Subject: GU: Max Stahl wins Rory Peck Award

Also info from award website

The Guardian (UK), Date: Monday, October 30th, 2000.


Men like Max Stahl risk their lives to bring us images from the world's war zones. So why, asks Maggie O'Kane, do broadcasters treat them like annoying door-to-door salesmen?

Maggie O'Kane

Max Stahl cleaned up into a rather smart figure for an awards ceremony in London's Barbican Centre last week. For once the worn brown corduroys, hiking boots and Indiana Jones hat were replaced by a suit for dinner.

Stahl, 45, is a freelance cameraman. One of a breed who, when the going gets dangerously tough-in such places as Chechnya, East Timor and Kosovo-provide the only pictures we get of whatever contemporary hell they're still in. I've known four Max Stahls over the years three of whom died. He has been kidnapped twice, seriously wounded twice and reported dead three times.

Stahl received the Rory Peck Award (named after freelance cameraman killed in Moscow in 1993) on Thursday night for what may have been one of the most important pieces of television footage in the past decade. He arrived in East Timor as the results of the country's UN-sponsored first democratic election were about to be announced in September 1999. Defying the Indonesian army by island-hopping on hired fishing boats, he got there just in time to record the fury and revenge unleashed by the army and militia in the wake of the elections. The people of East Timor, encouraged and supported by the UN staff to get out fast. Media teams were leaving as well. Within hours of the election result, some 600 journalists had been reduced to a handful, mainly freelancers, numbering around 20.

The three satellite dishes owned by the major news organisation were packed up, so any cameraman left behind had to ship out his pictures by hand. Stahl was the UN compound in Dili when the people sheltering there heard they were to be abandoned. Stahl, Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times and two Dutch journalists were the only media personnel who stayed behind [Note: journalist Allan Nairn also stayed behind]. The other 600, including myself, were left baying in Darwin. If ever a story needed to be covered by the international media it was East Timor-but we were all gone. Crucially, because he was the only cameraman there, Stahl stayed.

The reality of TV journalism today is a soap opera, complete with star faces. A correspondent is in one country on a Monday and then a different country on a Wednesday. When things get really tough, the pictures usually come from the freelancers. 'The TV companies treat it like stacking supermarket shelves they have to fill the shelf, but they don't want to pay out the big money for insurance, or to put their own people like us,' says Stahl.

You never get the money or time upfront from TV companies- maybe you can get an aid agency to give you some help, but the backing is not there from the big corporations. The only way to do real investigative journalists for TV now is to step out side of the system =96 inside they don't see that their own soap opera of star correspondents is delivering nothing of any real substance because they are too busy hopping from one country to another.

Stahl has been interested in Timor for 20 years, and has covered earlier massacres, so he had both the contacts and the commitment to stay on when the UN abandoned the people in its compound. He wrote afterwards: 'Informed only hours before the planed pullout, and fearing immediate death, hundreds of refugees fled under the wire and up the steep rocky hill behind a cover of darkness -- I joined them with small infrared capable DV camera.

Stahl's pictures of women and children stumbling up the hill in the darkness, faces frozen in shock and fear, were the only images of the Timor tragedy. They were played again and again around the world.

According to one of the judges of Rory Peck Award, Stahl's pictures had a huge political influence. "It was very important material in terns of its impact on the UN Security Council these pictures shocked them and forced them to act.

Nik Gowing, a BBC World presenter and former diplomatic editor of Channel 4 news, says: 'To stay in Dili when everyone else had left, and to go outside the UN compound to tell the whole story was very brave indeed to leave it and spend time with the people in the hills is fabulous.

Stahl undoubtedly saved lives, but his pictures also helped force the hand of the UN into direct intervention in East Timor finally burying its shattering failure in Somalia and giving it the confidence to support difficult peace missions in countries such as Sierre Leone.

The Rory Peck Awards 2000 Winner: The Rory Peck Award Max Stahl - East Timor Stories Also winner of the Hard News Award Self-funded Shot September 1999 Broadcast on ITN News

"At night there was constant firing around the Hotel Turismo (where the majority of tourists were staying) From there, British filmmaker Max Stahl and I filmed the attack on the Red Cross compound. Max was the only person still gathering news: all the other camerapeople had left". Carmela Baranowska.

On 31 August 1999, after a complicated journey involving island hopping in fishing boats and frequent interrogation by military officers, Max Stahl succeeded in reaching Dili. The results of the August 30 referendum were announced the following day. There was an immediate and dramatic increase in burning, looting and sporadic killings by the militia gunmen who were opposed to independence for East Timor. After intimidation and physical violence, the press began to leave, quickly followed by a flood of other key media, finally all three satellite dishes were withdrawn.

"...the story of East Timor turned from a drama to a crisis, to an imminent catastrophe…Within hours of the result, some 600 journalists had been reduced to a handful, mainly freelancers, and scribblers numbering around 20.

Many of these were corralled in the UN compound with the remaining UN and NGO staff......It took two days for the UN to decide - without warning - to abandon the compound. Informed of the decision only hours before the planned pull-out, and fearing immediate death at the hands of the militia and military once the UN had gone, hundreds of the estimated 2000 refugees in the compound fled under the wire up a steep rocky hill behind a cover of darkness....I joined them with a small infrared capable dv camera..."

Inside the United Nations compound in Dili, Max Stahl filmed powerful and moving pictures showing the panic of the fleeing refugees, and the agonising grief of those whose relatives had been murdered. Max joined those who had fled to the hills. There, he captured startling images of desperate people staring into the lens, wide-eyed with panic.

Judges Quotes

"this represents everything that the Rory Peck Award is for and about…he was there on his own initiative in an incredible dangerous situation, getting footage that had a real impact around the world - very important material in terms of it's impact on the UN Security Council - these pictures shocked them and forced them to act." Nik Gowing, presenter, BBC World

"to stay in Dili when everyone else had left and to go outside the UN compound to tell the whole story was very brave indeed. This shows great initiative on the ground. The footage from the UN compound is impressive, but to leave it and spend time with the people in the hills is fabulous." Ken Guest, Freelance Cameraman

Max Stahl - Biography

Max Stahl is an award-winning producer, director and cameraman of documentaries, features and news, who has worked in Central America, Far East, Former USSR, Middle East and Europe for over 20 years. In this time he has been awarded some of the biggest accolades the industry has to offer, been reported dead (3 times), kidnapped (twice) and seriously wounded (twice), and has always lived to tell the real tale.

He filmed the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Dili, East Timor, as part of the first film to be made inside East Timor since the 1975 occupation by Indonesia. This film brought to light a previously obscure story. Recently Max has been working in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, where he was injured whilst filming one of several investigative reports for Channel 4 News (ITN). -------

The Rory Peck Awards 2000 Carmela Baranowska: East Timor - The Law Of Violence Winner: Features Award Self-funded Shot: July / September 1999 Broadcast on SBS Dateline

In 1999, Carmela Baranowska traveled to East Timor to document the last year of the Indonesian occupation. She acted both as camera-operator and sound recordist, working by herself. Her first film "Shoot them Dead" followed the growth of Indonesian military supported militia activity in East Timor. "The Law of Violence" is her second film and begins the day before registration commences in the UN referendum to decide East Timor's future. As the filming progressed, the Indonesian military and militia began openly intimidating journalists. Those that remained worked together to ensure that the news would be transmitted to the world. The film ends with the evacuation of the UN compound in Dili in mid-September last year. Both films are collected as "scenes from an occupation", a sixty-seven minute documentary.

"I was filming and sound recording by myself, without a film crew. I was a recent film graduate who first traveled to East Timor in March 1999 with a digital camera and virtually no funding. On a very practical, technical level, I also knew that working as a one-person crew meant that I had to be close to what was happening. I wanted to be closely connected to people and events, to be in the middle of any given situation - however difficult, dramatic or humorous. I wanted to follow what was going on by direct observation, the immediacy of the here and now. I was interested to see the Timorese speaking for themselves, to themselves in dramatic times, making choices in the real space in which such choices were made - their own."

Judges Quotes:

"shot in a difficult, delicate situation,this piece underlines how independent journalists are bearing witness. Being there to the end of the story when most crews were forced into the UN compound, she stuck with people, recording them, moving between both sides." Nik Gowing, presenter, BBC World

Very moving and intense. Not seeking melodramatic effect, even when showing hysterical people, not the traditional approach - It's the camera that does the talking." lla Terkelson, TV2 Denmark

"The power of the emotions really came through" Peter Knowles, BBCNews

"She is obviously a real talent and has a great eye." David Lloyd, Commissioning Editor, Channel 4 Television

Carmela Baranowska - Biography

Carmela Baranowska was born in Sydney in 1969 and went to the University of Melbourne where she obtained a Master of Arts in English and Cultural Studies in 1995. Between 1993-5 she travelled widely in Thailand and Burma living with the Karen, an ethnic minority group in Burma that has been fighting the world's longest running civil war. In 1997 Carmela studied at the Victorian College of the Arts School of film and television, obtaining a Graduate Diploma in Documentary Filmmaking. Her VCA graduation film "Hidden in the Wind" was awarded the Film Victoria Award for Best Documentary at the VCA Graduation Screenings and the 1998 ATOM award for Best Tertiary Student Produced Documentary. It was later screened at the 1998 International Documentary Film Festival in Lisbon. In 1998 Carmela worked as a director of photography on "Here to Stay" (director: Catherine Gough-Brady), a one-hour documentary about the Maritime Union of Australia dispute.

The Rory Peck Trust 7 Southwick Mews, London W2 1JG Tel: 44 - 20 7262 5272 Fax: 44 - 20 7262 2162 e-mail: Limited Company No. 35524586 Registered in England and Wales Charity Reg. No. 1071844 end

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