Netflix documentary on controversial rapper Kanye West – jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy – landed two awards at last night’s 50th Grierson British Documentary Awards.

The winners were spread between six broadcasters with the BBC taking five awards, Netflix won three, ITV and Channel 4 each took two and Apple TV+ and Disney+ picking up one apiece. The Best Student Documentary award went to a graduate from the University of Manchester.

There were also two special awards: legendary documentary-maker, the late Roger Graef OBE, was named BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award winner; and founder of industry support group We Are Doc Women, Clare Richards, won the Grierson Hero of the Year Award.

Lorraine Heggessey, Chair of The Grierson Trust said: “It’s extraordinary to think that the Griersons are now in their 50th year of recognising and rewarding the brilliance of documentaries and the talented people who bring them to our screens. There could be no better way of celebrating our golden anniversary than by showcasing the incredible story-telling and innovative craftmanship of this year’s winners.”

The ceremony also took time to recognise the work and achievements of the Grierson DocLab training and mentoring scheme which is now in its tenth year. What started as a new entry scheme for eight aspiring filmmakers in 2012, has now developed into three programmes helping to bring people from under-represented groups into the factual TV industry. Ten years on, over 150 people have graduated from DocLab and are now flourishing in roles across the industry.

The ceremony was also live broadcast on YouTube:

The headline sponsor is All3Media.


Prime Video Best Entertaining Documentary
’Twas the Fight Before Christmas
Becky Read, Nic Zimmerman, Julia Nottingham, Lisa Gomer Howes, Ellie Phillips, Jane Bevan
Dorothy St Pictures – Apple TV+

The judges said: “We unanimously loved this film, complete with its eccentric central protagonist who made for compelling, hilarious and often shocking viewing. We also loved how it combined a quirky and highly entertaining tale of trouble and strife in one suburban neighbourhood with a strong underlying sense of purpose as an allegory for the political divisions at the heart of modern America. As the director’s feature debut, it’s a fantastic achievement.”

Sky Documentaries Best Music Documentary
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy – act i: Vision
Production team
A Netflix Documentary, a Time Studios Production in association with Creative Control, Leah Natasha Productions – Netflix

The judges said: “Our winning film tonight stood out from the crowd with its filmmaker fully embedded in the narrative and the viewer taken on a deeply personal journey – seeing the self-belief, self-sabotage and even the self-delusion it takes to make it in the music industry first-hand. Deftly stitching together knock backs and triumphs, the documentary told an authentic story of a musical genius on the rise, and entered a fascinating world with authenticity and candour.”

Channel 4 Best Constructed Documentary Series
We Are Black and British
Narinder Minhas, Becky Clarke, Rebecca Nunn, Lindsay Davies, Ryan Samuda, Jessica Mitchell
Cardiff Productions, The Open University – BBC

The judges said: “This film allowed us to to learn something new and insightful from the well-cast characters in the series. The thought-provoking questions and personal stories shared through the programme’s central device provided a valuable platform for debate about insufficiently explored issues – with surprising moments shining through.”

Televisual Best Current Affairs Documentary
Exposure – Afghanistan: No Country for Women
Ramita Navai, Karim Shah, Mark Summers, Eamonn Matthews, Ali Watt
Quicksilver Media – ITV

The judges said: “This film stood out as important, gripping and well-made television with incredible access in difficult and complex circumstances. It raised big issues and the journalist took viewers into the piece with real empathy and skill. The reporter and filmmaking team deserve recognition for an amazing and memorable film. But, even more, the women that participated, and are still living that life, deserve the recognition too.”

Best Arts Documentary
Salt, by Selina Thompson
Selina Thompson, Alison Ramsay, Kate Spankie, Damian Daniel, Lucy Pilkington, Denise Alder
Milk and Honey Productions – BBC

The judges said: “Salt takes viewers on a deeply personal journey, experienced and lived by millions. It’s a story about grief and colonialism, told by Selina Thompson with a strong voice and in an original way. It was moving and, in places, darkly comic. We were captivated by it.”

Red Bull Studios Best Sports Documentary
Citizen Ashe
Rex Miller, Sam Pollard, Beth Hubbard, Anna Godas, Steven Cantor, Jamie Schutz
Dogwoof, Rexpix Media, Stick Figure Productions – BBC

The judges said: “Citizen Ashe was an engaging piece which explored activism through the prism of sport. It tells the story of the life of a quiet hero whilst showcasing the physical impact of competing at such a high level, making a totally gripping watch. The viewer learns a lot about him and his hidden depths, and the film introduced his passion for his sport and activism to a new generation.”

Disney+ Best Documentary Presenter
Jamie MacDonald & Jamie O’Leary for Blind Ambition
Television Repairs – BBC
The judges said: “We loved the unusual vibe of Blind Ambition, it was unlike any documentary we’d seen seen before. The two Jamies tackled the film’s subject matter and the big themes it contained in a thoroughly authentic, engaging and not a little bit irreverent way.”

All3Media Best Student Documentary
Ten by Ten
Jami L Bennett
University of Manchester
The judges said: “The winning film was a fascinating window into a particularly important moment in time. The incredible cast of contributors burst alive on screen and the director managed to capture their personalities instantaneously. The complexity of the central character gave this short film real depth and Jami did a fantastic job of settling into this idiosyncratic world, making it an immersive watch with great use of graphics, pictures and archives too. This is a documentary with real heart and soul.”
Daughters of the Sea – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Laura Esteban
London College of Communication
The judges said: “We were completely immersed in this well-paced, generational family story which absorbed viewers into the lives of this community. Laura has a really strong grasp of their craft and storytelling, creating a very professionally executed film.”

The Talent Manager Grierson Hero of the Year Award
Clare Richards
The Open University Best Science Documentary
A Year in the Ice: The Arctic Drift
Ashley Morris, Philipp Griess, Cameron Balbirnie, Gary Hunter, Angela Neillis, Nico Hofmann
Wild Blue Media, UFA Show & Factual, Fremantle Media – Channel 4

The judges said: “We were genuinely blown away by the ambition, expertise and logistical undertaking of this epic production. Navigating a heavily scientific and technological subject with humanity, the contributors featured delivered a touching story of the global scientific community coming together, whilst recording genuine scientific results adding new information to a widely explored topic.”

BFI Doc Society Fund Best Cinema Documentary
Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)
Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, David Dinerstein, Joshua L Pearson
Onyx Collective, Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures, LarryBilly Productions, Mass Distraction Media, RadicalMedia, Vulcan Productions – Theatrical release

The judges said: “The wonderfully skilful editing, the joyful, breathtaking performance archive and the touching personal stories made this an informative, emotive and completely compelling watch. The beautifully restored and previously unseen footage, interwoven with testimony from performers and audience members alike, make what might have been a straightforward concert film into an important cultural artefact.”

Best History Documentary
The Missing Children
Tanya Stephan, Rachel Cumella, Paddy Garrick, Ella Newton, Brian Woods, Anne Morrison
True Vision, Nevision – ITV

The judges said: “The Missing Children showed humanity, integrity and diligent research. The testimonies of its contributors were compelling and balanced. We felt proud to be in the company of the investigators who peeled back layer upon layer of cruelty and horror to reveal this devastating story. Their skilful and touching storytelling is an inspiration for all documentary filmmakers.”

Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 – HIGHLY COMMENDED
David Belton, Bjørn Johnson, Hugo Godwin, Polly Allen, Helen Waddell
Yard 44, NBC News Studios – Sky Documentaries

The judges said: “We were particularly impressed by the casting and beautiful editing of a particularly creative and innovative film telling a well-trodden story. It was profoundly affecting, but never mawkish.”

Discovery Best Natural History or Environmental Documentary
The Green Planet: Tropical Worlds
Mike Gunton, Rupert Barrington, Paul Williams, James Taggart, Louis Rummer-Downing, Tim Shepherd
BBC Studios Natural History Unit with PBS, bilibili, ZDF, China Media Group CCTV9, France Télévisions, The Open University – BBC

The judges said: “This was simply exemplary natural history filmmaking with stunning visuals and outstanding camerawork, partnered with exceptional quality of writing and storytelling. Genuinely taking us, as viewers, to places we’d never been before.”

My Garden of a Thousand Bees – HIGHLY COMMENDED
David Allen, Martin Dohrn, Gaby Bastyra, Steve White, Fred Kaufman, David Guy Elisco
Passion Planet, The WNET Group, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios in association with Ammonite Films – Sky Nature

The judges said: “This was a profoundly beautiful film which celebrated the natural world in an authentic and unexpected way. We were all charmed by its slightly rustic, conversational style. It even made us cry – it’s such a wonderful, nourishing film.”

Fullwell 73 Best Documentary Short
Three Songs for Benazir
Gulistan Mirzaei, Elizabeth Mirzaei, Omar Mullick, Homayoun Noori, Jamil Rezaei, Stephen Maing
A Netflix Documentary – Netflix

The judges said: “This observational documentary told a challenging story in a truly brilliant way. The access to and intimacy with the contributors felt privileged and the three-part narrative structure beautifully teased out a moving, sad story with an entirely unpredictable end. There was an organic, natural feel to this documentary which was crafted with skilful editing and shot with integrity in challenging conditions.”

Freedom Swimmer – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Olivia Martin-McGuire, Brooke Silcox, Ron Dyens
No-Thing Productions, Sacrebleu Productions – Festival release

The judges said: “Freedom Swimmer seamlessly mixed animation and archive in a carefully considered, cohesive documentary short. Cleverly using stylistic elements to protect the contributors, the film told their story like a thriller, using sound to draw the viewer in and take them right through to the knock-out ending.”

BBC Grierson Trustees Award
Roger Graef

Envy Best Single Documentary – Domestic
Grenfell: The Untold Story
Production team
BBC Studios – Channel 4

The judges said: “This stood apart as a moving, magisterial and beautifully made film. It was well constructed, beautifully paced, respectfully scored and it brought a depth to a well-known story. The quality of the filmmaking was worthy of the scale of tragedy which brought justice to this heart-breaking story.”

Netflix Best Documentary Series
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy
Production team
A Netflix Documentary, a TIME Studios Production in association with Creative Control, Leah Natasha Productions – Netflix

The judges said: “The production team for this series made a brave decision to invest in it from early on, giving amazing access and an epic scope spanning more than 20 years from Kanye West’s embryonic steps to global stardom. The result is a fascinating story of creativity, persistence, grit and the nature – and perils – of genius.”

Molinare Best Single Documentary – International
The Reason I Jump
Jerry Rothwell, Stevie Lee, Jeremy Dear, Al Morrow
MetFilm Production, The Ideas Room, Runaway Fridge – Disney+

The judges said: “This film gaves us an insight into a world we thought we understood but soon discovered there was so much more to learn. Packed with brilliant contributors, visually beautiful and with great sound design this is an uplifting, moving and truly insightful film.”


Pippa Considine

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