The Grierson Awards 2019: Winners

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Winners

Envy Best Single Documentary - Domestic

Stabbed: Britain's Knife Crime Crisis

  • Director: Toby Trackman
  • Producers: Jane Ayoade, Katie Hindley, Jessica Winteringham
  • Executive Producers: James Rogan, Jonathan Taylor
  • Editors:Leigh Brzeski, Joby Gee
  • Production Co: Rogan Productions in association with On the Corner
  • First shown: 21 March 2019; BBC One

Twenty-five years after witnessing his friend Stephen Lawrence’s brutal murder, Duwayne Brooks is taking viewers on a personal journey into the current wave of knife crime and the impact it is having across the nation.

The judges said: "This is a film that was admired for its authenticity and raw openness. The presenter took us on a journey that was at times heartbreaking and harrowing, but was always frank and illuminating about one of the most intractable problems facing the UK today."

The Kit Room Best Single Documentary - International

Storyville - The Trial of Ratko Mladic

  • Director/Producers: Henry Singer, Rob Miller
  • Co-Producer: Ida Bruusgaard
  • Executive Producers: Mandy Chang, Jutta Krug, Barbara Troyen
  • Editor: Anna Price
  • Production Co: Sandpaper Films
  • First shown: 1 April 2019; BBC Four

The dramatic five-year trial of the man held responsible for the siege of Sarajevo and the murder of over 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica - an epic story of justice, accountability and a country trying to escape from its bloody past.

The judges said: "This is a superbly crafted documentary. The directors had unfettered access to both the prosecutors and the defence lawyers, who speak openly about their strategies throughout the trial. The film also reveals the unstinting loyalty of the witnesses who had no compunction to lie in order to protect the defendant. Most revealing was the fact these underlings had no problem with Mladic’s genocidal brutality. And then there’s the shocking, potent archive footage reminding us of the absurd and gratuitous cruelty meted out in this dirty war, whose battles are still not over. In addition to telling the stories of victims and witnesses, filmmakers Rob Miller and Henry Singer raise questions about the international tribunal itself and whether it’s possible to achieve justice through a five-year trial if it won’t bring back the dead and the accused refuses to even acknowledge the verdict."

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Storyville - Under the Wire

  • Director: Chris Martin
  • Producer: Tom Brisley
  • Executive Producers: Molly Thompson, Mary Burke, Mandy Chang, Emma Loach
  • Editor: Dudley Sargeant
  • Production Co: Arrow Media
  • First shown: 9 June 2018; General theatrical release

On 13 February 2012, two journalists entered war-ravaged Syria. One of them was celebrated Sunday Times war correspondent, Marie Colvin. The other was a photographer, Paul Conroy. Their aim was to cover the plight of Syrian civilians trapped in Homs, a city under siege and relentless military attack from the Syrian army. Only one of them returned. This is their story.

The judges said: "This gripping film fixes its gaze on Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin who repeatedly put herself at risk in order to tell the individual stories behind the statistics of conflict. Assembled from on-the-ground footage and interviews with colleagues, the film builds a portrait of a woman who was compelled to bear witness, at any cost, giving insights into the realities of war reporting, and is a testament to the value – and the price – of great journalism. At the heart of the film is an extraordinary relationship between Colvin, whom a colleague described as ‘more frightening than the war they were reporting on’, and the seemingly unflappable Conroy. The photographer, who survived the bombing that killed Colvin, talks of her as a journalist who was fierce in her ownership and pursuit of a story, but didn’t want to be the story. It is fitting then that this documentary is as much about the innocent Syrian people caught up in the slaughter as it is about the journalists reporting the story."

Getty Images Best Current Affairs Documentary

Iraq: A State of Mind

  • Director/Producer: Namak Khoshnaw
  • Producers: Namak Khoshnaw, Kai Lawrence, Tom Roberts
  • Editor: Kai Lawrence
  • Production Co: BBC Arabic
  • First shown: 11 March 2019; BBC Arabic

In the past four decades, Iraq has endured three major wars, a violent coup, two invasions, a decade of bombing, two insurgencies, attack by the so-called Islamic State group, and a sectarian civil war. As Iraq picks up the pieces, this film reveals the mental health crisis currently gripping a country that has just one psychiatric hospital for a population of 38 million.

The judges said: "We were struck by the intense emotional intimacy of this film. It sensitively captures the psychological scars of a country that has been through three wars in four decades. The film captivated us with its intimate access and the profound testimony it draws from its characters. It powerfully depicts a country struggling with a desperate lack of mental health provision and the injurious effects of stigma in tackling mental health. The judges particularly admired how the filmmaker deals with the effects of mental trauma, from those left unable to walk and talk, through to the role of creative expression as a route to healing. The film is beautifully crafted throughout, a deeply humane piece with moments of real transcendence."

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess

  • Director: Jane McMullen
  • Executive Producers: Sarah Waldron, Sam Bagnall
  • Production Co: BBC TV Current Affairs
  • First shown: 6 December 2018; BBC Two

On 24 February 2018, the 32-year-old daughter of the ruler of Dubai, boarded a boat and set sail for India with a plan to start a new life in America. But within days her boat was stormed by Indian commandos and she was captured and returned to Dubai. Before she left she had made a video in case she was caught and entrusted it to a lawyer in America. Days later it was released on YouTube. Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess pieces together Princess Latifa’s life and reveals how she had been planning the escape for more than seven years.

The judges said: "We were impressed by this telling of Latifah's quest for autonomy and agency over her life. It was felt that the use of Latifah’s video diary to form the film’s central narrative was particularly strong and intelligently crafted. The filmmakers have created a tense thriller, while at the same time providing a rare glimpse behind the layers of PR spin that help shape the image of Dubai in the public imagination. The revelations from behind this PR wall, of the shocking disposability of women, human rights violations and the international complicity that allow it to occur were striking. This is brilliantly impactful, pacy and gripping filmmaking."

Storm Best Arts or Music Documentary

The Football Club: Artist in Residence

  • Director: Marcus Plowright
  • Executive Producer: Danielle Graham
  • Editor: Iain Pettifer
  • Production Co: Storyvault Films
  • First shown: 29 July 2018; Channel 4

The Football Club takes portrait artist Tai Schierenberg on a behind-the-scenes journey through the trials and tribulations of a turbulent season at West Bromwich Albion Football Club, during which they fire three managers, a chief executive and a chairman and are, eventually, relegated.

The judges said: "This was a powerful, surprising, uplifting film which celebrated the process of creation with heart-warming and moving results. The jury unanimously loved this film: its spirit and insight - an Arts film which pulled off the trick of being clever which felt neither elitist nor distant."

Channel 5 Best Historical Documentary

The Last Survivors

  • Director: Arthur Cary
  • Producer: Katherine Anstey
  • Executive Producer: Morgan Matthews
  • Editor: Joby Gee
  • Production Co: Minnow Films
  • First shown: 27 January 2019; BBC Two

This landmark documentary gathers the powerful testimony of the last Holocaust survivors living in Britain before it is lost forever. Based mainly in the present the film examines what memories from the survivors’ past inform and permeate their day to day lives as they come to terms with the time they have left. Made with no music and very limited archive the film is a fresh and innovative look at the Holocaust.

The judges said: "The winning film has an almost sublime quality, subtly capturing the interior lives of its subjects. It’s a film we’ll be watching in ten year’s time, telling universal truths about the nature of trauma and how history lives deep within us."

HIGHLY COMMENDED

A Dangerous Dynasty: House of Assad

  • Director: The Production Team
  • Production Co: 72 Films
  • First shown: 9 October 2018; BBC Two

Bashar al-Assad met his wife Asma while training to be a doctor in London. Today they run a regime accused of horrific war crimes. Told through rarely seen footage and testimony of those who knew them, worked with them and studied them, the series explores how the couple, who at first were seen as a modernising force, ended up running a regime accused of war crimes.

The judges said: "Beautifully crafted from extraordinary unseen archive and fascinating interviews, this series paints an epic picture of the Shakespearean family behind one of the worst atrocities of recent times."

Sargent Disc Best Science Documentary

The Parkinson's Drug Trial: A Miracle Cure?

  • Director/Producer: Jemima Harrison
  • Executive Producer: Fiona Caldwell
  • Editors:Anthea Harvey, Zoe Davis
  • Production Co: Passionate Productions
  • First shown: 28 February 2019; BBC Two

Filmed over six years, this series follows a group of volunteers with Parkinson’s as they take part in a ground-breaking medical trial testing a controversial drug called GDNF. 42 patients undergo complex brain surgery and months of infusions via a port embedded into their skull. Can the trial give hope the estimated 10 million affected by Parkinson’s globally?

The judges said: "The winning film stood out for its lean storytelling of a complex subject, its scale and its heart. The film was 'an examination of the nature of progress', managing to straddle both the science involved with clarity and the emotional, human dimension with real compassion."

Discovery Best Natural History Documentary

Drowning in Plastic

  • Director: Tom Watt-Smith
  • Producer: Lizzie Bolton
  • Executive Producer: Dominique Walker
  • Editors: Matt Lowe, John McAvoy, Ollie Rainbird
  • Production Co: Raw TV
  • First shown: 1 October 2018; BBC One

Plastic in our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Trillions of pieces of plastic are choking the very lifeblood of our Earth and every marine animal, from the smallest plankton to the largest mammals, are affected. But can we turn this growing plastic tide before it is too late? This film is at the centre of an urgent and vital debate of how to solve the crisis.

The judges said: "The winning film combined astonishing visual material with powerful storytelling to shine a light on one of the most pressing issues in the natural world today.  Jaw dropping, arresting and urgent."

Nyman Libson Paul Best Entertaining Documentary

Three Identical Strangers

  • Director: Tim Wardle
  • Producers: Becky Read, Grace Hughes-Hallett
  • Executive Producers: Dimitri Doganis, Courtney Sexton, Amy Entalis, Sara Ramsden, Adam Hawkins, Tom Barry
  • Editor: Michael Harte
  • Production Co: Raw for Channel 4
  • First shown: 28 February 2019; General theatrical release

New York, 1980: three complete strangers accidentally discover that they are identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds’ joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, but it also unlocks an extraordinary and disturbing secret that goes beyond their own lives - and could transform our understanding of human nature forever.

The judges said: "One of the protagonists in the film describes the story as going "from amazing to incredible."  That's equally true of the film.  A brilliant slow revelation of unfolding narrative that, with constant surprises, goes deeper and darker and yet somehow still stays a fun watch.  In addition achieving amazing access and being brilliantly crafted, the film is a profound investigation into identity and also into the soul of America at the time." 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Bros: After the Screaming Stops

  • Director: David Soutar, Joe Pearlman
  • Producer: Leo Pearlman
  • Editor: Will Gilbey
  • Production Co: Fullwell 73
  • First shown: 23 December 2018; BBC Four

This film charts Matt and Luke Goss's reunion 28 years on from when they were one of the biggest bands in the world, brilliantly capturing their relationship in an open and accessible way. It was this access and the ‘truth’ of the film which was so powerful for the audience, and made the film totally compelling. The film achieved record figures on BBC Four, and reached an audience of over 1 million on BBC iplayer.

The judges said: "A beautifully crafted exploration of identity and brotherhood."

Netflix Best Documentary Series

Prison

  • Director: The Production Team
  • Production Co: Spring Films
  • First shown: 19 July 2018; Channel 4

Shot over seven months at HMP Durham, Prison offers unprecedented access to life behind bars. Produced and directed by Paddy Wivell, Prison tells the human story on both sides of the door: staff and prisoners and the issues facing them. It captures the escalating drug problem, the violence that frontline staff and prisoners endure and the multiple challenges of dealing with mentally ill inmates. Prison reveals events, emotions and precincts never seen before in an English prison.

The judges said: "Filmic, powerful, funny, sensitive, revealing, this series takes one of the most problematic, but also familiar problems of our time, and yet makes it weirdly enjoyable. The director was a brilliant character, invisible off-screen and yet as present as the best presenter. A master of being in the right place at the right time, he was also highly intentional in creating documentaries that were nuanced, humorous and balanced, with a phenomenal soundtrack, skilful editing, distinct, original episodes which still sustained a cohesive series identity.

"But the real triumph of this winning series was its characters. A group of people whose stories we think we know - born without privilege, in some cases addicted to drugs, stuck in a cycle, left behind and unloved in the national consciousness. This series created a nuanced platform for their stories - their hopes, dreams, struggles, successes, and failures. The full humanity of people on both sides of story shone through because of the empathy and thought with which they were filmed.

"It’s often to feel fatigue towards this subject, and yet this winning series made it resonate anew with brilliant urgency and its depiction of people whose lives tell us something vital about Britain today."

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Leaving Neverland

  • Director: The Production Team
  • Production Co: Amos Pictures
  • First shown: 6 March 2019; Channel 4

When allegations of abuse by Jackson involving young boys surfaced in 1993, many found it hard to believe that he could be guilty of such unspeakable acts. Leaving Neverland explores the experiences of two young boys, James Safechuck, at age ten, and Wade Robson, at age seven, who were both befriended by Jackson as his career reached its peak.

The judges said: "This series deserves special mention for the breath-taking skill and power of its interviewing, production and editing. A masterclass in story-telling, it took an almost impossibly sensitive and deeply traumatic subject, our attitudes towards which are undergoing profound change. It’s no exaggeration to say the impact of this series has itself contributed to that change - creating an era defining moment that has made us all reappraise our attitude towards and relationship with the legacy of a world-famous cultural figure. Yet it was also restrained, subtle and well edited, navigating a hugely controversial story in a way that retained the integrity of its subjects and showed the importance of trust and empathy in telling stories that easily lend themselves towards sensation."

Channel 4 Best Constructed Documentary Series

First Dates Hotel

  • Director: The Production Team
  • Production Co: Twenty Twenty Television
  • First shown: 28 August 2018; Channel 4

As the First Dates Hotel moves to sun-soaked Italy for its second series, an eclectic mix of British singles from all walks of life search for love on this ambitious 100 camera rig. A critically acclaimed antidote to heavily formatted dating series, First Dates Hotel provides a rich seam of character, humour and genuine romance at every turn – always with a documentarian’s eye on layered, authentic, heart-felt stories.

The judges said: "A beautifully observed series that finds a sensitive way to tackle personal and social issues - from loneliness in old age to alcoholism and depression - but managing to do so with an utterly uplifting and joyful tone approach throughout. An absolute delight. With fantastic casting, nuanced observations and emotional depth this uplifting series is almost the perfect format."

BFI Doc Society Fund Best Cinema Documentary

Minding the Gap

  • Director: Bing Liu
  • First shown: 22 March 2019; General theatrical release

Bing Liu's Academy Award®-nominated documentary Minding the Gap is a coming-of-age saga drawing on over 12 years of footage in his Rust Belt hometown hit hard by decades of recession. In his quest to understand why so many of his peers in the skateboarding community ran away from home when they were younger, Bing follows 23-year-old Zack as he becomes a father and 17-year-old Keire as he gets his first job. As the story unfolds, Bing is thrust into the middle of Zack's tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend and Keire's inner struggles with racial identity and his deceased father. As we watch the boys grow up before our eyes, we experience the joy, sacrifice, and hope in the gap between childhood and adulthood.

The judges said: "The film's intimate, powerful storytelling and its masterly ebb and flow are to be praised. This is a film that stays with you, with characters you care about, food for thought, and moments of real cinematic beauty. A great achievement, especially for a young director." 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.

  • Director: Steve Loveridge
  • First shown: 21 September 2018; General theatrical release

She began as Matangi. Daughter of the founder of Sri Lanka-armed Tamil resistance, she hid from the government in the face of a vicious and bloody civil war. When her family fled to the UK, she became Maya, a precocious and creative immigrant teenager in London. Finally, the world met her as M.I.A. when she emerged on the global stage, having created a mashup, cut-and-paste identity that pulled from every corner of her journey along the way; a sonic sketchbook that blended Tamil politics, art school punk, hip-hop beats and the unwavering, ultra-confident voice of a burgeoning multicultural youth.

The judges said: "We loved the rawness and authenticity of this film, and its thought-provoking depiction of creativity in action. An energizing and thoroughly-enjoyable film." 

The Rumi Foundation Best Documentary Short

Zion

  • Director: Floyd Russ
  • Producers: Carter Collins, Floyd Russ
  • Executive Producer: Greg Beauchamp
  • Editor: Robert Ryang
  • Production Co: Bindery Films
  • First shown: 10 August 2018; Netflix

Born without legs and stuck in foster care for years, teen Zion Clark finds his calling when he pursues competitive wrestling.

The judges said: "An engrossing, perception- changing portrait of a compelling central character and the redemptive power of comradeship. An exemplar of the short form."

All3Media Best Student Documentary

Ravens

  • Director: Karl Forchhammer
  • Producer: Ludovico Zanette
  • Production Co: National Film and Television School
  • First shown: 26 February 2019; University/College screening

Ravens is an intimate journey in the life of a modern feminist who has never stopped being a hopeless romantic. It is a reflection on the nature of love, sex, relationships, and gender roles for a generation in Poland, that having freed itself from the chains of tradition, is still struggling to find a new way to organise their lives.

The judges said: "This winning film was an intimate and coherent portrait of love and relationships. It raised some difficult questions of gender politics and leaves some of them unresolved. The filmmaker blends seamlessly into the world he portrays." 

Warner Bros. TV Production UK Best Documentary Presenter

DUWAYNE BROOKS for Stabbed: Britain's Knife Crime Crisis

  • Director: Toby Trackman
  • Production Co: Rogan Productions
  • First shown: 21 March 2019; BBC One

25 years after witnessing his friend Stephen Lawrence-brutal murder, Duwayne Brooks is taking viewers on a personal journey into the current wave of knife crime and the impact it is having across the nation.

The judges said: "Duwayne shone a light on a major social problem with an empathy that came from his own traumatic experience. He had an instinctive interviewing skill, listening and responding to what was said. He had the courage to go along with situations that were unfolding fast and the ability to run with the argument, remaining open minded enough to change his views. This film was incredibly personal and deeply affecting."

BBC Grierson Trustees' Award

Dorothy Byrne

A former World In Action producer (1992 - 1995) and then editor of ITV’s The Big Story (1995- 1998), Dorothy also produced arts programmes and executive produced history series before making the move to Channel Four in 1998 when she was appointed Commissioning Editor of Current Affairs and Editor of Dispatches. Now Head of News and Current Affairs, she has presided over a multi-award winning team creating the channel's news and current affairs programmes since 2003, winning numerous BAFTA, RTS and Emmy Awards plus others along the way.

Dorothy was made a Fellow of The Royal Television Society for her “outstanding contribution to television” and received the Outstanding Contribution Award at the RTS Journalism Awards in 2018. She has received a BAFTA Scotland award for her services to television and has also won the Factual Award given by Women in Film and Television. She is the Chair of the Ethical Journalism Network which supports the development of ethical codes in journalistic organisations across the globe. She is a Visiting Professor at De Montfort University where Channel Four supports an MA in Investigative Journalism, founded in part to increase industry diversity by taking half its students from diverse backgrounds.

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