Grantee and Pulitzer Prize-winning filmmaker Ben C. Solomon's virtual reality video “The Fight for Falluja” has been named a finalist for the Online Journalism Awards (OJA) in the Excellence in Immersive Storytelling category. OJA describes itself as being the “only comprehensive set of journalism prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism around the world.”
In the film, which was supported by a Pulitzer Center grant, Solomon accompanies Iraqi forces as they re-capture the strategic city of Falluja from ISIS forces. Told as a first person narrative, the virtual reality film allows the audience to explore scenes as Solomon guides us through the fighting, Iraqi barracks, the barren city, and refugee camps. The 11-minute video was part of the “Fractured Lands” project, a book-length special issue of The New York Times Magazine, by writer Scott Anderson and photographer Paolo Pellegrin.
In their review of the "The Fight for Falluja," OJA says the film represents a “pivotal moment in the development of virtual reality journalism and storytelling methods.” They praise Solomon's narration for showing a “true, immersive picture of how journalists work in conflict environments.”
Other finalists in the Excellence in Immersive Storytelling category include: “After Solitary” from FRONTLINE and the Emblematic Group; and “Cash Cow” from Al Jazeera English.
An OJA prize would not be the first award for “The Fight for Falluja.” Earlier this year, the film won the 2017 CINE Golden Eagle Award for Virtual Reality: Live Experience.
In 2009, the Pulitzer Center's issue, “Women, Children, Crisis” was a OJA finalist in the category of Multimedia Feature Presentation. “Women, Children, Crisis” is a collection of Pulitzer stories covering “the role of women in society and the impact of industrialization and international development on women, children, and families.”
Winners from each OJA category will be selected by a panel of judges in August and announced during the Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet on October 7, 2017 at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C.