Juliana Ruhfus was always clear that producing 2½ minute news items was not for her. Interested in the complexities not just of countries and places but also of the personal, human experience of those who live in them, she has made award-winning current affairs and documentary films. Her investigative work is always driven by the desire to try and understand a specific situation from within.

Juliana was born and raised in Germany. After finishing her schooling she travelled to Tanzania and found work with the Goethe Institute in Dar es Salaam where she witnessed the country’s emergence from African Socialism and began studying Swahili.  A year later she moved to the UK to study for a degree at the School for Oriental and African Studies (University of London).

Her knowledge of Africa landed her television work and once given the opportunity to develop and produce a series called ‘Investigating Asia’ (Diverse Productions/ BBC, 1997) Juliana had also become hooked on investigative work. Over the following years she continued working in TV, contributed to the Small Arms Survey, and spent a year working for the Environmental Investigation Agency, an NGO that specialises in undercover investigations of environmental crime.

In 2001 Juliana became one of the first reporters for Channel 4′s ‘Unreported World’ series. Together with director Elizabeth Jones she travelled to Congo where they managed to film the Coltan mines and broke the story of the illegal trade that fuelled the war. More reporting work for Unreported World took her to Somalia in the months after 9/11, to Yemen and to Haiti.  The British Observer newspaper applauded her film journalism and The Guardian called it “a wake-up call and a simple example of how immediate and vital television can be”.

In early 2004 dark clouds were brewing over Haiti and Juliana decided to return.  Her self-funded film “When I am Misery I Sing” tells the violent story of the overthrow of President Aristide through the music and musicians on both sides of the political divide. It won the Special Jury Award at MusicDoc Fest in Rome in 2005, where it was called a “a film of rare emotional intensity”.

Having developed a reputation for gaining filming access to difficult locations Juliana was asked to produce the 90-min BBC Special “Tsunami – Seven Hours on Boxing Day” with signature director Kevin Sim. It fell to Juliana to find characters and after she secured rare filming access to Tamil Tiger-held territory in Sri Lanka the crew ended up spending a few days with a squat of female Black Sea Tigers (responsible for naval suicide attacks) who had survived the Tsunami. Critics called the film ‘staggering’, ‘unmissable’ and ‘overwhelming’, as well as “…more then just bleeding-heart voyeurism [with] enough intelligence at work to convey a since of marvel at the destruction”. It went on to win two Baftas and was distributed widely across Europe, the US and Asia.

In February 2006 Juliana joined Al Jazeera English as the chief reporter on People & Power, the channel’s flagship current affairs programme. She began to produce reports from all corners of the globe undertaking a secret, undercover journey into Turkmenistan; investigating the link between boxing and the mafia in Kyrgyzstan; exposing human rights abuses in the Maldives and political corruption in the Niger Delta.  Juliana’s report from Liberia about former combatants was the first programming to be shown the day the channel went on air for the first time.

In autumn 2007 the channel granted Juliana a sabbatical so she could take up an invitation by the United Nations Sanctions Committee to join the Somalia Monitoring Group.  She relocated to Kenya and began investigating the arms trade into Somalia for an expert report to the UN Security Council.

Returning to Al Jazeera from her stint with the UN eight months later, Juliana began researching a five-part series ‘Corporations on Trial’.  She had observed a sharp rise in the number of legal cases brought against some of the world’s largest multi-national companies. Soon she was back on the road following a case with allegations of toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast; Chiquita banana’s payments to paramilitary groups in Colombia; and a man-made eruption of the world’s largest mud volcano in Indonesia by a gas drilling operation.

When the series went on air it was met with critical acclaim. Public screenings and discussions at universities and attended by legal experts, fund managers and investors from London’s financial City.  It was also nominated among Al Jazeera’s top achievements in 2009 for the Director General’s report to the network’s board.

Since then Juliana has continued as the chief reporter for the People & Power strand.  In 2010 she was awarded with the prestigious Dart Centre Ochberg Fellowship for coverage of violence and trauma. This has compounded her long-standing interest in making films that don’t just explore facts, but also people’s experience of their environment, and the subjective perceptions that so frequently lead to ongoing conflict.

Outside television Juliana has written for newspapers including the Guardian, The Times and Die Welt (Germany).