News from the Field

Chasing Coral and Newtown among Peabody Award winners

This week, the Peabody Awards announced nine winners in the Documentary category, including Chasing Coral—the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning film that uses beautiful time-lapse imagery to document the world’s dying coral reefs—and Newtown—the gripping story of a community struggling to recover from the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. (You can view the full list of winners here.)

“Peabody recognizes nonfiction and fiction storytellers who are addressing the pressing issues of our time,” says Kathy Im, director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Journalism and Media program and also an MIF board member, who served as a juror for the Peabody Awards. “This year, the Awards are being made to work that calls attention to, and stimulates conversations about, racial justice, women’s health and equality, the environment, and immigration. Much like funders of journalism and media who support the production and distribution of timely, under-reported, and diverse narratives, the Peabody aims to highlight a rich cross-section of media that can lead to greater understanding and positive social change. It is an amazingly humbling experience to be a part of the Peabody process.”

Back in January 2017, during a private gathering of documentary film funders at the Sundance Film Festival, we had the pleasure of hearing from Chasing Coral filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, who shared details on his film’s impact strategy and the importance of simplifying scientific data for the public. We got to know Orlowski, a Sundance Discovery Impact fellow, two years ago during an interview about his Emmy Award-winning Chasing Ice, which follows acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog on a dangerous trek through the Arctic. (You can check out highlights from our discussion with Orlowski and Balog here.)

Funders who want to gain a better understanding of environmental media projects and how they can move environmental causes forward should watch these films. (They’re available on Netflix.)

Newtown, which also premiered at Sundance in 2017, revisits the residents of Newtown, Conn., and explores the community’s profound grief and what happens after it becomes the center of a national debate around gun violence. It exposes grief from multiple perspectives, including that of Monsignor Robert Weiss (known in the town as Father Bob), who buried eight of the children in one week after the shooting. In collaboration with Philanthropy New York, we were fortunate to screen the film ahead of its Sundance premiere and moderate a panel afterward that featured Kim Snyder, the filmmaker, and Maria Cuomo Cole, the film’s producer. There, we explored the public health impact of gun violence, the role funders can play in gun violence prevention, and the power of documentaries in shifting public debates. The panel also featured the Joyce Foundation’s Nina Vinik, who spoke at length about the foundation’s commitment to reducing gun violence.

Snyder and Cuomo Cole will be heading to the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend for the world premiere of their latest film, Notes from Dunblane: Lessons From a School Shooting, which chronicles the 1996 shooting spree at a Scotland school. It follows a priest from Dunblane, Scotland, who reaches out to Father Bob; the two men eventually bond over their trauma. Learn more about the world premiere and the Q&A with the filmmakers here.

Congratulations to all the Documentary winners. Check peabodyawards.com for announcements on the rest of the winners.