Every few months, Voice of America holds its biannual VOA Story Pitch Contest, inviting staff to propose story ideas. The winning entries become part of the VOA’s 52 Documentary series, with each contest featuring three winners who have the opportunity to produce their own documentary. In November, VOA showcased the four winning documentaries from its Russian, Pashto, Indonesian, and Persian language services on the company’s digital platforms, including VOA+.
These documentaries share the stories of remarkable individuals from different countries and draw attention to a global issues of interest. Here are the winning documentaries from the fifth round of the contest:
I Do Care (Natalia Latukhina, VOA Russian): On February 27, 2015, journalist Zhanna Nemtsova's life took a dramatic turn when her father, Russian politician Boris Nemtsov, a staunch critic of Vladimir Putin, was fatally shot near the Kremlin. In response to his murder, Zhanna left Russia to carry on his legacy of free speech and democracy.
Afghan Cinema in Exile (Munaza Shaheed, VOA Pashto): Renowned Afghan filmmakers Sahraa Karimi and Abdul Ahmadi, currently residing in Europe, are dedicated to sustaining Afghan cinema. Karimi, a pioneering leader at Afghan Film, empowers Afghan women through her work, while Ahmadi, with over five decades of industry experience, preserves the cinematic heritage amidst changing governments.
Confronting Suicide in the Cowboy State (Sharon Sumolang, VOA Indonesian): Wyoming has one of highest rates of suicide in the U.S. A major contributing factor is the “cowboy-up” mentality that stigmatizes those seeking help. In this “Cowboy State,” the suicide rate is double the national average and men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. In this film, Wyomingites working to curb this alarming trend and create safe spaces for all in their home state.
In This Cage (Hodjat Tavakoli, VOA Persian): Experience the remarkable journey of Fariba Balochi, a dedicated champion of human rights, especially for Iranian women and girls, with a particular emphasis on her beloved homeland, Baluchistan. She became a crucial figure in the "Woman, Life, Freedom" movement.
VOA’s 52 Documentary series connects audiences to global issues through captivating human-interest stories, offering fresh perspectives of the world around us.