Documentary on Nigeria wins top honors in international film festival


April 11, 2018



An interview with Voice of America’s staff about the production of the one-hour documentary.

USAID, VOA & Creative collaborated on breakout film

Washington, D.C. – The film “Boko Haram: Journey from Evil” earned the top honor in the international documentary category from the prestigious New York Festivals World’s Best TV & Films.

The one-hour documentary on Nigeria, which competed against entries from more than 40 countries, was honored in Las Vegas April 10 during the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention. Award-winning British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo, best known for his role as Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2014 film “Selma,” narrated the documentary.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiatives and jointly produced by Voice of America and Creative, the documentary profiles the heroic efforts of everyday Nigerians who are building up their communities in the face of attacks by Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has killed, kidnapped and displaced millions of people in Nigeria and surrounding countries.

“This compelling documentary was a collaboration among organizations that saw the power of telling the stories of resilience and hope,” said Leland Kruvant, President and CEO of Creative. “It is an honor to be part of this important project.”

Photographer Fati Abubakar, whose work in Borno state was portrayed in the film, accepts the award at the New York TV and Film Awards on April 10.

“A Labor of Love”

VOA Producer Beth Mendelson traveled with her colleagues to Las Vegas to receive the award.

“My deep appreciation to the New York Festivals for this incredible recognition for the documentary,” said Mendelson at the award event in Las Vegas. “This was indeed a labor of love. You rarely in your professional career get an opportunity to produce a film that is so timely and has the global impact of Boko Haram: Journey from Evil.”

Joining Mendelson at the awards ceremony was photographer Fati Abubakar, who was profiled in the documentary. She traveled from Maiduguri, Borno State in Nigeria, which has been a focal point of Boko Haram attacks. Her portraits of the people of Borno demonstrate the resilience and strength of citizens and communities against Boko Haram.

“The documentary has captured the true image, literally and figuratively, of our community,” says Abubakar. “Our community has faced terror and achieved triumphs. We are living and thriving despite an eight-year conflict and I am very hopeful that we will rebuild. Thank you for sharing our stories with the world.”

In Nigeria, USAID is supporting education, economic, humanitarian assistance and stabilization projects, among other initiatives. Since 2014, USAID has made considerable impact against insurgent groups Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa to help counter and prevent the factors that allow violent extremism to flourish, including feelings of marginalization and lack of economic opportunity.

USAID is funding a project called the North East Regional Initiative that focuses on stabilization and building resilience in communities located in the Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adawama. The documentary was produced as part of the North East Regional Initiative.

Voice of America producer Beth Mendelson (center) holds up the Gold Award with colleagues from Voice of America and one of the film’s protagonists Fati Abubakar (second from right).

Beyond the headlines

Boko Haram: Journey from Evil” goes beyond the headlines to bring viewers an intimate portrait of life in Nigeria’s conflict-affected northeast. It follows the stories of an activist fighting for the return of the kidnapped Chibok girls, photographer Abubakar who documents hope, a huntress turned rescuer and a psychologist working to deprogram former fighters—each pushing back against the terror and destruction in their own way.

The documentary also provides a never-before-seen look inside Boko Haram’s ranks, where young boys are indoctrinated to become fighters and digressions are punishable by severe violence and death.



An interview with Voice of America’s staff about the production of the one-hour documentary.

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