The Grierson Trust has unveiled the winners of its 44th British Documentary Awards.

Hosted by impressionist Jon Culshaw, the awards ceremony took place last night at London’s Mermaid Theatre with presenters including Idris Elba, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Miriam Margoyles and Stephen Mangan.

Three BBC2 docs won on the night, while Channel 4 and BBC1 had two winners each.

Lorraine Heggessey, Chair of The Grierson Trust said: "These winning films demonstrate the vibrant and innovative ways in which the UK documentary industry is the world leader and they give such optimism for the future of the genre."

The winners are:

Televisual Best Natural History Documentary:
The Hunt: The Hardest Challenge
Director: Huw Cordey for Silverback Films, BBC, BBC Worldwide, BBC America, The Open University, CCTV9, NDR Naturfilm; first shown: BBC One

Jury Chair, Liz Brion commented: "The Hunt has superb, jaw-dropping photography combined with compelling story-telling and a precise narrative structure which ranged in tone and pace. It kept us captivated from the opening sequence."

Dogwoof Best Arts Documentary:
Director: Asif Kapadia for On The Corner; first shown: General theatrical release

Jury Chair, James Quinn said: "Amy is a film that lives and breathes in a way that is relentlessly and powerfully emotional."

Channel 4 Best Newcomer Documentary:
Where You’re Meant To Be
Director: Paul Fegan for Better Days; first shown: Glasgow Film Festival

Chris Durlacher, Jury Chair said: "This a rare example of a filmed journey that really was a journey, both physically and emotionally, as it explores the difficult issue of how the present day deals with the past."

May Fair Hotel Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme – Domestic:
How To Die: Simon’s Choice
Director: Rowan Deacon for Minnow Films, The Open University; first shown: BBC Two

Jury Chair, Lorraine Heggessey said: "This winner stood out as a film that has incredible access to its contributors and really tugged at the heart strings making a valuable contribution to the debates surrounding these big issues. It was clear that there was a relationship of trust between the filmmaker and Simon, his family and friends resulting in a deeply moving and terrific film." 

ITN Source Best Historical Documentary:
Attacking the Devil
Directors: Jacqui Morris and David Morris for Frith Street Films Ltd; first shown: General theatrical release

Jury Chair, Tom McDonald commented: "This is a beautifully crafted film, full of passion, fire and insight. And a timely reminder of the necessary pursuit of truth."

Canadian High Commission Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme – International:
How To Change the World
Director: Jerry Rothwell for Met Film Production, Insight Productions Ltd, Daniel Films; first shown: Sundance Film Festival 2015, London

Jury Chair, Alex Cooke said: "The winner stood apart as an extraordinary film which tells a big story. It blends the brilliant use of unseen archive footage and skilful storytelling whilst capturing the spirit of idealism and friendship."

Nyman Lisbon Paul Best Entertaining Documentary:
Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds
Directors: Teresa Watkins, Emily Lawson and Nicola Brown for RDF Media; first shown: Channel 4

Amy Flanagan, Jury Chair said: "We were unanimous in our decision about the winner – which was perfectly pitched in being informative, educational and hugely entertaining. It was positive, celebratory and had a broad appeal."

Sky Atlantic Best Student Documentary:

Women In Sink
Director: Iris Zaki for Royal Holloway, University of London; first shown: UK Jewish Film Festival

Emma Hindley, Jury Chair said: "The jury were impressed with this hopeful portrait in a complex reality, offering great insight into a heated and controversial international issue. The filmmaker had clearly thought about their practice and craft as a documentary maker in an innovative and unusual way."

Warner Bros TV Production UK Best Documentary Presenter:
Paul Mayhew Archer for Parkinson’s: The Funny Side
BBC South; first shown: BBC One

Liesel Evans, Jury Chair: "What sets our winner apart is his use of humour in tackling a complicated subject in a way that felt genuine and persuasive whilst being completely charming and insightful."

Open University Best Current Affairs Documentary:
The World – Outbreak: The Truth About Ebola
Director: Dan Edge for Mongoose Pictures and Quicksilver Media; first shown: BBC Two

Christopher Hird and Clare Handford, Jury Chairs said: "The winning film told an important story powerfully with outstanding investigative journalism, compelling scenes and revelatory insights, which combined to produce an exceptional and thought-provoking piece of filmmaking.

Clockwork Capital Best Science Documentary:
Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor
Director: Nic Stacey for Furnace TV; first shown: BBC Four

Jury Chair, Sanjay Singhal commented: "This is a delightful watch, full of surprises, beautifully crafted, technically immaculate and packed with information. It made you fall in love with the subject, finding yourself asking all the way through: who knew? A lovely film."

Bertha DocHouse Best Cinema Documentary:
Cartel Land
Director: Matthew Heineman; first shown: General theatrical release

Morgan Matthews, Jury Chair said: "Terrifying, compelling and epic. Cartel Land is a film with a twisting and twisted narrative, capturing shocking and extraordinary scenes, whilst painting a layered and complex portrait of dangerous characters in a seemingly lawless world."

Evolutions Best Constructed Documentary Series:
The Real Marigold Hotel
Director: Tom Currie for Twofour; first shown: BBC Two

David Dehaney, Jury Chair said: "Beautifully observed and exceptionally executed this winner stood apart as charming and heart – warming. And funny."

Envy Best Documentary Series:
The Murder Detectives
Director: Dave Nath for Films of Record; first shown: Channel 4

Andy Whittaker, Jury Chair said: The judges had an interesting and lively debate about the four final films. It was a closely fought argument before they settled on an eventual winner. The jury felt that the overall standard this year has really raised the bar which was already set high. This is great news for the documentary community as it pulls everything and everyone up. In particular, the excellence of the access gained to communities and contributors is moving forwards incredibly."

BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award:
Louis Theroux

Presented by BBC Director of Content, Charlotte Moore, who said: "There is nobody else quite like Louis Theroux. Over the past 20 years, he has established himself as one of the most distinctive voices in filmmaking, winning critical acclaim, legions of international super-fans and a rake of awards. But Louis has never been one to rest on his laurels. He may have cut his teeth on the bizarre and the extreme, hanging out with porn stars, survivalists, revivalists, swingers and celebrities, but by the time everyone else started latching on to the power of celebrity, Louis had already graduated to more serious territory, turning his attention to some of the most complex issues we face in the modern world – addiction, paedophilia, rehabilitation, justice and collective guilt. He ploughs his own furrow, and never stands still. I believe that’s why his voice remains as unique and thought-provoking today as it was fresh and funny two decades ago."

During the evening the Awards also took time to celebrate The Grierson Trust’s training and mentoring scheme DocLab, now in partnership with Bertha DocHouse.  DocLab participants are recruited from across the UK, bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds, not just culturally, but also socio-economically and geographically. Through this initiative the Trust has given opportunities to 48 young people to explore documentary making, offering them access to leading filmmakers, production companies and commissioning editors at Sheffield Doc/Fest. The scheme also matched them with industry mentors and sourced paid work placements with production companies and broadcasters, proving an invaluable first taste of the profession.

Staff Reporter

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