Documentary - The Grierson Awards

The 45th annual British Documentary Awards were presented on Monday evening...

The awards, affectionately known as The Grierson Awards, were first established in 1972 and commemorate the pioneering Scottish documentary filmmaker John Grierson (1898 – 1972), famous for Drifters and Night Mail and the man widely regarded as the father of the documentary. This year's awards ceremony saw the BBC take seven prizes, Channel 4 take two and Netflix score one, while the Best Documentary Presenter award went to Grayson Perry, marking his third Best Presenter Grierson award with previous wins in 2013 (All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry) and 2015 (Who Are You?).

Chair of The Grierson Trust, Lorraine Heggessey, opened the evening saying: "Documentary filmmakers are crucial for giving us insight into stories that might be overlooked - or twisted - by the wider media. In this era of fake and manipulated news, authentic voices and those who doggedly pursue the truth are needed more than ever. Our winners tonight are testament to the skill, dedication and passion of some of the world's best factual filmmakers. Congratulations to them all."

All the awards were presented at a star-studded ceremony on Monday night, hosted by Stephen Mangan.

The full list of winners is below.

Splice Best Single Documentary - Domestic


Director/Producer: Daniel Gordon
Executive Producer: John Battsek
Editor: Andy R Worboys
Production Co: Very Much So Productions & Passion Pictures
First shown: 8 May 2016; BBC Two

Hillsborough is an in-depth, moving account of Britain’s worst sporting disaster in which 96 men, women and children were killed, hundreds injured and thousands traumatised - and recounts the 27-year campaign for justice fought on behalf of the 96 who died.

Channel 4 Best Single Documentary - International


Director: Rahul Jain
Producers: Rahul Jain, Iikka Vehkalahti, Thanassis Karathanos
Editors: Rahul Jain, Yaël Bitton
Production Co: Jann Pictures, IV Films & Pallas FIlms
First shown: 22 April 2017; Frames of Representation, ICA

A visually compelling look behind the doors of a textile factory in India, exploring the meaning of modern day labour, exploitation and the human cost of mass production in our globalized world

Highly Commended

Last Days of Solitary

Directors: Dan Edge, Lauren Mucciolo
Producers: Dan Edge, Lauren Mucciolo, Elizabeth C Jones
Executive Producers: Kate Townsend, Nick Fraser, Raney Aronson
Editor: Tim Lovell
Production Co: Mongoose Pictures in association with FRONTLINE PBS
First shown: 27 March 2017; BBC Four

The US is the world leader in solitary confinement. More than 80,000 American prisoners live in isolation; some have been there for decades. In 2013, filmmakers Dan Edge and Lauren Mucciolo were given unprecedented access to the solitary unit of Maine State Prison and filmed there for over three years. The result is a harrowing portrait of life in solitary and a unique document of a risky experiment in prison reform.

The Open University Best Current Affairs Documentary

Goodbye Aleppo

Director/Producer: Christine Garabedian
Executive Producer: Marc Perkins
Editor: Kai Lawrence
Production Co: BBC Arabic
First shown: 11 April 2017; BBC Arabic

Four young citizen journalists film themselves and each other with small cameras and mobile phones in extremely dangerous and life-threatening situations, trapped, bombarded, and encircled with civilians under siege in East Aleppo as the battle for the Syrian city rages around them in December 2016.

Grant Thornton Best Arts Documentary

Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories

Director: Nick Willing
Producer: Michele Camarda
Executive Producers: Liz Hartford, Mark Bell, Kate Townsend
Editor: Nick Willing
Production Co: Kismet Film Company
First shown: 25 March 2017; BBC Two

A unique insight into the life and work of celebrated painter Paula Rego directed by her son, the filmmaker Nick Willing. Notoriously private and guarded, Rego opens up for the first time surprising her son with secrets and stories of her unique life, battling fascism, a misogynistic art world and manic depression.

Televisual Best Historical Documentary


Director: Ava DuVernay
Producers: Ava DuVernay, Howard Barish, Spencer Averick
Executive Producers: Angus Wall, Jason Sterman
Editor: Spencer Averick
Production Co: Forward Movement LLC & Kandoo Films
First shown: 7 October 2016; Netflix

The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads ”Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity.

Highly Commended

Aberfan: The Green Hollow

Director: Pip Broughton
Producer: Jenna Robbins
Executive Producer: Bethan Jones
Editor: David Charap
Production Co: BBC Studios Wales in association with Vox Pictures
First shown: 23 October 2016; BBC One Wales

A film poem to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster, written by Owen Sheers and performed by a stellar cast of Wales's best-known acting talent, including Michael Sheen, Jonathan Pryce, Sian Phillips, Eve Myles and Iwan Rheon, with some contributions from the local community.

Sargent-Disc Best Science Documentary

Forces of Nature with Brian Cox: Episode 2, Somewhere in Spacetime

Director/Producer: Stephen Cooter
Executive Producer: Andrew Cohen
Series Producer: Danielle Peck
Production Co: BBC Studios with PBS co-produced by France Télévisions
First shown: 19 January 2017; BBC One

Forces of Nature with Brian Cox reveals how Earth’s infinite beauty and complexity is created by a handful of physical forces. Brian weaves stories of human and animal daring with answers to questions about how our planet works - including why is the Earth round; why are our oceans blue and why are there two tides each day? By answering these simple questions Brian reveals some fundamental truths about the way the entire cosmos works.

Isle of Media Best Natural History Documentary

Wild Ireland: The Edge of the World - Episode 1

Directors: John Murray, Cepa Giblin
Producer: John Murray
Series Producer: John Murray
Editor: Jamie Fitzpatrick
Production Co: Crossing the Line Productions
First shown: 17 March 2017; BBC Two

A unique personal journey along one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world featuring the wildlife and wild places that make it so special. Emmy award-winning wildlife cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson takes viewers on an authored odyssey along Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coast - the place he chooses to make his home after 30 years spent shooting some of the world’s most celebrated wildlife films.

Nyman Libson Paul Best Entertaining Documentary

999: What's Your Emergency? - Nobody ever said, ‘When I grow up I want to answer 999 calls’

Directors: James Incledon, Sam Barnes, Chris Rowe
Producers: Claire Cahill, Ruth Nicklin
Executive Producers: David Hodgkinson, Ed Coulthard
Series Producer: Jo Abel
Editor: Chloe Lambourne
Production Co: Blast! Films
First shown: 4 July 2016; Channel 4

Set entirely inside one 999 call centre, this film focuses on the heart of the 999 system. It's a place where call handlers, many in their early twenties, deal with life, death and everything in between. We witness their patience, frustration and vital sense of humour as they struggle to answer up to 100 cries for help per shift, and do their best to prioritise increasingly limited resources in a system pushed beyond breaking point.

Envy Best Documentary Series

Exodus: Our Journey to Europe

Directors: James Bluemel, Jack MacInnes, Paul Glynn, Robin Barnwell
Producers: Itab Azzam, Brigitte Scheffer, Rebecca Stewart
Executive Producers: Will Anderson, Andrew Palmer
Series Producer: Jane Merkin
Editors: Simon Sykes, Sunshine Jackson, Nick Fenton
Production Co: Keo Films produced in partnership with The Open University
First shown: 11 July 2016; BBC Two

In 2015, more than 1 million migrants and refugees smuggled themselves into Europe. KEO Films gave some of them cameraphones to film the parts of their journeys where regular documentary crews could not go. Told by the migrants themselves, this is the story of the biggest human migration since the Second World War.

Evolutions Best Constructed Documentary Series

Muslims Like Us

Directors: Production Team
Executive Producer: Kieran Smith
Series Producer: Mobeen Azhar
Series Editor: Oliver Manley
Editors: Nick Packer, Owen Thomas
Production Co: Love Productions
First shown: 12 December 2016; BBC Two

Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims are united in faith. In Muslim homes across the country, there is on-going discussion about what and who best represents Islam. In this unique and bold experiment witnesses these dilemmas played out for real. 10 British Muslims who represent the diversity of their faith explore how their faith impacts their lives. Topical, important and, at times, charged exchanges shine a light on what it means to be a Muslim in modern Britain.

Bertha DocHouse Best Cinema Documentary


Director/Producers: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Executive Producers: Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, Lily Fan
Editor: Eli Despres
Production Co: AWD Films LLC
First shown: 8 July 2016: General theatrical release

Many politicians have seen their careers careen off the tracks, but few instances have been captured so completely on film as the incisive and painfully funny Weiner.

Yaddo Best Documentary Short

Fish Story

Director: Charlie Lyne
Producers: Charlie Lyne, Catherine Bray, Anthony Ing
Editor: Charlie Lyne
Production Co: Loop
First shown: 16 February 2017; First UK screening was at BFI Future Film Fest

Sometime in the 1980s, Caspar Salmon’s grandmother was invited to a gathering on the Welsh island of Anglesey, attended exclusively by people with fish surnames. Or so he says. Thirty years later, filmmaker Charlie Lyne attempts to sort myth from reality as he searches for the truth behind this fishy tale.

ITV Best Student Documentary

Acta Non Verba

Director: Yvann Yagchi
Producer: Fawzia Mahmood
Production Co: NFTS
First shown: 20 February 2017; University/College screening

On 6 October 2012, at approximately midnight, a Swiss banker, Michel Yagchi, committed suicide in the basement of his house in Geneva. That evening, Michel’s entire family was out of the country, travelling to Brussels to attend the graduation of Michel's eldest son, Yvann. Three years later, Yvann decided to start investigating his father’s mysterious suicide, concurrently confronting his family and his father’s friends and colleagues.

Warner Bros TV Production UK Best Documentary Presenter

GRAYSON PERRY for Grayson Perry: All Man

Directors: Neil Crombie, Arthur Cary
Executive Producer: Joe Evans
Production Co: Swan Films
First shown: 5 May 2016; Channel 4

In this series, frock-wearing, mountain-biking, father-of-one Grayson Perry puts himself in three ultra-male worlds to see what their extreme masculinity has to tell us about the changing lives and expectations of all men in Britain today. As ever, he tries to capture what he sees by making art, and then shows that art to the people who inspired it.

BBC Grierson Trustees' Award

Documentary maker, producer, presenter and all round natural history guru, Alastair Fothergill was given the prestigious BBC Grierson Trustees' Award. At the forefront of natural history programming for over 30 years, Alastair Fothergill is responsible for some of the most impactful and innovative natural history programming lauded the world over and, through his enduring partnership with David Attenborough on programmes such as Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and The Hunt, has created some of the most memorable television moments of all time.

Announcing the decision last month, Chairman of the Grierson Trust, Lorraine Heggessey says: “Alastair is one of the nation's leading lights in natural history documentary filmmaking. His contribution to the genre has helped to make the UK pre-eminent in this field, particularly through his inspirational partnership with Sir David Attenborough. He’s passionate, innovative and immensely knowledgeable and has produced some of the most extraordinary natural history programmes ever made. When I was Controller of BBC One, I used to love the way Alastair would breeze into my office looking as if he had just stepped out of the jungle before tantalising me with a few glimpses of some amazing footage of an aspect of the natural world that had never been filmed before. His love of his subject shines through all his series and delights viewers of all ages.”

You can find the full Awards shortlist here

Images - Grierson Trust
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