With Title 42 Expiring Today, RPJ Is Especially Proud to Announce ‘Missing in Brooks County’ on the US Southern Border Crisis, Executive Produced by RPJ’s Heidi Reavis, Wins the Peabody Award for Best Documentary

Coinciding with the pandemic-era border restriction policy known as Title 42 expiring just last night and threatening to worsen an already urgent and unmanaged humanitarian crisis, RPJ is proud to have been directly involved in Missing in Brooks County, the award-winning feature length documentary exploring the human toll of the immigration crisis and contributing to awareness and legislative solutions.  Many of you read about the film in its early stages – during production and then the legislative push.  Now, after hundreds of screenings, over 50 Film Festivals, over 25 Awards, and influencing federal legislation for humanitarian and forensic aid, the broadcast industry has recognized Missing in Brooks County with the highest honor in documentary filmmaking, the Peabody Award, in the Best Documentary Category.

What are the Peabodys?  “As radio rose in popularity in the late 1930s, The National Association of Broadcasters formed a committee to establish a prestigious award similar to the Pulitzer Prize for excellence in broadcasting.” [1]  At that time, broadcasting meant radio alone. Now, and for over 80 years, the Peabody Awards have championed the creativity and achievements of storytellers across television, streaming, radio, and digital media. “Respected for its integrity and revered for its standards of excellence, the Peabody is an honor like no other…” [3]  Chosen each year by a diverse Board of Jurors through unanimous vote, just 30 Peabody Awards (out of thousands of entrants) are given for entertainment, documentary, news, podcast and radio, children’s/youth, and public service programming. [2]  “There are no set criteria for judging the winners.  Peabody Awards recognize stories that illuminate social issues with depth and complexity as much as stories that entertain and inspire through their art or voice.  From major productions to local journalism, the Peabody Awards shine a light on the ‘Stories That Matter’ and are a testament to the power of art and reportage in the push for truth, social justice, and equity.” [4]

Missing in Brooks County is true to the Peabody Awards’ core mission.  Through its layered and complex storytelling, the film highlights the moral power of the documentary form and the importance of understanding the human cost of decades-long policy failures around the US southern border.  The film’s clarity, empathy, and grace deeply internalize the complexity of the subject matter without ever losing sight of the prevailing tragedy.  Said executive-producer Heidi Reavis, “As lawyers our work is rooted in compelling advocacy, and there is no better result from our storytelling than opening minds, shifting points of view, and – with raised voices and compelling imagery – sometimes improving policy and the law.  We are thrilled the Peabody Award will lead to more people and legislators seeing Missing in Brooks County, especially with the ending of Title 42, prompting the further militarization of the southern border.”

Available for streaming, Missing in Brooks County is a deeply empathetic and nuanced exploration of the human toll of the immigration crisis.  Filmmakers Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss follow two families in search of missing loved ones and children in Falfurrias, Texas, a town located near a feared US border checkpoint, where thousands of migrants have attempted to cross at their peril through the massive desert region of Brooks County, “the largest cemetery in America.”  Their stories are interwoven with a range of perspectives representing a metaphor of US partisan views, from an activist detective, to humanitarian supporters, to a team of forensic anthropologists working to help locate the remains of missing migrants and children, to armed private paramilitary figures committed to enforcing “closed borders.”

The film premiered on PBS’ Independent Lens and influenced federal legislation for Mex/US humanitarian and forensic aid along our southern border, the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act. [5]  Said co-director Jeff Bemiss, “For many, winning a Peabody is as special as winning an Oscar.  We made Missing in Brooks County so people could meet the families of the missing and hear their stories.  It’s our hope that the Award brings more attention to the film and to the crisis of mass deaths in the American borderland.  Anything that puts this issue on people’s radar is a win.”

We congratulate the entire team behind Missing in Brooks County, including RPJ’s Heidi Reavis, Engel Entertainment’s Steve Engel and Jenna Helwig, and Abigail Disney of Fork Films, as Executive Producers, for this incredible achievement, and are especially grateful to those willing to participate in the film and the team’s continuing advocacy efforts.

“As we continue to struggle for progress amid polarizing division, the power of media narratives” – and our legal advocacy – “is paramount.  The Peabody Awards elevate stories that defend the public interest, encourage empathy with others, and teach us to expand our understanding of the world around us.” [6]  The recognition of the Peabody Award is a testament to the power of storytelling to effect change, and RPJ is proud to have been a part of this important work.

The Peabody Award will be presented on Sunday, June 11th in Los Angeles – pictures to come!

[1] https://peabodyawards.com/our-story/

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] https://nnirr.org/u-s-senators-john-cornyn-and-kamala-harris-bill-to-help-border-regions-identify-missing-migrants-signed-into-law/

[6] Id. at 1