DURING the Covid surge of 2021, Howie Severino’s I-Witness team didn’t have to travel far to produce a relevant documentary. Just on the shores of Manila Bay was an overlooked danger created by Covid, the litter of countless used and discarded masks that were considered hazardous waste. Hidden in the sea were even more used masks threatening corals and marine life.

A toxic side effect caused by a global crisis, mask pollution was an issue that apparently resonated with an international jury that recognized the documentary, “Mask Land,” as deserving of honor at the Deauville Green Awards in France, one of the longest running environmental film festivals in the world. “Mask Land” won a Silver Green Award in the Health and Living Environment category.

“Like everyone else in 2021, our movements were very limited. Good thing my team found an urgent topic nearby that many around the world could relate to,” said program host and writer Howie Severino, who went to Deauville, France to receive the documentary’s silver trophy on behalf of GMA Network and I-Witness.

“The pandemic has challenged all of us to produce quality work under very stringent conditions. My talented and courageous team stepped up,” added Severino, who in 2020 produced another prize-winning documentary about Covid, which focused on his experience as one of the first survivors of the disease in the Philippines.

Aside from winning for the Philippines the Silver Green Award or Trophee Argent, Severino notes another prize he got from receiving the award.

“The other prize at the Green Awards festival was finally being able to fly somewhere after more than two years of being constricted,” he said. “Meeting new people face to face again felt like such a fresh experience. We’ve all missed that.”

The Deauville Green Awards is an international film festival that honors the best of environmental reporting. Among the 100 finalists from 500 entries around the globe, “Mask Land” sheds light on the problem of ocean pollution due to single-use items such as plastics and medical masks. (PR)