Now in its fifth year, the Thomson Foundation mobile journalism (‘mojo’) competition, in partnership with Mojofest, has allowed journalists from around the globe to combine their interest in the issues affecting their world, with the storytelling opportunities afforded by a smartphone.
This year’s competition attracted 154 entries from 55 countries, including the Solomon Islands and Taiwan and from Cuba to Guinea. The growing number of entries each year demonstrates how the mobile phone has enabled a new generation of journalists.
The winner is Mostafa Darwish (pictured below), a freelance visual journalist from Egypt who has previously only filmed with broadcast cameras and DSLRs. A smartphone was the only way for Mostafa to shoot as he boarded a congested train from Ramses station which is the main station in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, to Ayat, the last stop in Giza.
Scrambling for standing space alongside other crushed commuters, and with little prospect of passions cooling, he attempted to report on the sharp fare increases to an inadequate train system, leaving millions of already struggling Cairo residents angered.
He used an iPhone 5s and the iMovie mobile video app to produce his visual story for the independent Egyptian online newspaper, Mada Masr.
“Mostafa’s entry was not a typical news piece but we didn’t feel that that was a weakness,” explains Hosam El Nagar, competition judge and director of innovation and learning at Thomson Foundation.
“It was more a piece of art. His choice of shots and the way he filmed them communicated a lot of love and empathy for his subjects to us as viewers. The story was told well and even though he did not focus on one or more individuals to show the impact of the fare price rises, he still managed to humanise it by his treatment which made every passenger a protagonist. For that reason the story felt richer and original and demonstrated an excellent use of the mobile phone as a medium.”
Fellow judge and mobile journalism expert, Wytse Vellinga, also appreciated the "interesting and unexpected shots from the train” and Deborah Kelly, mojo trainer and head of training for the foundation, said: “Mostafa tackled a subject important to people in a gentle way. He used great shots which didn't need words and the technical aspect was also very good.”
Speaking of his win, Mostafa said: “I have won many things before, but all locally in my country, Egypt. This is my first international prize and it’s a very special one for me. I’d like to film more stories in the future using just a mobile phone.”
Mostafa will attend Mojofest in June as part of his competition prize. Together with the runners up, he will also be given free access to the Advanced Mobile Journalism online course from the Thomson Foundation Journalism Now e-learning programme.
Filmed with an iPhone and using the Kinemaster app for his edit, Palestinian freelance journalist and trainer, Walid’s story about his 50th birthday journey to his birthplace of Jerusalem gave us a sense of the city and what it means to him.
Helen Scott, editorial associate for Thomson Foundation and part of this year’s mojo judging panel, described the film as "intensely personal, evoking the wider story of the conflict and how it affects the people who would like to call it home. It was well shot with a clearly defined narrative.”
Deborah continued: “I loved this. The pace was great. It was told gently, without criticism but power. It was in the first person, technically interesting and the final shot was lovely as he revealed himself.” Mojo expert and founder of Mojofest, Glen Mulcahy also thought the visual story was “engaging… and it made me want to visit Jerusalem.”
Image credit: Mahmoud Nasser, Wattan TV
Reporter for news and current affairs channel, TV Derana in Sri Lanka, KC Saranga focused his mojo story on one of the biggest environmental and socio-economic crises of rural Sri Lanka, the human-elephant conflict.
Long revered in the country’s culture and religion, elephants have now become a symbol of conflict due to the impact of habitat fragmentation on the wild herds.
“This remains an unresolved issue in Sri Lanka,” explained KC Saranga who shot his video using a Huawei Nova 3 and mobile editing apps Kinemaster and Filmorago. “This issue demands an urgent and sustainable solution through government intervention and my video was made to raise more awareness.”
Wytse described the entry as a “well-executed news story. It took into account the difficult circumstances of shooting. We see the people affected by the story, we see what causes it, the damage the elephants do and we see how the people try to prevent it. I think it was well done.”
Rejoice’s mojo report “Braving the Odds” set out to address the rising number of young people being excluded from economic opportunities in Nigeria.
Using an iPhone 6s and InShot to edit her footage, she focused her attention on young workers in the crowded food markets of Nigeria, whilst calling on the government to harness youth potential, secure development and drive economic growth with inclusion.
“I felt the need to highlight the daily struggles of ordinary young men and the huge role they play in the nation’s food sector,” said Rejoice. “Given the right opportunities and an enabling environment many Nigerian youths can live up to, and beyond, their potential. This can have a positive impact on the economy.”
She added: “I hope the government will look into some of the issues highlighted in the report, especially around welfare and infrastructure development because I believe that empowering our youth will help to reduce the rate of crime and increase security in the country.”
“I liked this story,” enthused Wytse. It was well constructed and also filmed well. I liked that there was a main character that we returned to. It was a great journalistic story and was well done in both shots and build up.”
Glen added: “I also liked that she was willing to try to interview the police to counter the claims from the vox pops. There is definite potential in Rejoice.”
Freelance mobile journalist, Hassan, originally from Bahrain but living in Lebanon, produced his mojo story as he converged with other Shia pilgrims on the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala for the annual Arba’een pilgrimage.
Hassan captured the pilgrims as they walked in long columns stretching back many miles, slept in tents erected by supporters beside the road and enjoyed a wide range of free food, sweet tea and activities laid out by townspeople in an overwhelmingly powerful display of hospitality.
“I recorded the footage with the intention of using it at as part of a documentary for Bahrain News but the Thomson Foundation mobile journalism competition encouraged me to make a video of it sooner,” explained Hassan. “I chose this subject so people would discover other cultures, as well as events happening in different parts of the world, which spread love and peace. There’s an important message there.”
Hassan filmed with a Samsung Galaxy S6 and edited with both the Kinemaster and Voiceover app. He also used a Manfrotto tripod and a Boya microphone.
“There were some nice-looking shots and some interesting soundbites in Hassan’s film,” commented Wytse.
Giving vulnerable street children from Benin, which ranks among the world's poorest countries, a chance at education was the message in Florida’s mobile journalism report.
Filmed in the city of Cotonou, the young journalist highlighted how life on the streets for these children was unremittingly tough and how there was a very real need to protect them.
She filmed the homeless children as they worked tirelessly through the day, on market stalls and in hazardous conditions on fishing boats, and as night fell, when they gathered together to sleep on the banks of a shaded pier stacked with rubbish.
“I wanted to draw attention to the suffering of the children in Contonou so that a solution can be found to help them,” said Florida. “These children must go to school. They have a right to guidance and education so they can develop their skills.”
Said Glen of her entry using an Infinix Note 3 Pro Android smartphone and the app, Filmora: “The visuals in this story were good and there were a variety of shots and sequences. There is definite potential in the creator.” Wytse chimed: “The images are sharp and have a nice pace.”
From all of the entries received, the judging panel scored each entry based on the following criteria:
• Journalism: Originality and credibility of the story, demonstrating original research and effort and use of interviews
• Impact: Importance of the subject matter and the impact the story has achieved
• Uniqueness to medium: Innovative and appropriate use of mobile recording techniques
• Storytelling: Clarity of the storytelling
• Technical quality: Technical quality of the production
To choose the winner, the judges also took into account the context, the experience of the participant, and the potential displayed. The five entries with the highest scores were then selected as runners up.
The judges would like to thank all of the participants and commend them for their efforts and the quality of their work, and wish them great success in the future.