For a boy from South Africa who grew up without television,” said Fanning, now FRONTLINE’s executive producer at large, “this is an amazing and singular honor. My curiosity about the world outside drove my interest in journalism, then filmmaking, and made a path for me towards this country and public television. In so many ways, I’ve been deeply fortunate, from my colleagues at WGBH, CPB, and PBS who supported those ideas, to the many talented producers and reporters who joined us in exploring the tough — and often dangerous — issues of the last four decades. This award is for all of them.”

“This is a very proud day for all of us at FRONTLINE,” said Raney Aronson-Rath, who was named FRONTLINE’s executive producer in May of 2015 after many years working side-by-side with Fanning to lead the series. “For David’s extraordinary career and legacy to be recognized in this way, alongside our documentaries examining ISIS and investigating the Lockerbie bombing, is a real honor. We’re grateful to our viewers, our funders at PBS and CPB, and WGBH for the chance to do this work.”

Escaping ISIS, from producer and director Edward Watts, producer Evan Williams, and senior producer James Jones, won the David A. Andelman and Pamela Title Award for “best international reporting in the broadcast media showing a concern for the human condition.”

The film gave viewers “an exclusive, inside look at a secret underground cell working to free women and children from captivity,” the OPC judges wrote, praising the documentary “for its extraordinary access and carefully detailed depiction of daunting efforts to carry out extremely dangerous rescue work.”

The judges described the film as “beautifully written and edited” and “a sensitive, humanizing portrayal of suffering and redemption,” with one judge singling the film out as “restorative journalism at its best, revealing the positive, successful efforts of those who have chosen to risk their lives to win freedom for less fortunate others.” The documentary was an ITN Productions-Ronachan Films co-production with Evan Williams Productions and Mediadante for FRONTLINE in association with Channel 4.

ISIS in Afghanistan, a FRONTLINE production with Clover Films that was directed and filmed by Najibullah Quraishi, produced by Jamie Doran, and senior produced by Dan Edge, won the Edward R. Murrow Award for “best TV or video interpretation or documentary on international affairs.”

“The growing global threat of ISIS, a defining story of 2015, was further revealed by this chilling FRONTLINE documentary tracking a correspondent to a remote Afghan village to see how ISIS is brutally displacing the Taliban,” the judges said of the film, which was also honored with a Peabody Award this week.

“Najibullah Quraishi’s courageous reporting shows how ISIS offers recruits $700 a month as they outbid the Taliban and gives a glimpse of ISIS education: tutorials in beheading, grenade tossing and death chants to the United States and Israel,” the judges said.

Additionally, My Brother’s Bomber filmmaker Ken Dornstein’s three-hour search for the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed his brother and 269 others — received two OPC citations. The first was for Best Investigative Reporting; the second, Best Multimedia News Presentation, recognized the film as well as FRONTLINE’s multimedia storytelling surrounding it, including the interactive digital projects Inheritance and The Libya Dossier, and the podcast A Brother’s Quest.

Tonight’s 77th annual OPC Awards Dinner in New York will be hosted by Kai Ryssdal of American Public Media’s “Marketplace.” Journalist Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post, who was held in an Iranian prison for more than 18 months, will light a candle “in memory of journalists who have died in the line of duty in the past year and in honor of those imprisoned or missing,” according to the OPC’s awards announcement. The ceremony will stream online beginning at 7:30 p.m. EST. 

Watch the winning FRONTLINE films below.

Escaping ISIS

ISIS in Afghanistan

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