Legendary documentary maker, the late Roger Graef OBE, will be posthumously honoured with the prestigious BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award in the 2022 British Documentary Awards.

Roger Graef’s illustrious filmmaking career spanned six decades and much of his work shone a light on the inner workings of the police and criminal justice system. With a passion for social justice, he made countless observational and fly-on-the-wall films for the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Channel 5 and Netflix – 30 of which centred on crime and justice – including One of Them is Brett (1965), Pleasure at Her Majesty’s(1976), World in Action: Inside Europe – The Summit (1978), Police (1982), Undercover Britain: The Child Business (1994), Feltham Sings (2002), Great Ormond Street (2010 – 2012), Panorama: The Truth About Adoption (2011), ITV Exposure: Who Cares? (2012), Panorama: Who Cares? (2019) and most recently Extinction Rebellion: For Life (2022).

Watched by millions of viewers, Graef’s significant body of work was also influential in effecting real social change. The Truth About Adoption was credited with speeding up the adoption process, Who Cares? exposed the neglect of old people in care institutions and Thames ValleyPolice: A Complaint of Rape led to changes in the way rape cases were handled.

In addition to his factual work, Graef directed the first Amnesty International Gala Benefit, The Secret Policeman’s Ball in 1979 and, with Richard Curtis, co-produced the first Comic Relief in 1984. He was a founding board member of Channel 4 and in 2004 received a BAFTA Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement, the first documentary maker to receive this status.

Roger Graef passed away in March this year.

Announcing the Trustees’ Award, Chairman of The Grierson Trust, Lorraine Heggessey says: “Roger was an inspirational figure to generations of documentary makers and championed young talent throughout his career. He had an unparalleled ability to bring about social change through powerfully told human stories and such a passion for the documentary form that he was still making films in his eighties. On a personal level I always found him supportive, encouraging and unfailingly courteous. It’s unprecedented for us to make this award posthumously but I can’t think of anyone more worthy of winning the prestigious Grierson Trustees’ Award in this our fiftieth anniversary year.”

Now in their 50th year, the Griersons celebrate the best in documentary filmmaking carrying prestige and allure for factual filmmakers from across the globe. Previous Trustees’ Award winners including documentary luminaries Tabitha Jackson, Asif Kapadia, 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 very best of the industry, recognising an outstanding contribution to the art or craft of documentary making. 

Jon Creamer

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