Announcing the shortlist for Grierson 2021: the British Documentary Awards

Announcing the shortlist for Grierson 2021: the British Documentary Awards
See the full shortlist.

Tina Turner, Sir Alex Ferguson and Mike Tyson make the shortlist in newest categories for the 2021 Grierson Awards in association with All3Media

We are thrilled to announce the shortlist for the 2021 British Documentary Awards in association with All3Media and Digital Broadcast Partners, Little Dot Studios. The 2021 shortlist features some of the most talked-about factual programmes of the year alongside a diverse line-up of newcomer and established presenters including Alison Hammond, Cerrie Burnell, Micah Richards and Michael Palin.

The common themes

The impact of the pandemic can still be felt: in the Best Presenter category Dr Chris and Dr Xand van Tulleken are shortlisted for Surviving the Virus: My Brother & Me alongside David Harewood’s Why is COVID Killing People of Colour? while Grayson Perry's Art Club features for a second consecutive year in the Best Arts category. Other headline events of 2020 – including the death of George Floyd and increasing impacts of the climate crisis – are reflected in multiple films. Shortlisted films shining the spotlight on racism include Take Your Knee Off My Neck: My First Time, Leigh-Anne Pinnock: Race, Pop & Power, Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism and Me and The School That Tried to End Racism. Meanwhile the newly expanded Best Natural History or Environmental category features the twice-shortlisted David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet and Climate Change: Ade on the Frontline.

This year there are also two new award categories – Best Music and Best Sports Documentary. Amongst the big hitters are stars from the worlds of boxing, football, athletics, snooker and the Paralympics with musical influences ranging from rock ‘n’ roll queen Tina Turner and Afrobeat king Fela Kuti to gen-Z icon Billie Eilish and K-pop sensation BLACKPINK.

Lorraine Heggessey, Chair of The Grierson Trust says: "Following a truly challenging year, I'm delighted to announce such a diverse and engaging shortlist, celebrating some of the most outstanding and impactful factual programmes screened in the past 12 months.

“I'm also thrilled that the 2021 shortlist continues our trend in representing the biggest range of channels, broadcasters and platforms, as commissioners recognise the crucial role the documentary plays in every schedule."

The 112 shortlisted films and eight presenters will now go forward to final nominations and judging ahead of 49th annual awards ceremony on 10th November 2021.

The platforms

The BBC tops the shortlist with 47 entries overall. Netflix has 21 films in the running; ITV has eight; Sky, nine and Channel 4 has 10 in the mix. Apple TV+ has six films listed. Al Jazeera, Vice, PSB International, Discovery, S4C all have one each while the remainder is made up of festival and university screenings alongside theatrical releases.

The range of institutions represented in the student category also sees a number of firsts with entries stretching from Bournemouth in the south to Paisley in Scotland.

Films that made multiple categories

Thirteen films have the honour of being shortlisted in multiple categories. They are:

  1. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (Single Documentary – Domestic & Natural History or Environmental)
  2. Defending Digga D (Music & Single Documentary – Domestic)
  3. The Dog House (Constructed Documentary Series & Entertaining)
  4. Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds (Single Documentary – International & Science)
  5. Grayson’s Art Club (Arts & Constructed Documentary Series)
  6. In Cold Blood (Current Affairs & History)
  7. Locked In: Breaking the Silence (Single Documentary – Domestic & Science)
  8. My Octopus Teacher (Single Documentary – International & Natural History or Environmental
  9. Nail Bomber: Manhunt (Single Documentary – Domestic & History)
  10. Once Upon a Time in Iraq (History & Series)
  11. Silenced: The Hidden Story of Disabled Britain (History & Presenter)
  12. Tina (Single Documentary – International & Music)
  13. Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge (Single Documentary – International & Current Affairs)

See the full shortlist

The presenters

The Best Presenter shortlist recognises a diverse range of voices, with a clutch of newcomers alongside established documentary faces. They are:

  1. ALISON HAMMOND for Alison Hammond: Back to School
  2. CERRIE BURNELL for Silenced: The Hidden Story of Disabled Britain
  3. DAVID HAREWOOD for Why is COVID Killing People of Colour?
  4. DR CHRIS AND DR XAND VAN TULLEKEN for Surviving the Virus: My Brother & Me
  5. MICAH RICHARDS for Micah Richards: Tackling Racism
  6. MICHAEL PALIN for Michael Palin's Himalaya: Journey of a Lifetime
  7. ROMAN KEMP for Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency
  8. YINKA BOKINNI for Damilola: The Boy Next Door

Grierson Hero of the Year Award

One award is still open for nominations: the new Grierson Hero of the Year category. This will be presented to an individual judged by the Trustees to have made a positive impact within the industry during the previous 12 months. This person may be working in any area and be at any level of their career. The award will be given someone who has gone the extra mile and made an outstanding difference. Nominations remain open until 4th September 2021.

Nominate your Hero of the Year

Lorraine Heggessey sums up: "Do enter your nominations for the new Hero of the Year category. So often, the most significant challenges and roadblocks in filmmaking happen behind the scenes – especially given the year we’ve just had – and those solving these problems don’t always get the recognition they deserve. We want to change that. The Grierson Awards recognise the crème de la crème of documentary making – and that means in all areas. Our juries now face a summer of deliberation and I look forward to announcing the final nominations in the autumn."

See the full shortlist

With thanks to our sponsors and supporters...

Grierson Awards 2021 Sponsors

Published: 22 July 2021

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