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Netflix and BBC lead 2021 Grierson award winners

Staff Writer

The winners of the 2021 Grierson awards have been unveiled, and Netflix and the BBC are leading the line-up.

Each year, the Grierson Trust celebrates the best documentary filmmaking from Britain and around the world with its British Documentary Awards – more fondly known as the Griersons.

The BBC was front of the pack overall, taking home 6 awards, just ahead of Netflix with 5, Channel 4 with 2 and Sky with 1.

Keo Films’ BBC Two series, Once Upon A Time In Iraq took a double crown this year, while Yinka Bokinni won Best Presenter for her heart-breaking 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.

Here’s the full rundown of the winners:

Best Single Documentary – Domestic

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet Jonnie Hughes, Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey & Colin Butfield Silverback Films & WWF Production — Netflix

This documentary tells the story of life on our planet by the man who has seen more of the natural world than most. In 90+ years, David Attenborough has visited every continent on the globe, exploring our planet and documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder.

Best Single Documentary – International

Collective: Unravelling a Scandal Alexander Nanau, Bianca Oana, Bernard Michaux, Hanka Kastelicova & Antoaneta Opriș Alexander Nanau Production – BBC Four

In 2015, a fire at Bucharest’s Colectiv club leaves 27 dead and 180 injured. Soon, more burn victims begin dying in hospitals from wounds that were not life-threatening. Then a doctor blows the whistle to a team of investigative journalists. One revelation leads to another as the journalists start to uncover vast health care fraud. When a new health minister is appointed, he offers unprecedented access to his efforts to reform the corrupt system but also to the obstacles he faces. Following journalists, whistle-blowers, burn victims, and government officials, Collective is an uncompromising look at the impact of investigative journalism at its best.

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

Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge bears witness to the work of Russian activists rescuing victims of a governmental anti-LGBTQ purge, hiding them in safe houses, smuggling them into other countries and attempting to gain the assistance of foreign governments. This is not historical fiction, but a tragically contemporary account of an ongoing humanitarian crisis — a genocide in the making.

Best Arts Documentary

The Painter and the Thief Benjamin Ree & Ingvil Giske Medieoperatørene, VGTV, Tremolo Productions & Norwegian Film Institute Sky Arts

Desperate for answers about the theft of her two paintings, a Czech artist seeks out and befriends the career criminal who stole them. After inviting her thief to sit for a portrait, the two form an improbable relationship and an inextricable bond that will forever link these lonely souls.

Best Music Documentary

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell Production team A Netflix Original Documentary — Netflix

Featuring rare footage and in-depth interviews, this documentary celebrates the life of The Notorious B.I.G. on his journey from hustler to rap king.

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

This documentary focuses on the gymnasts who survived USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse and the reporters who exposed USAG’s toxic culture.

Best History Documentary

Once Upon a Time in Iraq – Episode 2 James Bluemel, Jo Abel, Miriam Walsh, Will Grayburn, Will Anderson & Andrew Palmer KEO Films – BBC Two

In this series, the story of the Iraq war is told by civilians, journalists, and soldiers – ordinary people from both sides of the conflict, who lived through the 17 years of chaos that followed. Told with hope, humanity and humour, and illustrated with extraordinary archive, it takes us closer to the realities of the invasion than ever before. Through their eyes we see how events in Iraq have changed the world forever.

Best Science Documentary

Locked In: Breaking the Silence Xavier Alford, Colette Hodges, Sacha Mirzoeff, Poppy Goodheart, Iris Maor & Jane Zurakowski Marble Films – BBC Four

Locked In: Breaking the Silence is an intimate, personal and surprisingly life-affirming story with a rare illness at its heart. Director Xavier Alford is finally confronting an illness he has been hiding from family, close friends and even himself. Locked In offers a fresh and unflinchingly honest perspective on the benefits of confronting the very things that scare us most, as Xavier finds that talking with fellow patients and his family makes them all stronger.

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

A filmmaker forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.

Best Entertaining Documentary

The Mole: Infiltrating North Korea Mads Brügger, Bjarte Mørner Tveit & Peter Engel Piraya Film I AS – BBC Four

A real-life undercover thriller about two ordinary men who embark on an outrageously dangerous ten-year mission to penetrate the world’s most secretive and brutal dictatorship: North Korea.

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 In this series, the story of the Iraq war is told by civilians, journalists, and soldiers – ordinary people from both sides of the conflict, who lived through the 17 years of chaos that followed. Told with hope, humanity and humour, and illustrated with extraordinary archive, it takes us closer to the realities of the invasion than ever before. Through their eyes we see how events in Iraq have changed the world forever.

Best Constructed Documentary Series

The School That Tried to End Racism Production team Proper Content — Channel 4

A new series following a pioneering British school as it tries to help its students uncover and eradicate hidden racial biases.

Best Documentary Short

A Love Song for Latasha Sophia Nahli Allison, Fam Udeorji & Janice Duncan A Netflix Original Documentary – Netflix

The killing of Latasha Harlins became a flashpoint for the 1992 LA uprising. This documentary evocatively explores the 15-year-old’s life and dreams.

Best Student Documentary

Tease Jessica Brady, Danielle Goff, Lesley Posso, Henry Sims, Alastair Mcnamara & Fabiana Tesauro National Film and Television School

A filmmaker delves into the world of online sex workers by becoming one herself. Realising it’s not as straightforward as she first thought, she begins to push her boundaries; but will it ever be enough?

Best Documentary Presenter

YINKA BOKINNI for Damilola: The Boy Next Door Acme Films — Channel 4

Yinka Bokinni grew up on the North Peckham Estate in south London – a place that became notorious when her friend, ten-year-old Damilola Taylor was stabbed and killed. But Yinka remembers an idyllic childhood, surrounded by loving family and friends in a tight-knit community. Now, at the age of 30, Yinka is ready to confront the devastating impact her friend’s death had on her community and the lives of almost everyone she knew.

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