The 49th annual Grierson British Documentary Awards were announced last night at a ceremony hosted by Patrick Kielty.

Keo Films’ BBC Two series, Once Upon A Time In Iraq took a double crown, Yinka Bokinni won Best Presenter for her Damilola: The Boy Next Door, and there were two special awards: Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson was named BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award winner and production manager, Serena Kennedy took the inaugural The Talent Manager Grierson Hero of the Year Award.

Four broadcasters led the winners with the BBC taking 6 awards, Netflix with 5, Channel 4 taking 2 and Sky with 1. The Best Student Documentary award went to a  National Film and Television School post-graduate.

Lorraine Heggessey, Chair of The Grierson Trust said: “It’s been another extraordinary year in documentary filmmaking and our winners reflect the dynamic and sometimes tumultutous times we live in – whether wowing us with films reflecting the cutting edge of medical science, spotlighting repression and political corruption, or delving into the defining issues of our time. It is thrilling to see an industry that is thriving and continuing to make bold, powerful films told through dedication, compassion and expertise.”

The ceremony was also live broadcast on YouTube and can be found here:



Envy Best Single Documentary Domestic

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

Jonnie Hughes, Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey & Colin Butfield

Silverback Films & WWF Production — Netflix

The judges said: “The winning film focuses on the most important story of our time. Weaving together many strands of knowledge and powerful perspectives, it is underpinned by decades of research and standout filmmaking. This was visually arresting, attention-grabbing documentary filmmaking and it is a film that the jury felt everyone needs to watch.”

Molinare Best Single Documentary – International

Collective: Unravelling a Scandal

Alexander Nanau, Bianca Oana, Bernard Michaux, Hanka Kastelicova & Antoaneta Opriș

Alexander Nanau Production – BBC Four

The judges said: “[We] were completely gripped by this extraordinary film about systematic corruption and admired the way the filmmakers reveal the unfolding political scandal from the inside in a way that was understated but always intensely dramatic. This was observational documentary at its best.”

Televisual Best Current Affairs Documentary

Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge

David France, Alice Henty, Joy A. Tomchin, Askold Kurov, Tyler H. Walk & Igor Myakotin

Public Square Films – BBC Four

The judges said: “This film demonstrated the simple power of observational filmmaking. The winning film is mind-blowing, with phenomenal access to brave central characters that made for deeply disturbing revelations and amazing insight into the court case at the heart of the narrative. The use of digital deepfake was innovative and exemplary; keeping the audience immersed in the story from start to finish.”

Undercover in the Schools that Chain Boys (HIGHLY COMMENDED)

Fath Al-Rahman Al-Hamdani, Jessica Kelly, Mamdouh Akbiek, Bettina Waked, Simon Cox & Mustafa Khalili

BBC News Arabic Documentaries – BBC Arabic

The judges said: “This is an extraordinary piece of revealing filmmaking that truly shocked. The investigation was expertly held together by the reporter, made even more poignant by the fact he had a personal stake in the film. It is a prime example of powerful undercover documentary making with great access.”


Storm Best Arts Documentary

The Painter and the Thief

Benjamin Ree & Ingvil Giske

Sky Arts

The judges said: “This is an impressive piece of work. We fell in love with the film’s protagonists, becoming fully invested in their journeys. We also loved the craft of the film and how it was so artfully constructed. With amazing access, viewers got an inside track watching the contributors grow and find themselves. It is truly original and a brilliant documentary.”

Sky Documentaries Best Music Documentary

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell

Production team

A Netflix Original Documentary — Netflix

The judges said: “This film has a sociological precision and the crisp, articulate detail of the contributors made this documentary revelatory with regards to the motivations of it central subject. The film presented the inevitability of themes of drugs and violence as a Shakespearian tragedy, and used never-before seen archive and music to tell a well-rounded story.”

Best Sports Documentary

Athlete A

Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk, Serin Marshall, Jennifer Sey, Julie Parker Benello & Don Bernier

A Netflix Original Documentary in association with Impact Partners, Artemis Rising Foundation, Meadow Fund, Dobkin Family Foundation, Chicago Media Project, Grant Me the Wisdom Productions & An Actual Films Production – Netflix

The judges said: “A meticulous and devastating film and the bravery and self-possession of the contributors was at times heart-breaking. This was a great piece of journalism that was never over-blown and gradually peeled back the layers of abuse to reveal how sport – and sportspeople – can be destroyed by power and money.”

Channel 5 Best History Documentary

Once Upon a Time in Iraq

James Bluemel, Jo Abel, Miriam Walsh, Will Grayburn, Will Anderson & Andrew Palmer

KEO Films – BBC Two

The judges said: “a profound and powerful piece of work with its focussed journalism and great editing. The filmmakers deserve praise for not going for the obvious choices in their contributors but presenting viewers with credible and conflicted characters. We find it genre-defining, totally gripping and the whole package.”

The Open University Best Science Documentary

Locked In: Breaking the Silence

Xavier Alford, Colette Hodges, Sacha Mirzoeff, Poppy Goodheart, Iris Maor & Jane Zurakowski Marble Films – BBC Four

The judges said: “The winner was a marriage of poetry and science which create an exposing, challenging and brave film that was really moving. The filmmaker was exemplary at making the film’s complex central themes easy to understand, taking viewers deep into the science. We also thought that the sound design and edit were incredibly powerful too, making the film appear almost as an art installation at times, to truly elegant effect.”

The Surgeon’s Cut – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Production team

BBC Studios — Netflix

The judges said: “The sense of jeopardy was present from the outset of this gripping documentary. The interview set ups were impeccable, the use of archive extremely cool and access as impressive; complete with an engaging central character to keep the viewer invested throughout. It really humanised an otherwise clinical and removed process at the centre of the story, injecting it with a big hit of emotion. Congratulations to the whole production team.”

Discovery Best Natural History or Environmental Documentary

My Octopus Teacher

Pippa Ehrlich, Ellen Windemuth, Swati Thiyagarajan, Craig Foster, James Reed & Sam Barton-Humphries

A Netflix Original Documentary in association with Off the Fence & The Sea Change Project – Netflix

The judges said: “This winning film had a captivating narrative that captured incredible, not seen before natural history. Structurally impeccable, it was astonishing and beautiful filmmaking, which at its heart told a wonderful story that struck an emotional chord.”

YouTube Originals Best Entertaining Documentary

The Mole: Infiltrating North Korea

Mads Brügger, Bjarte Mørner Tveit & Peter Engel

Piraya Film I AS – BBC Four

The judges said: “[We] were completely gripped by this fascinating story. It was breath-taking, jaw-dropping, surreal, crazy, fearless, bombastic, beautiful and honest. If you missed it, where were you!”

Netflix Best Documentary Series

Once Upon a Time in Iraq

James Bluemel, Jo Abel, Miriam Walsh, Simon Sykes, Will Anderson & Andrew Palmer

KEO Films — BBC Two

The judges said: “We were unanimous in choosing this devastatingly powerful series as the category winner. It is a masterclass in casting with remarkable characters drawn from all sides of the events whose stories intersect in surprising and compelling ways. It is immersive with a great story arc to each episode which provided insights to both geo-political and deeply personal stories.”

Channel 4 Best Constructed Documentary Series

The School That Tried to End Racism

Production team

Proper Content — Channel 4

The judges said: The winning series has a highly original documentary format that felt fresh and raw. It had high stakes and was extremely educational, taking us and viewers on an unexpected journey along with the contributors. It never felt overly emotional but dealt with its timely issues in a measured and effective way which resulted in a poignant and thought-provoking watch.”

The Rumi Foundation Best Documentary Short

A Love Song for Latasha

Sophia Nahli Allison, Fam Udeorji & Janice Duncan

A Netflix Original Documentary – Netflix

The judges said: “The winning film crammed a lot into its short, punchy timeframe. It expertly combined music, interviews, and a whole array of visual treats. The changes in documentary style throughout was charming and effective, adding layers of texture to this touching film in a subtle and unexpected way.”


All3Media Best Student Documentary


Jessica Brady, Danielle Goff, Lesley Posso, Henry Sims, Alastair Mcnamara & Fabiana Tesauro

National Film and Television School

The judges said: “This film stood apart as its director absolutely hurled herself into a new world which made for a compelling story from the get-go. The judges were impressed by the bravery and vulnerability of the filmmaker, as well as the intelligently crafted narrative, clever use of graphics and skilful editing which combined to incredible effect.”

Best Documentary Presenter

YINKA BOKINNI for Damilola: The Boy Next Door

Acme Films — Channel 4

The judges said: “Two decades after the murder of Damilola Taylor, his friend Yinka Bokinni explored the impact of his death on herself and the Peckham community where they lived. Yinka was a compelling presence, offering a nuanced exploration of loss and trauma. This was a deeply personal and original film about what happens when you bury grief.”


Little Gem — BBC One

The judges said: “This documentary was filmed when we didn’t know much about the effects of COVID 19, and it was a completely gripping watch with genuine moments of not knowing how things were going to unfold – both for the country, and for Chris and Xand. For them to allow themselves to be filmed at their most vulnerable and for managing to offer expert medical insight whilst also revealing their personal struggles, we felt privileged to witness their journey.”



BBC Grierson Trustees Award

Tabitha Jackson


The Talent Manager Grierson Hero of the Year Award

Serena Kennedy


Jon Creamer

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