The Winners of the 2017 Grierson Awards:

BBC, Channel 4 and Netflix all score gongs and Grayson Perry makes it a hat-trick



In a night of documentary celebration, the 45th annual British Documentary Awards saw the BBC take seven prizes, Channel 4 take two and Netflix score one while Grayson Perry made it a personal hat-trick as Best Presenter for his work on Grayson Perry: All Man. All were presented at a star-studded ceremony hosted by Stephen Mangan at London’s The Mermaid last night.


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.”


Stars and personalities from across TV and public life presented awards during the evening including: artist Grayson Perry, TV presenter Stacey Dooley, Britain’s favourite baker Nadiya Hussain,  scientist Dr Michael Mosley, actor Asim Chaudhry, historian Dan Jones, choreographer Ashley Banjo, journalist Adnan Sarwar, radio presenter John Wilson, comedian Rich Hall, biochemist Liz Bonnin, newsreader George Alagiah and social historian Emma Dabiri.


The winners in full.

Nyman Libson Paul Best Entertaining Documentary

999: What’s Your Emergency? – Nobody ever said, “When I grow up I want to answer 999 calls”

James Incledon, Sam Barnes, Chris Rowe for Blast! Films; first shown: Channel 4


James Quinn, Jury Chair, described it as: “gripping, honest and brave. It has an unfussy but artful style” and is “everything a documentary should be.”


Televisual Best Historical Documentary


Ava DuVernay for Forward Movement LLC & Kandoo Films; first shown: Netflix


Jury Chair, David Dehaney commended 13th as: “a timely and infuriating film that builds its case piece by enlightening piece inspiring levels of shock and outrage that stun the viewer, leaving one shaken and disturbed, before ending on a visual note of hope designed to keep us on the hook as advocates for change.”


Highly Commended

Aberfan: The Green Hollow

Pip Broughton for BBC Studios in Wales in association with Vox Pictures; first shown: BBC Four


The jury said it: “took a truly innovative approach and confronted the disaster using Owen Shears’ words to create a quietly shattering film that was truly effecting.”


The Open University Best Current Affairs Documentary

Goodbye Aleppo

Christine Garabedian for BBC Arabic; first shown: BBC Arabic


“Compelling. The filmmaker uses the excellent raw footage shot by the citizen journalists to create a lucid well constructed narrative, with intimate moments that are powerfully authentic, leading to a conclusion which is hard to not find deeply moving,” declared Jury Chair, Andy Whittaker.


Yaddo Best Documentary Short

Fish Story

Charlie Lyne for Loop; first shown: BFI Future Film Festival


Alice Cabanas, Chair of the Jury said Fish Story is: “funny, refreshing, surprising and completely original. We are looking forward to seeing what comes next from this exciting new UK filmmaker.”


ITV Best Student Documentary

Acta Non Verba

Yvann Yagchi for NFTS; first shown: University/College screening


Jury Chair, Leo Burley described it as: “an utterly compelling detective story which weaves inventively and confidently between family tragedy, scandal, mystery and corruption. It is a masterful piece of filmmaking with a great score and more layers than a Russian doll.”


Evolutions Best Constructed Documentary Series

Muslims Like Us

Production Team for Love Productions; first shown: BBC Two


“Timely, layered, insightful, bold and provocative. It was challenging for both the audience and the participants alike,” commented Jo Clinton-Davis, who chaired the jury.


Isle of Media Best Natural History Documentary

Wild Ireland: The Edge of the World – Episode 1

John Murray, Cepa Giblin for Crossing the Line Productions; first shown: BBC Two


“The winning film combined outstanding direction and photography, offering many unexpected delights along the way – animals, history, folk lore and history seamlessly interweave with an exquisitely crafted and presented script,” said the Jury Chair, Amy Flanagan.


Channel 4 Best Single Documentary – International


Rahul Jain for Jann Pictures, IV Films & Pallas Films; first shown: General theatrical release


Tom McDonald chaired the jury, describing the winner: “an unforgettable film full of striking and extraordinary imagery with an evocative sound design to match. It is a distinctive, singular take on an important subject which lingers in the mind long after viewing: part dream, part nightmare but wholly original and utterly timely.”


Highly Commended

Last Days of Solitary

Dan Edge, Lauren Mucciolo for Mongoose Pictures in association with FRONTLINE PBS; first shown: BBC Four


The jury said: “This is a harrowing, unflinching and  shocking film which moved us with its humanity and its conviction to bring the viewer inside the experience of solitary confinement.”


Grant Thornton Best Arts Documentary

Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories

Nick Willing for Kismet Film Company; first shown: BBC Two


“Our winning film is a wonderfully intimate and human film which managed to capture the essence of the artist and their personal life with great art, bringing the viewer exceptionally close to its subject,” Vanessa Engle, who chaired the jury.



Bertha DocHouse Best Cinema Documentary


Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg for AWD Films LLC; first shown: General theatrical release


Alex Cooke, Jury Chair described it as: “one of the most significant stories of the year. It is a thrilling, provocative fly-on-the-wall film, one of the recent bests in its genre.”


Sargent-Disc Best Science Documentary

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

Stephen Cooter for BBC Studios Science with PBS co-produced by France Télévisions; first shown: BBC One


Jury Chair, Fergus O’Brien said: “the winning film stands apart as a confident, inspiring and exciting piece of television which is beautifully made with integrity and ambition. It communicated big, complex ideas in an imaginative and captivating way.”


Warner Bros TV Production UK Best Documentary Presenter

GRAYSON PERRY for Grayson Perry: All Man

Neil Crombie, Arthur Cary for Swan Films; first shown: Channel 4


Sanjay Singhal, Jury Chair, explained: “What sets Grayson apart is his ability to elevate the everyday and the ordinary to a higher level of meaning. He possesses a unique combination of intellect and populism, intimacy and ambition. A genuine one of a kind.”


This the third time Grayson has won the Best Presenter award. His previous wins were in 2013 (All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry) and 2015 (Who Are You?).


BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award

Alastair Fothergill


Lorraine Heggessey presented the award saying: “Alastair Fothergill has transformed the natural history genre and through his enduring partnership with David Attenborough, has created some of the most memorable television moments of all time. He is one of the most talented people in our industry, a pioneer whose ambition makes him soar to ever greater heights, who constantly innovates and find new ways of engaging the audience – and whose passion for his subject is inspirational.  He has redefined landmark series not just for his own genre, but for all specialist factual and with the exception of Sir David Attenborough, few individuals have had such an impact on the wildlife film-making industry on the small and big screen.”


Splice Best Single Documentary – Domestic


Daniel Gordon for Very Much So Productions and Passion Pictures; first shown: BBC Two


Liesel Evans, Jury Chair described it as: “an outstanding film that blended a forensic eye for detail with moving personal testimony and the creative use of archive and reconstruction.” 


Envy Best Documentary Series

Exodus: Our Journey to Europe

James Bluemel, Jack MacInness, Paul Glynn, Robin Barnwell for Keo Films produced in partnership with The Open University; first shown: BBC Two


Jury Chair, Jago Lee said it is: “a bold and timeless series offering a perspective that was unprecedented in its rawness and humanity. We thought it was an enthralling, remarkably intimate and politically important series and we applauded it for its scale and ambition as well as its delicate casting and beautifully crafted storytelling.”


The Awards also took time to celebrate The Grierson Trust’s unique training and mentoring scheme DocLab, run in partnership with Bertha DocHouse. Launched in 2012, it continues to go from strength to strength. So far in 2017 some of its alumni have achieved great things: Ryan Gregory won the inaugural BBC Three Northern Docs Pitch at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest; Roshan Roberts has begun her contract as a BBC Production Trainee; and, Dershe Samaria and Cherish Oteka were announced as two of Edinburgh’s Ones To Watch. 59 individuals have taken part so far – exploring documentary making and learning key skills; gaining access to leading filmmakers, production companies and commissioning editors at Sheffield Doc/Fest; and, working with industry mentors and sourced paid work placements with production companies and broadcasters, proving an invaluable first taste of the profession.

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