• Thursday, July 25, 2024


Shirley Abraham-Amit Madheshiya’s documentary on migrant workers exodus wins Human Rights Press Award

The Great Abandonment is available on the official website of The Guardian.

The Great Abandonment Poster

By: Mohnish Singh

The Great Abandonment, a documentary by filmmakers Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya on India’s migrant exodus during the Covid-induced nationwide lockdown in 2020, was on Wednesday announced as the winner in the ‘Documentary English’ category at the Human Rights Press Awards.

The awards, announced on World Press Freedom Day on May 3 every year, are given in recognition of outstanding reporting on human rights issues across Asia.

Abraham and Madheshiya, known for their feature documentary Cinema Travellers and short documentaries Searching for Saraswati, The Hour of Lynching: Vigilante Violence in India, said it is humbling to receive the honour for their latest work.

The Great Abandonment, our film about the exodus of migrant workers, has won first prize at the Human Rights Press Awards, awarded by Human Rights Watch. It was adjudged the best documentary (available) in English and was recognised as an ‘Extraordinary documentary where the absence of narrative and journalistic voices allows the voices of the afflicted – and their faces, in moving silence – to be the focus.’ “The news has just been announced on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. The film was made in a difficult and delicate political moment, and it is humbling to see it recognised,” the filmmakers said in a joint statement.

According to the official synopsis of the 27-minute documentary shared by Abraham and Madheshiya, “In 2020, India announced one of the harshest Covid lockdowns in the world, causing nearly 200 million migrant labourers to be stranded without wages, food and housing. “Many undertook long journeys to return to their home villages, while others, caught in limbo with their families, were forced to wait, living on the street or under flyovers they had once laboured to build.”

The film, supported by the Pulitzer Center and Field of Vision and co-produced by the British publication The Guardian, premiered at IDFA and has played at prestigious festivals including Sheffield Doc Fest, Palm Springs Short Fest and Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival. Human Rights Press Awards, given by Human Rights Watch and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, also recognised reporting on the fifth wave of Covid that engulfed Hong Kong, the Myanmar military’s persecution against the Rohingya, and human trafficking of African students by Taiwanese universities as part of the winners’ line-up of the 2023 Human Rights Press Awards.

The awards were previously administered by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong, but Human Rights Watch and Arizona State University assumed responsibility after the Chinese government’s imposition of the national security law in Hong Kong in June 2020 which led to the closure of at least nine media outlets there.

The Great Abandonment is available on the official website of The Guardian.

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