LIU Announces Prestigious George Polk Award For Documentary Films


BROOKLYN, N.Y., March 27, 2015 -- "Return to Homs," a moving and searing account of the besieged and devastated Syrian city, is the winner of LIU's first George Polk Documentary Film Award. Writer-director Talal Derki and cinematographer Orwa Nyrabia will be recognized at a special screening of the film at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAMcinématek) on Wednesday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m.

LIU announced the winners of the 66th Annual George Polk Awards in Journalism last month, who will be celebrated in a ceremony at The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan on Friday, April 10. These journalists exhibit fearlessness and courage and represent more than 13 media outlets across the country. In addition to the film screening and awards luncheon, LIU will host a comprehensive program in association with the LIU David J. Steinberg Seminar of the George Polk Awards on April 9, entitled "Dangerous Lines: Cartoonists and Other Subversives."

"For more than six decades, the George Polk Awards have honored a number of documentary filmmakers," said John Darnton, curator of the awards. "Now we have established a separate award to recognize the ever-increasing importance of documentary films that inspire and help shape national conversations about important issues."

Darnton said that a committee led by filmmaker Nancy Buirski, founder of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C., and a former picture editor of The New York Times, reviewed all entries and nominated three finalists for the Polk Awards Committee to consider. "We used the traditional Polk criteria for the new documentary award," he said, "placing a premium on investigative and enterprising reporting accomplished by resourcefulness and courage."

The film screening will be followed by a question and answer session with Buirski and Derki.

"Return to Homs" follows the path of Abdul Basset Saroot, former goalkeeper of the Syrian national soccer team, and his friends from protesters to insurgents after watching friends and colleagues die from government sniper fire and others disappear following arrest. Saroot was seriously wounded in his effort to support the largely futile efforts of the badly outgunned Free Syrian Army. The film debuted in the U.S. at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Grand Prize for Documentary. Some of its footage was shot by the film's subjects and smuggled out to Derki and Nyrabia after conditions in Homs became too dangerous for them to remain there.

The George Polk Awards are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards place a premium on investigative and enterprising reporting that gains attention and achieves results. They were established in 1949 by LIU to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.

For tickets to the screening of "Return to Homs," visit (general admission $14, BAM Cinema Club Members $9, Seniors/Students/Veterans $10 with valid ID).  

For further information on the George Polk Awards, please visit:


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CONTACT: John Darnton, Polk Awards Curator, 917-306-8046,; Sarah DeCamp, Associate Director of Public Relations, LIU, 516-299-4177,; Ralph Engelman, Polk Awards Faculty Coordinator 718-757-9294,