Via Instagram on March 13, 2023, Pictures of The Year International (POY) congratulated the Pulitzer Center-supported film Qatar's World Cup Building Boom: Too Hot To Work for winning POY’s Documentary Journalist Award of Excellence. Grantees Aryn Baker, Ed Kashi, and Tom Laffay were part of a team that produced the 20-minute documentary, which is part of the Pulitzer Center project Too Hot for Work: How Qatar Offers Lessons for the Economy of a Heating Planet. The film was released by TIME and Context.
The film retraces the story of Surendra Tamang, a Nepali man who took out a loan to become a construction worker in Doha, Qatar. “He figured he would work until the (2022) World Cup, sending his earnings back home while putting enough aside to buy a ticket to the final match,” writes Baker. “Fate,” as another Nepali bound for Qatar reminds Baker and Kashi when they returned from reporting in Doha, “had other plans.”
In 2021, Tamang was medically evacuated to Kathmandu. His kidneys had failed in the oppressive heat, when temperatures hit 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). “It was so hot it made your nose bleed,” said Tamang.
According to the film, doctors in Kathmandu are seeing a growing number of dialysis cases in returning migrant workers. The human body, said one doctor, cannot adapt to temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius. Unless he finds a kidney donor, Tamang will likely remain on dialysis for the rest of his life.
Despite new labor regulations, city officials face resistance from contractors who risk indemnity if they fail to complete a project on time.
While glitzy government infrastructure projects like the World Cup stadiums abide by these new policies, many private projects do not, according to the project manager of Lusail Iconic Stadium. Baker and Kashi were allowed to visit just one private operation to interview migrant workers. The workers flitted fearful looks between their supervisor, installed by the contractor, and the journalists sitting across from them.
Baker and Kashi warn against “perpetual growth in a warming world” and saw hope in a workers compensation fund, an initiative since rejected by Qatar. With waning coverage after the World Cup, the country has refused responsibility for the health of migrant workers.
See the video below:
Kashi was recognized in another POY category: Multimedia Photographer of the Year for his images for VII Photo.
POY also congratulated the Pulitzer Center-supported documentary Bring Them Home, directed by grantees Ray Whitehouse and Kate Woodsome, on March 14, 2023, for winning the same award.
Grantee Katrina De Vera was an editor on the documentary released by The Washington Post. Bring Them Home is part of the Pulitzer Center project A Quiet Crisis: The Tragedy of State Hostage-Taking.
Following the Shargi family, Bring Them Home explores the tragedy of hostage-taking as a diplomatic bargaining chip. Emad Shargi, an Iranian-American businessman, and his wife, Bahareh, traveled to Iran in 2018 when the country liberalized its tourism policies. They viewed the changes as signaling a more-open Iran. However, Emad was arrested in Iran for “spying”, and his family was caught in a web of historical animosities, political whim, and nuclear weapons development.
Bahareh and her two daughters remained silent for a year until the Iranian government ceased Emad’s regular communication with his family. The Shargis are now working with the State Department. The federal agency is unable to deal directly with the Iranian government and has stalled family reunification.
See the video on The Washington Post's website.
POY's mission is "to honor photojournalistic excellence, to come together as a community through the competition and preserve an inspiring record of visual history that shares the value of photojournalism with students and the public." Celebrating its 80th year, POY gathered “virtually as a community and recognize[d] the incredible dedication of photojournalists around the world."