The haunting multimedia feature “La Zone” about the 1986 Chernobyl disaster won top honours Wednesday at the third annual FRANCE 24-RFI web documentary competition in Paris. The €8,000 prize was awarded to a pair of French journalists.
Two French journalists won the top prize Wednesday at the third annual FRANCE 24-Radio France International web documentary competition in Paris. Photojournalist Guillaume Herbaut and reporter Bruno Masi won a unanimous decision by the international jury for their haunting multimedia portrayal of the after-effects of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
In an online multimedia feature that blends still images, video and sound, the two journalists highlight how life has returned to Chernobyl, 25 years after the nuclear power plant there melted down and led to one of the world’s worst environmental disasters. Contamination spread hundreds of kilometers around the Chernobyl zone, polluting the land, water and air. Over time, though, people returned to Chernobyl to live in an area that is still widely regarded to be extremely toxic, even dangerous.
“La Zone” tells the story of those who now call this region home.
Herbaut and Masi hauntingly capture the challenges of daily life in an environmental wasteland. In one segment, they feature a lone woman wandering amid what is effectively a ghost town of abandoned buildings as she hunts for kindling to warm her family on a cold winter day.
“There was a simplicity in its presentation,” said Jerome Daly, president of the jury and head photographer for Africa at the Associated Press, when he explained the jury’s unanimous support for “La Zone". Daly added that the two journalists focused on such an important subject and were able to tell that story in a way that went far beyond the realm of traditional television. “This web documentary wasn’t didactic like so many others,” said fellow juror Michel Puech. "With no voiceover, there was a flow to the story that allowed it to reveal itself.”