The Grierson Awards 2020: Winners


  • Winners

    Envy Best Single Documentary - Domestic

    Suicidal: In Our Own Words

    • Rachel Harvie, David DeHaney, Emmanuel Ayettey & Iain Pettifer for Proper Content
    • Channel 5

    One man takes his own life every two hours. In a process never before seen on television, this ground-breaking and unflinching documentary follows the unique work carried out by the Central and North-West London Mental Health Trust and the stories of six men, who have 20 suicide attempts between them.

    Each of the men tell their story in a unique and intimate moment – the hours, days and weeks of their unfolding suicidal episodes.

    The judges said: " This was a brave and important film which brought the judges a new understanding of a topic that is often hidden away. It was evident that the contributors really trusted the filmmaker and opened up in a way that never felt voyeuristic. The jury said this film was one that had stayed with them long after watching it. "


    The Family Secret

    • Anna Hall, Sally Ogden, Luke Rothery & Brian Woods for Candour Productions
    • Channel 4

    Kath had a secret she couldn't tell anyone. She carried it for 25 years. Her brother had raped her when she was seven and he was ten - it lasted for four years. The Family Secret captures the moment when Kath and her brother Rob enter a restorative justice meeting where the truth is laid bare and they face what happened for the first time with their mum as witness.

    The judges said: " This story was told with such sensitivity and care for the subjects that the judges couldn’t fail to be impressed. They said that they were watching something utterly extraordinary and felt that filmmaker Anna Hall is one of the few people who could tell a story in this way. "

    The Open University Best Single Documentary - International

    Crip Camp

    • Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Sara Bolder, Howard Gertler, Priya Swaminathan & Tonia Davis for A Higher Ground & Rusted Spoke Production in association with Little Punk, JustFilms & Ford Foundation
    • Netflix

    A ground-breaking summer camp galvanises a group of teens with disabilities to help build a movement, forging a new path toward greater equality.

    The judges said: " This remarkable film told a hidden slice history with warmth, tenderness and humour. It was a joyful watch but with a rawness about a movement which changed society. It was a beautifully crafted film with a story well told. "


    Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein

    • Ursula Macfarlane, Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn, Poppy Dixon & Andy R Worboys for Lightbox
    • BBC Two

    A devastating exposé of the meteoric rise and shocking fall of the movie mogul made during the year before he was convicted for rape and sexual assault. At the heart of the film are his victims’ painfully frank accounts of his abuse, of the damage it did to their lives, and the complicity of the Hollywood machine. Untouchable makes clear the vital importance of speaking out and of the entertainment industry’s long overdue cultural reckoning.

    The judges said: " A film telling a story the jurors thought they already knew, but which was brought to new life by visceral testimony and vivid use of music and editing. "

    Real Stories Best Current Affairs Documentary

    Undercover: Inside China's Digital Gulag

    • Robin Barnwell, Gesbeen Mohammad, Guy Creasey, Simon Russell & David Henshaw for Hardcash Productions
    • ITV

    ITV goes undercover into China’s secretive Xinjiang region. The Chinese government is holding an estimated million or more Muslims in detention camps - the largest incarceration of an ethnic group since WW2. This unprecedented investigation reveals how twelve million other Muslims are living in a human laboratory where the world’s most invasive surveillance state is being created to control them, destroying their cultural identity and creating technologies that are being exported to authoritarian states worldwide.

    The judges said: " This eye-opening documentary alerted the world to the terrifying control exerted over a persecuted and tortured population. The judges commended the courage of the undercover reporters who filmed at huge personal risk. As a journalistic investigation, this film had everything: immediacy, urgency and dedication to getting an important story out to the world. "


    Undercover with the Clerics: Iraq’s Secret Sex Trade

    • Paddy Wells, Mais Al-Bayaa, Nawal Al Maghafi, Monica Garnsey, Chris Mitchell & Gary Beelders for BBC News Arabic
    • BBC News Arabic

    In this hard-hitting undercover investigation, Nawal Al Maghafi exposes a secret world of sexual exploitation in Iraq. She uncovers how some Shia clerics are grooming and exploiting vulnerable girls and young women, leaving them trapped in prostitution. A young widow alleges that a cleric sold her to his friends in a prostitution ring, while secret filming reveals another cleric conducting a so-called ‘pleasure marriage’ with a girl he believes to be only 13.

    The judges said: " This was another hard-hitting expose of sexual exploitation, this time in Iraq. It was emotionally impactful, disturbing and utterly shocking. The undercover reporting showed the complete moral bankruptcy of men grooming and trading young and vulnerable girls for ‘pleasure marriages’. "

    Storm Best Arts or Music Documentary

    Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall

    • Alfred George Bailey, Adam Biskupski, Ian Arber, Tatiana Kennedy, Amelia Davis & Nicolas Sampson for Bailey Kennedy Production. Modern Films
    • General theatrical release

    An outsider with attitude, Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall chronicles the infamous photographer’s life behind and outside the camera. A child of immigrants and a life battling inner demons, Jim fought his way to become one of the most trusted mavericks behind a lens throughout 60’s history, capturing the most iconic figures in music history from Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, to the infamous image of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar.

    The judges said: " Whilst his pictures of legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash are familiar, little was known about the photographer Jim Marshall until this revealing documentary. It’s an illuminating study of a volatile, troubled man that transported us back to the 60s and 70s."


    Terms and Conditions: A UK Drill Story

    • Brian Hill, Kandise Abiola, Katie Bailiff, Fraser T Smith, Stuart Briggs & Andre Johnson for Century Films
    • YouTube Originals

    The film is an examination of drill music and the association it has with knife crime in the UK. In examining the links between this musical genre and violence we went beneath the surface and engaged with the drill community to understand their motivations. We commissioned five drill artists to write and record an original track which would help to dispel some of the myths around drill music.

    The judges said: " The judges liked that this celebrated drill as an artform as it too often comes to our attention when it is linked to the rise knife crime. The film tackled the controversy around drill head on in an engaging and sometimes moving way. "

    Channel 5 Best Historical Documentary

    Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain - Episode 1

    • Robert Coldstream, Clare Cameron, Justin Badger, Jane Greaves & Edmund Coulthard for Blast! Films
    • Channel 4

    Jade Goody wasn’t the first Reality TV star – but she was the biggest. The most loved. The most hated. Earning millions from the tabloids and branded products she seemed unstoppable – but flew too close to the sun and became Britain’s most loathed woman. A dark fairy tale, Jade shines a light onto the battleground of class politics and social change in Britain in the early part of this century.

    The judges said: " Timely and nostalgic, this film covers a fascinating character in an intellectually stimulating way, centred within contemporary British history. It links themes relating to Brexit, the disenfranchisement of the working class, phone hacking and the duty of care scandal in an exciting narrative package. "


    Crip Camp

    • Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Sara Bolder, Howard Gertler, Priya Swaminathan & Tonia Davis for A Higher Ground & Rusted Spoke Production in association with Little Punk, JustFilms & Ford Foundation
    • Netflix

    A ground-breaking summer camp galvanises a group of teens with disabilities to help build a movement, forging a new path toward greater equality.

    The judges said: " This thoroughly enjoyable film told an important story about a moment in American history that is often overlooked. It did so in a feel-good way that put humans at the centre of the narrative. The judges applauded the sense of humour that gave this documentary about a serious political movement a refreshing and accessible tone. "

    Sargent-Disc Best Science Documentary

    War in the Blood

    • Arthur Cary, Morgan Matthews, Ben Brown, Saskia Rusher & Andrew Phillips for Minnow Films
    • BBC Two

    An intimate feature length documentary following two patients through groundbreaking ‘first in-human’ trials for CAR T-cell therapy, a treatment described as the beginning of the end of cancer.

    Not allowed to meet, Graham (53) and Mahmoud (18) are nevertheless bound together by their commitment to the treatment and their faith in the science. Terminally ill, the trial represents their only option. How do their ages and life experiences affect their physical and emotional response?

    The judges said: " This was an extraordinary film: captivating from start to finish. It gave real insight into the process of developing pioneering medical treatment and highlighted the objectivity of the research scientists and the humanity of the doctors with their patients. The access and the relationship of trust the programme makers developed with the patients and their families made this film compelling. Their courage and motivation for driving science forward shone through in an emotional, well- paced film that was heart-breaking at times. The judges added that it was beautifully edited and, at feature length, gave the narrative time to breath and expand. "

    Discovery Best Natural History Documentary

    The Last Igloo

    • Christian Collerton, Will Grayburn, Joe Evans, Neil Crombie, Adam Simons & Mick Duffield for Swan Films
    • BBC Four

    This film tells the story of a typical day in the life of an Inuit hunter in Greenland, as he travels across the stunning arctic landscape with his dog sled, fishes through the sea ice, and finally builds an igloo. Documenting the ingenious craft of igloo-building before it’s too late, this film is an extraordinary and poetic sensory immersion in the landscape of ice and snow; an elegy to a world that is melting away.

    The judges said: " The judges were hypnotised by this atmospheric film about a livelihood that feels completely other. The slow pace of the narrative was described as a meditative balm that leaves the viewer feeling enriched. To document a way of life that may be lost to future generations in such an original, captivating and immersive way is incredibly important. "

    YouTube Originals Best Entertaining Documentary

    The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan: Zimbabwe

    • Romesh Ranganathan, Emily Hudd, Morgan Roberts, Chris Cottam & Andy Linton for Rumpus Media
    • BBC Two

    For most of his adult life, the only news coming out of Zimbabwe has been bad news. Robert Mugabe, the eviction of the white farmers and a general aura of danger have combined to make Zimbabwe a no-go zone in the eyes of the world. Now, with Mugabe finally gone, Rom is travelling around the country to find out if Brits should be holidaying here once more.

    The judges said: " The chemistry between the lead and co-presenter on this show won the judges over. The documentary managed to approach a country, along with its politics and history, without any preconceptions. It made for fascinating yet accessible and thoroughly entertaining viewing. "

    Netflix Best Documentary Series

    Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain

    • Robert Coldstream, Clare Cameron, Justin Badger, Jane Greaves & Edmund Coulthard for Blast! Films
    • Channel 4

    Jade Goody wasn’t the first Reality TV star – but she was the biggest. The most loved. The most hated. Earning millions from the tabloids and branded products she seemed unstoppable – but flew too close to the sun and became Britain’s most loathed woman. A dark fairy tale, Jade shines a light onto the battleground of class politics and social change in Britain in the early part of this century.

    The judges said: " Likened to a Greek tragedy of epic proportions, this series told an unlikely character’s story in a sophisticated manner to uncover broader themes of class, race and celebrity. The judges applauded the storytellers’ fantastic access, plus their ability to treat the subject sensitively whilst challenging the audience to consider their complicity. "

    Channel 4 Best Constructed Documentary Series

    The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes

    • Benjamin Leigh, Trish Powell, Murray Boland, Martin Oxley, Louise Bartmann & Neil Cornish for CPL Productions & Motion Content Group
    • Channel 4

    The UK’s first restaurant staffed by people living with dementia is about to open. In a daring five-week experiment 14 volunteers all living with some form of dementia are about to make us think again. If diagnosed with this terminal disease whilst of working age four out of five lose their jobs, their independence and sometimes homes. Can taking part in this experiment transform lives and help them rediscover the people they used to be?

    The judges said: " This series had a lightness of touch and a depth of emotion that pulled viewers in from the start. It was sometimes painful to watch but there were many moments of pure joy too. The judges felt that the viewer would learn a lot about how to talk to people with dementia. This was public service broadcasting at its best. "


    Long Lost Family

    • Sally Benton, Clare Bradbury, Susie Attwood, Rick Barker & Johnny Wagener for Wall to Wall Media
    • ITV

    Long Lost Family follows the twists and turns of searches for people that no one else has been able to trace, reuniting family after years of separation and answering questions that have haunted entire lives.

    From the tale of a mother prosecuted for neglect of her children, to unsolved cases of people reported missing to the police; the series provides an insight into some of the most difficult examples of family separation with distinctive sensitivity.

    The judges said: " The judges commended this established series for its consistently high standards and its sensitive handling of real issues that affect viewers at home as well as the families involved. They thought Nicky and Davina were the perfect hosts and - if they were assessing films by measuring the volume of tears shed - then this would have won! "

    BFI Doc Society Fund Best Cinema Documentary

    For Sama

    • Waad al Kateab, Ed Watts, Nevine Mabro, Ben de Pear, Siobhan Sinnerton & George Waldrum for Channel 4 News & ITN Productions for Channel 4 & PBS Frontline
    • General theatrical release

    A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab's life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her.

    Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice- whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter's life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much.

    The judges said: " A searingly intimate, profound film about love, motherhood, heroism and war. Phenomenal and profound journalistic skills were used to take the camera into a community under impossible odds. Without being didactic it tells a number of truths, which were visceral and hugely moving. The judges, unanimous in their praise, said it was an incredible document of history that will stand the test of time.



    • Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov & Atanas Georgiev
    • General theatrical release

    The last female bee-hunter in Europe must save the bees and return the natural balance in Honeyland, when a family of nomadic beekeepers invade her land and threaten her livelihood.

    The judges said: " This was an arresting, amazing character-driven documentary that that was beautifully heart-breaking. Its cinematic, immersive soundscape drew you in and unfolded like a feature film. It explored huge themes with a depth and richness that was exceptional. Extraordinary and utterly epic film-making - it’s a masterpiece. "

    The Rumi Foundation Best Documentary Short

    Country Girl

    • Ellen Evans & Pearl Doughty-White for BFI Doc Society
    • Open City Docs Film Festival

    Lillith’s benefits have been cut, threatening the thing in her life that gives it shape and purpose: her relationship with a troubled yet beloved horse. Fleeing a difficult past and struggling with rural poverty, she must take matters into her own hands, defying expectations and rising above the judgement of others.

    The judges said: " This was compelling storytelling, a portraiture of the rural underbelly of Britain. The director demonstrated well-honed craft skills and the judges were impressed with the film’s intimacy, pacing and style which comes from having a strong relationship with the contributor. It was a complex story that shone a light on solace, succour and salvation in an animal, juxtaposed against a faceless bureaucracy. "

    All3Media Best Student Documentary

    Miss Curvy

    • Ghada Eldemellawy & Gareth Pugh for NFTS
    • University/College screening

    When Uganda announces its first-ever beauty pageant for plus-size women, schoolteacher and single mother Namukasa Mariam seizes the opportunity. Hoping to gain strength by confronting past traumas (and her abusive ex-husband), she soon finds herself surrounded by national controversy, fierce rivalry and extravagant characters. Exploring timeless yet contemporary issues within a uniquely African context, Miss Curvy takes viewers on Mariam’s unforgettable journey through the extraordinary world of East African plus-size beauty pageantry.

    The judges said: " An unconventional, entertaining film that was a joy to watch. Its original take felt personal and with access to great characters, it was able to explore dark and light themes in a fresh voice. It did not shy away from controversy and the judges felt that they were in good hands; whilst the direction gave viewers the room to make up their own minds. "


    Inside a Marriage

    • Ben Cheetham, Margred Pryce, Adam Spek & Ed Rousseau for NFTS
    • University/College screening

    Shilpa and Dipak have been married for 10 years. But a recent event at home has forced them to separate. Now they are left questioning, when things go wrong, what can hold a family together.

    The judges said: " This film achieved remarkable access to tell the story of a woman’s journey within her marriage, creatively exploring moments which are rarely captured. Its strong structure and themes kept the story moving along, skilfully showing viewers something new. Ambiguous to the end, it was a cracking film that the judges thought warranted a highly commended citation. "

    Warner Bros. Television Production UK Best Documentary Presenter

    MOBEEN AZHAR for Hometown: A Killing

    • Forest & 7 Wonder
    • BBC Three

    Award-winning journalist Mobeen Azhar moves back to his hometown of Huddersfield to cover the death of Mohammed Yassar Yaqub but realises that there is a much bigger story in town.

    The judges said: " The judges were unanimous in choosing Mobeen. They described him as the complete package: captivating, inquisitive and brave. He pulled viewers into the story from the first and he was invested as it was his story too, his hometown. With great sensitivity and journalistic nous he revealed the inner workings of the hidden world of drugs and violence centred around Huddersfield, with touching moments which added to his naturalness as a presenter and his credibility. "

    BBC Grierson Trustees' Award

    Asif Kapadia

    Asif Kapadia's films have taken viewers from the foothills of the Himalayas and the beaches of Argentina to the racetracks of Dubai and soon into space. He is a filmmaker that knows no bounds, yet his documentaries are intimate, revealing portraits of some of the most famous names on earth.

    Credited as the filmmaker who reinvented the documentary form, he is a multi-award winner with a trophy cabinet showcasing an Oscar, five BAFTAs, a European Film Award, Sundance and Grammy Awards as well as a Grierson for Best Arts Documentary for his landmark, Amy. This was one of three documentaries in his acclaimed trilogy Amy, Senna and Diego Maradona, focusing on the rise and fall of child geniuses and the price of fame. These ground-breaking films work dramatically like fiction movies but are constructed entirely from archive footage.

    Born in 1972 in Hackney, London, Asif’s parents came to the UK from Gujarat, India in the 60s. His international, bilingual background mixed with his rich, multicultural working-class upbringing in Hackney motivated him to travel. He shoots films around the world, his work crosses genres from drama to documentary, features to shorts, he’s always been fascinated by landscape, politics, culture and family. Asif is presently directing and executive producing an Apple TV documentary series with Executive Producers Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry focusing on mental health and well-being. And he recently announced a move into XR, creating a film about Laika, the Russian space dog.

    In receiving the BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award, Asif follows in the illustrious footsteps of previous Trustees' Award winners including documentary luminaries Dorothy Byrne, Sir Trevor MacDonald OBE, Alastair Fothergill, Louis Theroux, Sir David Attenborough, John Battsek, Molly Dineen, Nick Fraser, Alex Graham, Kim Longinotto, Kevin MacDonald, Norma Percy, John Pilger and Penny Woolcock. Acknowledged as the Oscars of the documentary world, the Trustees’ Award crowns the crème de la crème of the industry, recognising an outstanding contribution to the art or craft of documentary making.


    Awards Programme

    Download the Grierson 2020: the British Documentary Awards programme.



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