Grierson Awards recognise documentary talent

The who's who of the documentary world came together on Monday night (4 November) in London to celebrate another great year of filmmaking and find out which documentarians would take home the much sought-after Grierson Awards.

The awards, one of the most prestigious in the industry, Dawn Airey, chairman of The Grierson Trust said, "honour and demonstrate the determination and bravery of the filmmakers who are prepared to put themselves in harm's way, and even risk their lives, to bring the world stories they feel must be told".

The most closely watched category of the evening, the Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme - International, was presented to Law of the Jungle, an exposé by Michael Christoffersen and Hans la Cour of the indigenous Peruvians battle against the multinationals destroying their homes. The jury said the documentary was "compelling and arresting".

The other hotly contested award of the evening, Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme - Domestic, went to director Ben Anthony for his documentary 7/7: One Day in London which illustrated the lasting effects of the London bombings in which 52 people died and over 700 were injured. The simple portrait which interviews a range of survivors was called "tender and profoundly moving".

Upcoming talent was praised with two awards. First up was the Best Student Documentary category which went to Adeyemi Michael for his moving portrait of his childhood friend Sodiq on trial for murder. The jury said his film provided the audience with "privileged and unprecedented access to a hidden world that we only ever read about in the headlines."

The other award, for Best Newcomer, went to Stephen Maing for his film High Tech Low Life, which follows two of China's citizen reporters as they document the underside of the country's rapid economic growth. Alongside a portrait on controversial artist Ai WeiWei, Maing's film was the reason for a Chinese delegation to call of a visit to Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2012 and has gone on to spark international controversy. The jury commended the filmmaker for using the power of the documentary to "expose censorship and corruption everywhere".

The Bertha Foundation and documentary champions DocHouse handed out the award for Best Cinema Documentary which went to Eugene Jarecki for his film The House I Live In. Through talking to his grandmother, Jarecki refreshingly highlights the damaging consequences of America's war on drugs. The jury said the doc was "a thought-provoking film boldly taking viewers on a journey from the personal to the political while provocatively demolishing established historical truths."

The full list of award nominees and winners can be viewed on the Grierson website. 

Grierson chairman Airey said: "A Grierson award is now rightly recognised as one of the industry's most prestigious accolades. What really makes these awards special is the talent and dedication of the nominees and the scale, scope and ambition of the films they have created.

"We have documentaries featuring countries from as far afield as: Peru, India, Afghanistan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Syria, Australia, Palestine, the USA, China and Kenya, demonstrating the truly international nature of these awards.

Airey also praised UK-focussed documentaries for "shining a light on those rarely seen parts of our own society," saying the nominations covered "every strata of society".