The MTV division led by Sheila Nevins announced Tuesday it has acquired the short film, a devastating look at children suffering starvation in Yemen as a direct result of war in the Middle Eastern country. Hunger Ward, which made the Oscar documentary short subject shortlist earlier this month, will premiere on Pluto TV March 1.
“The greatest humanitarian crisis exists in Yemen. Children are starving to death in front of America’s eyes,” Nevins noted. “Filmmaker Skye Fitzgerald has made a documentary that says ‘no more.’ It is a must see for anyone with heart.”
Hunger Ward marks the third installment in a trilogy of short films by Fitzgerald exploring the plight of refugees and other people displaced by conflict. His 2015 film 50 Feet from Syria made the Oscar documentary shortlist and his 2018 Lifeboat earned an Oscar nomination.
“I am honored that MTV Documentary Films will bring Hunger Ward’s urgent message of the humanitarian crisis affecting children of Yemen to a broad and engaged audience,” Fitzgerald said. MTV Documentary Films’ Nina L. Diaz and Liza Burnett Fefferman commented, “Skye has made a powerful and harrowing film that has the capacity to save a nation’s children from malnourishment. We’re honored to bring this incredibly important issue to the forefront and raise awareness of this devastating humanitarian crisis.”
Among the children featured in Hunger Ward is Abeer, a six-year-old girl who weighs only 12 pounds and Omeimi, a 10-year-old girl who weighs but 24 pounds. Fitzgerald filmed his documentary at two medical clinics that treat malnourished children—one in South Yemen, a part of the country controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, and one in North Yemen, an area controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Earlier this month President Biden called for an end to the ruinous war in Yemen and announced his administration would no longer support Saudi Arabia’s military operations in the country. Biden’s predecessor, President Trump, was criticized for continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite its bombing campaign in Yemen and the naval blockade it imposed that has disrupted emergency food distribution.
According to a report issued February 12 by several U.N. agencies, more than two million children in Yemen under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year. Of those, 400,000 young children could die from starvation, the report said.
“I wake up every morning knowing that there are children dying for lack of nutrients, when our planet has plenty of nutrients to go around…It’s one thing to know something like that intellectually, and it’s a completely different thing to have witnessed it, and recorded it, and documented it,” Fitzgerald told Deadline. “That lives with me all the time. It’s something that we can actually do something about because it’s a human-caused tragedy, and it’s one that can be solved by humans.”
Hunger Ward joins another film from MTV Documentary Films in the Oscar race. 76 Days, Hao Wu’s documentary about the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, made the feature shortlist. St. Louis Superman, the very first film from MTV Documentary Films, earned an Oscar nomination last year for Best Documentary Short Subject.
Hunger Ward was produced by Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman. Jody Allen and Hayley Pappas are among the film’s executive producers. The documentary is a production of Spin Films, Vulcan Productions and RYOT Films.