The BBC took seven prizes, Channel 4 won two and Netflix picked up one at last night’s 45th annual Grierson British Documentary Awards.

BBC2’s Exodus: Our Journey to Europe won the coveted best documentary series prize, while the best single documentary award went to BBC2’s Hillsborough.

The best historical documentary award, sponsored by Televisual, went to Netflix’s 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay.

BBC2’s Muslims Like Us won the best constructed documentary series category, while another BBC2 documentary Wild Ireland: The Edge of the World was the surprise winner of the best natural history category, beating  blockbuster Planet Earth II.

Grayson Perry made it a personal hat-trick as Best Presenter, winning for his work on Grayson Perry: All Man. His previous wins were in 2013 (All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry) and 2015 (Who Are You?).

Former Natural History Unit boss and the head of Siverback Films Alastair Fothergill was presented with the Grierson Trustees Award.

The awards were presented at a star-studded ceremony hosted by Stephen Mangan at London’s The Mermaid last night.

Chair of The Grierson Trust, Lorraine Heggessey, opened the evening saying: "Documentary filmmakers are crucial for giving us insight, provoking thought and telling stories that might otherwise be overlooked (or twisted) by the larger media. With so much media to tap into, it’s important that storytellers are able to frame things in a larger, more detailed context. In this era of fake and manipulated news, authentic voices and those who doggedly pursue the truth are needed more than ever.
The winners in full

Nyman Libson Paul Best Entertaining Documentary   
999: What’s Your Emergency? – Nobody ever said, “When I grow up I want to answer 999 calls"
James Incledon, Sam Barnes, Chris Rowe for Blast! Films; first shown: Channel 4

Televisual Best Historical Documentary   
Ava DuVernay for Forward Movement LLC & Kandoo Films; first shown: Netflix

Highly Commended
Aberfan: The Green Hollow   
Pip Broughton for BBC Studios in Wales in association with Vox Pictures; first shown: BBC Four

The Open University Best Current Affairs Documentary   

Goodbye Aleppo   
Christine Garabedian for BBC Arabic; first shown: BBC Arabic

Yaddo Best Documentary Short   
Fish Story   
Charlie Lyne for Loop; first shown: BFI Future Film Festival

ITV Best Student Documentary   
Acta Non Verba   
Yvann Yagchi for NFTS; first shown: University/College screening

Evolutions Best Constructed Documentary Series   
Muslims Like Us    
Production Team for Love Productions; first shown: BBC Two

Isle of Media Best Natural History Documentary   
Wild Ireland: The Edge of the World – Episode 1   
John Murray, Cepa Giblin for Crossing the Line Productions; first shown: BBC Two

Channel 4 Best Single Documentary – International  
Rahul Jain for Jann Pictures, IV Films & Pallas Films; first shown: General theatrical release

Highly Commended
Last Days of Solitary   
Dan Edge, Lauren Mucciolo for Mongoose Pictures in association with FRONTLINE PBS; first shown: BBC Four

Grant Thornton Best Arts Documentary   
Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories   
Nick Willing for Kismet Film Company; first shown: BBC Two

Bertha DocHouse Best Cinema Documentary   
Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg for AWD Films LLC; first shown: General theatrical release

Sargent-Disc Best Science Documentary   

Forces of Nature with Brian Cox:  Episode 2, Somewhere in Spacetime    
Stephen Cooter for BBC Studios Science with PBS co-produced by France Télévisions; first shown: BBC One

Warner Bros TV Production UK Best Documentary Presenter   
GRAYSON PERRY for Grayson Perry: All Man    
Neil Crombie, Arthur Cary for Swan Films; first shown: Channel 4

BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award
Alastair Fothergill

Splice Best Single Documentary – Domestic   
Daniel Gordon for Very Much So Productions and Passion Pictures; first shown: BBC Two

Envy Best Documentary Series   
Exodus: Our Journey to Europe    
James Bluemel, Jack MacInness, Paul Glynn, Robin Barnwell for Keo Films produced in partnership with The Open University; first shown: BBC Two

The Awards also took time to celebrate The Grierson Trust’s  training and mentoring scheme DocLab, run in partnership with Bertha DocHouse.

59 individuals have taken part so far – exploring documentary making and learning key skills; gaining access to leading filmmakers, production companies and commissioning editors at Sheffield Doc/Fest; and, working with industry mentors and sourced paid work placements with production companies and broadcasters, proving an invaluable first taste of the profession.

Tim Dams

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