New York, United States Of America: South Africa’s foremost filmmaking team of producer Anant Singh and director Darrell James Roodt were presented with the prestigious Peabody Award for their film, Yesterday at a glittering awards ceremony at the ritzy Waldorf -Astoria Hotel in New York. Yesterday which was the first South African film to receive an Oscar Nomination and the first isiZulu film to receive international acclaim, scored another first by becoming the first South African film to be awarded the prestigious Peabody Award which is widely regarded as the Pulitzer Prize of Broadcasting. This award follows the broadcast of Yesterday in the United States on World AIDS day last year.
The Peabody Awards recognize distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals. They perpetuate the memory of the banker-philanthropist whose name they bear. The awards program, established in 1940 and administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, is the oldest honour in electronic media. The Awards Ceremony was hosted by Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s award-winning, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart also hosted the Academy Award Ceremony this year.
This year, the Peabody Awards honoured recipients from three continents and in seven languages, reflecting the international scope of the competition. Yesterday, was described as “a South African film that personalized Africa’s AIDS crisis.” Singh and Roodt were presented with the Peabody Award by Jon Stewart, and the only other film recipient was Martin Scorsese for his documentary feature on Bob Dylan.
It is also significant that Yesterday’s Peabody Award comes exactly 25 years after the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the first warning, on 5 June 1981, about a disease that would become known as AIDS.
Producer Anant Singh commented, “The Peabody Award is a very big deal in American broadcasting. We did not initially recognize its significance. It is unique in that the selection of winners is not done through a nomination process, but are selected by a board that watches all the films and, who then has to unanimously agree to award the Peabody to a film. We are humbled with the recognition that Yesterday, an indigenous South African film in isiZulu has received on the world stage.”
“Given all the entries and a tendency by American broadcasting to look inward in the post 9/11 period, this was a great tribute to the power of South African filmmaking to humanize a serious subject and make it accessible to a mass audience,” adds Danny Schechter, a media critic and editor of Mediachannel.org, the world’s largest online media issues network. “South Africans should be proud getting the world to praise a Zulu language drama. The audience gasped at the beauty and sadness of the clip that was shown,” continued Schechter.
Yesterday is a Videovision Entertainment production in association with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, M-Net, The National Film And Video Foundation, Distant Horizon and was shot on location in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The music was composed by Madala Kunene and it is executive produced by Sudhir Pragjee and Sanjeev Singh, produced by Anant Singh and Helena Spring and written and directed by Darrell James Roodt.