July 24, 2012
NEW YORK, JULY 24, 2012—A groundbreaking multimedia documentary series exposing global childhood malnutrition, a collaboration between the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the renowned VII photojournalism and media company, has been nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award, a milestone recognition of an innovative form of advocacy journalism.
The joint project, Starved for Attention, is composed of eight short multimedia documentaries, spanning reportage in nine countries. Collectively, they present a multi-faceted perspective of childhood malnutrition, a preventable and treatable condition that nonetheless claims the lives of millions of children every year. The documentaries form the core of a global campaign launched by MSF in 2010, with the goal of achieving key reforms of a global food aid system that has failed to ensure that young, vulnerable children receive foods that actually meet their specific nutritional requirements.
“The nomination is a notable validation of a highly collaborative and innovative story telling model,” said Stephen Mayes, managing director of VII Photo and co-executive producer of Starved for Attention. “Starved for Attention’s impact stems from the sum of its parts: leading photojournalists committed to documenting neglected humanitarian crises; frontline medical professionals struggling to alleviate human suffering; and filmmakers movingly conveying the inherent possibility of combating a deadly scourge.”
The convergence of field medicine, documentary reportage, and film and web production culminated in a unique form of advocacy journalism that has exposed a woefully underreported—yet surmountable—global health challenge, and has galvanized action by policymakers.
“By combining forces to create a new visual language for childhood malnutrition, we dispensed with the clichéd image of the emaciated child, instead focusing on the subtle, more hidden aspects of this relatively underreported condition,” said Jason Cone, communications director at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the US and co-executive producer of Starved for Attention. “The result is a unique form of collaborative reportage. We documented a crisis needlessly afflicting close to two hundred million children throughout the world, and by focusing on the gains already made in preventing and treating malnutrition at the field level, we emphasized solutions that have caught the attention of governments and aid agencies—exactly what we hoped to achieve.”
The documentary film series, totaling 56 minutes in length, was shot in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, India, Kenya, Mexico, Somalia, and the United States. To date, Starved for Attention has garnered media coverage in more than 25 countries, reaching both communities deeply affected by childhood malnutrition and those whose governments fund the global humanitarian food aid system.
Notable gains have been made since the launch of Starved for Attention. The documentary films were combined with grassroots and medical advocacy in the capitals of the world’s top food aid donor countries. The World Food Program, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and UNICEF have appropriately adjusted their malnutrition prevention and treatment guidelines.
And for the first time, the United States Congress is considering changes to the Farm Bill, the law that dictates what kind of food aid the US government sends overseas. The changes could potentially fast track the reformulation of US food aid to ensure that the nutritional needs of young children are met. The United States is the world’s largest food aid donor, and for decades has sent nutritionally substandard corn-soy blended flours to areas rife with malnutrition.
VII photographers Lynsey Addario, Marcus Bleasdale, Jessica Dimmock, Ron Haviv, Antonin Kratochvil, Franco Pagetti, Stephanie Sinclair, and John Stanmeyer produced the photos and much of the video for the project, with additional footage shot by MSF staff videographers. The films reveal the multi-layered facets of childhood malnutrition, chronicling the devastation of malnutrition for families in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Djibouti; the flaws of the largely US-funded humanitarian food aid system in Kenya and Somalia; innovative community-driven treatment programs in Bangladesh and India; and national-level malnutrition prevention programs in Mexico and the US.
“If Starved for Attention has achieved one thing, it is the exposure of a terribly harmful double standard,” said Cone. “For decades, the United States has shipped foods overseas that do not provide proper nutrition for young children to prevent or fight off malnutrition. These are foods you would never find in grocery stores in the US. There is strong momentum in Washington, in part as a result of this campaign, to make the necessary policy changes to end the double standard of US food aid.”
Starved for Attention is nominated in the documentaries sub-category in New Approaches to News and Documentary Programming. Most nominees in the category include traditional broadcast and Internet news outlets, such as ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, PBS, and TIME.com.
“This is an encouraging indication that non-conventional story telling, by non-conventional media producers and multi-disciplinary teams, are gaining the acceptance and recognition they deserve,” said Jeremiah Zagar, co-founder of Union HZ and creative director of the Starved for Attention films. “This collaboration shows it’s possible to achieve artistic and visual excellence without compromising the intellectual rigor needed to take on a complex subject like childhood malnutrition.”
Tens of thousands of people have viewed the documentaries at events and exhibits in the US, Canada, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, and Kenya.
Zagar and Jeremy Yaches, executive producer of Union HZ, a Brooklyn, New York–based filmmaking boutique, oversaw the post-production of the Starved for Attention films.
Bluecadet Interactive designed the Starved for Attention website, where all the films reside and which serves as the project’s primary advocacy platform, engaging and enlisting people throughout the world. More than 150,000 people signed a petition on the website encouraging reform of the international food aid system.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and exclusion from health care in more than 70 countries. It was the recipient of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. www.doctorswithoutborders.org
VII Photo Agency was created in 2001 by seven of the world’s leading photojournalists. By 2005 it was listed in third position in American Photo’s “100 Most Important People in Photography.” VII Photo Agency now represents 23 of the world’s preeminent photojournalists, whose careers span 35 years of world history. www.viiphoto.com
Union HZ is a collective of filmmakers, documentarians & commercial storytellers who develop and produce original content for a global audience. www.unionhz.tv
Bluecadet is an interactive studio specializing in multimedia experiences that excite, engage and inspire. Bluecadet designs and builds dynamic websites, interactive installations, and mobile applications for museums, nonprofits, artists and journalists. Bluecadet is a storyteller for the digital age. www.bluecadet.com
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)