The Other Side of Oil documentary is recognized as one of the best investigative stories of 2020 by The Global Investigative Journalism Network.
The documentary focusing on the lives of people living right beside the largest oil reserves in Kazakhstan is placed in the GIJN annual review of the investigations of the year in Russian and Ukrainian. The nominees were chosen by the GIJT’s editor among pieces that highlight social issues, and stories that can inspire journalists around the world.
The movie was directed, filmed, and produced by Lukpan Akhmedyarov and Raul Uporov of Uralskaya Nedelya (Uralsk Weekly) – one of the few independent news outlets in Kazakhstan.
The film crew visited three regions of Western Kazakhstan – Aktyubinsk, Mangystau, and Atyrau regions, each one rich in oil reserves and attractive to foreign investors, especially to companies from China and South Korea.
Investigative journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov says that idea of the documentary originated right on the spot as the team was gathering information for Uralsk Weekly newspaper reports and was collecting interviews with villagers who live next to the richest oil reserves in the country.
“We met a lot of people who live near the oil fields, and realized that everything that happens in Western Kazakhstan should be shown, not told,” says Lukpan Akhmedyarov.
“So what is it that we saw that needed to be shown? First of all, we noticed that most people who live near oil and gas fields in Kazakhstan do not benefit from those natural resources,” adds Akhmedyarov.
For local residents, close proximity to oil sites causes a multitude of health problems, diseases among and deaths of livestock, and subsequent loss of livelihood, water pollution, and many other indications of environmental degradation. Among many concerns, interviewed villagers cited violations of labor rights, and retaliation for speaking up.
The documentary was filmed with the support of Crude Accountability. Crude Accountability consultant Sergey Solyanik, who provided his research and expert knowledge for the documentary, notes that government agencies are well aware of villagers’ environmental and social problems.
The Global Investigative Journalism Network is an international association of journalism organizations that support the training and sharing of information among investigative and data journalists.
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