On May 5, 2020, Voice of America was featured in U.S. Agency for Global Media Press Freedom Festival on Facebook. VOA showcased two films: a collection of five short pieces in VOA Connect: Telling America’s Story and the award winning documentary, Hell and Hope.
Subsequently to the screenings, VOA Director Amanda Bennett moderated brief discussions with the directors and reporters of the films.
VOA News Center Gabrielle Weiss’ lens focused on the personal history and experience of 89-year-old pit master, Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz and her highly sought after barbeque joint in Lexington, Texas. Weiss also offered a snapshot into the music and culture of the rural Ozark Mountains region of the Midwestern United States through the eyes of a retired truck driver and musician, Alvie Dooms.
VOA Spanish service’s Arturo Martinez produced a story about a little known community of African Americans involved in rodeo, the traditionally American competitive sport. The subject of the short film, Denise Tyus, is a cowgirl whose lifelong passion for rodeo allows her to give the audience a greater insight into the role African Americans played in the Old West.
News Center’s Deepak Dobhal produced two stories; one offering a snapshot of a family of artists trying to revitalize their small town through art and a second story about a young woman from the Philippines brought to rural Colorado to teach mathematics.
Hell and Hope, is a VOA documentary, focusing on the lives of Yazidi girls abducted by the Islamic State in 2014 from Iraq’s Sinjar province. Faced with rape, torture and trafficking, a few girls dared to escape while risking their lives. VOA producer Amish Srivastava and correspondent Dakhil Elias traveled to Germany to meet and record the stories of some of the girls, who were eventually able to settle in Stuttgart, Germany, where many live and work today.
In her conversation with VOA Producer Amish Srivastava and Correspondent Dakhil Elias, Director Bennett remarked that “if it hadn’t been for you two, the stories of these girls would never have been told…you gave a gift to the world.”