OCCRP and the Gabo Foundation Launch Groundbreaking Project That Unites Investigative Journalism and Fiction Filmmaking

Published: 07 December 2023

OCCRP Co-Founders Drew Sullivan (left) and Paul Radu with Associated Press investigative journalist Martha Mendoza. Credit: Floodlight ArchiveOCCRP Co-Founders Drew Sullivan (left) and Paul Radu with Associated Press investigative journalist Martha Mendoza. Credit: Floodlight Archive

By Shota

First Summit in Cartagena, Colombia Introduces “Floodlight: Fiction in the Public Interest”



To further the impact of investigative reporting in the public interest, OCCRP and the Gabo Foundation convened investigative journalists and film industry professionals from around the world at the first Floodlight Summit in Cartagena, Colombia, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3.

Floodlight aims to establish long-term collaborations between investigative reporters and film and television producers, scriptwriters, and directors. Journalists can help adapt their extensive reporting about organized crime and corruption into new formats to reach more audiences, while filmmakers can draw on a wealth of content and expertise across subjects to inform their projects. 

“The Summit really demonstrated the enthusiastic mutual desire for partnerships between investigative journalists and filmmakers,” said OCCRP Co-Founder Paul Radu. “The awe and respect filmmakers had for the often dangerous work investigative reporters do was inspiring. People who work in the film and TV industries are hungry for in-depth explorations of how organized crime and corruption intersect with daily life, and our network of journalists has no shortage of material.”

The event was curated by industry veterans Philippa Kowarsky and Alesia Weston. Participants included screenwriter Charles Randolph (Oscar winner for “The Big Short”), director and screenwriter Danis Tanovic (Oscar winner for “No Man’s Land”), screenwriter Susannah Grant (Oscar-nominated for “Erin Brockovich”), and producer Janine Jackowski (multi-award-winning German film “Toni Erdmann”).

“These investigative journalists do incredible, tough work every day, all year long, but that doesn't mean their reporting reaches everyone,” Kowarsky said. “Floodlight’s goal is to bring these important stories to a wider audience and establish an emotional connection, whether that is through films presented at world-renowned festivals or through series on streamers that everyone talks about.” 

During the Floodlight Summit, journalists presented 14 investigations — some unpublished — that were previously selected from 270 proposals. Sixteen journalists from 11 countries shared details behind their reporting in pitching sessions and one-on-one meetings with filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers. (The journalists are not named for security reasons.)

The event also included discussions that explored the challenges and opportunities of bringing investigative reporting to the screen. Panelists included: Associated Press investigative journalist Martha Mendoza, Boston Globe editor Walter Robinson (“Spotlight,” which won best picture at the 2015 Oscars); and former Bellingcat director Christo Grozev (“Navalny,” which won best feature documentary at the 2021 Oscars).

The Gabo Foundation is an international non-profit created by Gabriel García Márquez in 1994. Best known today as an inveterate storyteller and Nobel laureate, Márquez began his career as an investigative reporter and went on to work in film before becoming an author. With the Floodlight project, the Gabo Foundation honors his spirit by uniting the power of film with the gritty realism of investigative reporting.

“The alliance between investigative journalism and entertainment cinema opens extraordinary opportunities to enhance the social and political impact of stories of public interest through the power of fictional narrative and moving images,” said Gabo Foundation General Director Jaime Abello Banfi. “Floodlight intentionally connects the two fields to bolster relationships and shed light on verified facts in the darkest areas of reality.”