Record number of female directors make the shortlist for the 2016 British Documentary Awards

More than 50 female directors make this year’s Grierson shortlist – a first in the history of the celebrated international awards.

The full shortlist

Announcing the shortlist, Lorraine Heggessey, Chairman of the Grierson Trust says, “I am delighted to see more women than ever on the shortlist following under-representation in previous years.”

Fifty-one female directors make the cut – up from 36 who were in the running at this stage last year. They dominate in two categories: Best Documentary Series and Best Constructed Documentary Series, a new category for the 2016 awards which features First Dates and Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds (Channel 4) and The Real Marigold Hotel (BBC Two) amongst its shortlisted films.

Also making their mark in the awards’ 44th year are new digital platforms. Theguardian.com makes its debut, joining Netflix, Vice Media, Russia Today, Al Jazeera, Channel Five, Sky Arts, Sky Atlantic, ITV and stalwarts BBC and Channel 4.

Says Lorraine, “This has been another year of outstanding documentaries with each category showcasing a variety of powerful and memorable films, which enlighten and inform viewers about the world we live in. It’s very heartening to see that digital platforms like Netflix, Vice and theguardian.com are funding high quality documentaries that bring fresh perspectives to our screens.”

Whilst the BBC and Channel 4 continue to dominate with 41 and 26 entries respectively, the 2016 shortlist sees the widest spread of broadcasters and channels ever represented. Theguardian.com makes its shortlist debut with We Walk Together by John Domokos.

The Grierson shortlist contains the agenda-setting documentaries of 2015/16, with Contemporary Theme and Current Affairs categories dominated by the current migrant crisis, war in Syria, life in Gaza and international terrorism – enormous, important and life-changing events. Young newcomer directors stand shoulder to shoulder with internationally acclaimed directors including Norma Percy, Asif Kapadia and Alex Gibney.

Best Natural History and Best Science become two separate categories this year. David Attenborough features with two films in Natural History as well as his own shortlist place in the Best Presenter Category.

Regarded as the ‘Oscars’ of documentary making, winning a Grierson is a coveted honour for filmmakers from across the globe. Judged by their peers, the Griersons champion and recognise filmmakers’ dedication, style and wit - the hallmarks of brilliant documentary making.

Twelve films (or their presenters) have the honour of being shortlisted in multiple categories:

  • Breaking Into Britain: The Lorry Jumpers earns director Leo Maguire a unique double as his film features on both Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme - Domestic and International.
  • Alex Gibney's Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief makes the cut in both Contemporary Theme - International and Best Cinema alongside Jerry Rothwell's How To Change the World.
  • Asif Kapadia's acclaimed and award-winning Amy features on both Best Arts and Best Cinema Documentary shortlists.
  • David Olesoga, David Attenborough and Davina McCall all feature on the Best Presenter shortlist with their films making their respective shortlists: Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners: Profit and Loss for David Olesoga in Best Historical Documentary; Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur in Best Natural History Documentary; and, Davina McCall's Long Lost Family in the new Best Constructed Documentary Series category.
  • David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough also makes the cut in Best Natural History Documentary.
  • The Hunt features on both Best Natural History Documentary and Best Documentary Series lists while The Tribe is in the line-up for Best Documentary Series as well as Best Entertaining Documentary categories.
  • Channel 4's Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Years Olds charmed the nation and the shortlisting juries for both Best Entertaining Documentary and Best Constructed Documentary Series.
  • Shortlisted Best Newcomer Marcus Plowright also makes the cut in Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme - Domestic with his film Muslim Drag Queens.

Final nominations will be announced on 20th September prior to the awards ceremony at The Mermaid, London on Monday 7 November 2016. Announcement of the BBC Grierson Trustees' Award winner will be made in the autumn.

The Grierson Trust is grateful to and generously supported by Sky Atlantic, Channel 4, the BBC, The Open University, ITN Source, Envy, Evolutions, Bertha DocHouse, the British Council, Nyman Libson Paul, Warner Bros TV Production UK, and Clockwork Capital.

The full shortlist

** Release updated 1st August following factual corrections to listings **

Published: 26 July 2016

Like us

© 2017 The Grierson Trust. All rights reserved.