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by Peter Knegt
November 2, 2011 1:48 AM
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"The Arbor" Tops Grierson British Documentary Awards

Clio Barnard's "The Arbor" topped the winners of The Griersons 2011 (also known as The British Documentary Awards. The film - which blurs the lines between narrative and documentary filmmaking - won the Dochouse and The Bertha Foundation Best Cinema Documentary.

A complete list of other winners is available in the press release below.

The Grierson Trust takes great pleasure in announcing the winners of The Griersons 2011 – The British Documentary Awards supported by Sky Arts HD and Honda. Hosted by presenter and cultural commentator, Mariella Frostrup, the star-studded awards ceremony took place tonight at the BFI Southbank where the great and good of the documentary world came together to celebrate another outstanding year of film-making.

Viewers will be able to see highlights of the awards in 11 mini-docs spread throughout the Sky Arts 1 schedule throughout November or tune in to Sky Anytime from 8th November to see all the action from the complete ceremony.

Dawn Airey, Chairman of The Grierson Trust opened the evening saying: “The creativity, dedication and determination displayed by this year’s award winners demonstrate what rude health the genre pioneered by John Grierson more than 80 years ago is in. It’s especially impressive when you consider the ever-increasing pressures film-makers face.

“When it came to deciding the winners the judging day was once again robust and peppered with violent disagreements, but the final selection illustrates the sheer breadth and depth of subjects tackled by documentary makers. But it is absolutely right that these films should invoke strong passions and debate among the judges because that is precisely what documentary films should be doing in the wider world.

“It is that recognition by ones’ peers that should make winning a ‘Grierson’ the high watermark of every documentary makers’ career.”

The award ceremony kicked off as the Envy Best Documentary Series prize went to Hugh’s Fish Fight. Jury Chairman, Emma Hindley summed up the panels’ thoughts: “Hugh's Fish Fight was a brilliant piece of campaigning journalism and incredibly, managed to make fish interesting. With great passion, craft values and genuine integrity, it achieved something few TV series do: real impact, both on politics - in the shape of an EU recommendation for a discard ban - and on the suppliers, with major supermarkets agreeing to change some of the fishing methods of their suppliers.”

The Current Most Entertaining Documentary followed and was awarded to Bodysnatchers of New York. Roger Laughton chaired the judging jury and commented: “Body Snatchers of New York is a gripping and elegant account of the macabre story of a funeral parlour that traded in selling human tissue and bone without relatives’ consent. The lighting, the sound, the camerawork, the editing were all outstanding. Access to the main players in the story was remarkable. Above all, the storytelling was judged just right.”

Simon Dickson chaired the CTVC Best Newcomer Award judging panel. “Painterly but personal, the winner was chosen for its sheer joie de vivre and determination to entertain as well as educate,” he said as Storyville: Afghan Cricket Club - Out of the Ashes took the crown.

In the first of the two Contemporary Theme Awards, the Deluxe 142 Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme – Domestic went to Between Life and Death. Jury Chairman, John Battsek summed up the jury’s feelings: “The jury found the film incredibly moving and powerful and commended the director for tackling the subject with such delicate sensitivity and finesse. Everyone was profoundly affected by the content of the film and the clarity with which such a painful and tragic subject was handled.”

The ITN Source Best Historical Documentary was awarded to Fire in Babylon. Jury chairman, Angela Holdsworth admitted that: “Fire in Babylon made cricket riveting even for judges who've never watched a match. A story of sport, politics and black pride with witty interviews and pacy archive focusing on the 70s and 80s when the West Indies transformed itself into the world's number one team.”

Caring for Calum took the inaugural Sky Arts Best Student Documentary award. Charlotte Moore chaired this jury and said: “The jury was hugely impressed by this beautifully observed, poetic film. Very much in control of her material, the director showed real maturity and vision, by allowing the man's disturbing and surprising story to unravel gently to produce a film that is both touching and gripping in equal measure.”

The Bridgeman Art Library Best Arts Documentary was awarded to Bird on a Wire. Chris Durlacher, Chairman of the jury said: “Utterly compelling. Bird on a Wire is beautifully filmed and an intimate portrait of an artist at the peak of his talent. Although it was filmed almost forty years ago its recent official release means this is the first time this documentary has gained the distinction it richly deserves.”

The second of the newly divided Contemporary Theme awards followed as the Shell Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme – International was awarded to Secret Iraq – The Insurgency. Jury Chairman Terry Back commended the film: “This film covers a big subject in a very compelling fashion. It is a highly visual piece of work which is well structured, well made and is a genuinely revelatory piece of work. It stood out because it delivers very strong and unflinching storytelling and brings the subject very close to the viewer.”

Documentary doyen, John Pilger then took to the stage to accept the Honda Grierson Trustees’ Award. Dawn Airey, Chairman of the Grierson Trust said: “John Pilger is one of the world’s great documentary producers. His work has uncovered atrocity, probed the underbelly of society, sparked controversy and challenged the heart of democracy.”

The Joy of Stats then took the crown for Televisual Best Science Documentary. Jury chairman George Duffield said: “The Joy of Stats made data sing in a way only TV can do. It took a wealth of data and made a great story. In particular the jury admired the sweep from points of data to the flood of modern systems and Professor Rosling’s Tiggerish presentation. It was so unexpected and sexy to do The Joy of Stats!”

The final award of the evening, the Dochouse and The Bertha Foundation Best Cinema Documentary went to The Arbor. Jury Chairman, Mandy Chang summed up the jurors thoughts saying: “The Arbor ambushes you in a good way. This is a moving and truly original film whose courageous creative approach makes a lasting impact.”

Honda and Sky Arts HD lead a raft of new and existing sponsors and supporters of The Grierson Trust which also includes Shell International, ITN Source, CTVC, Deluxe 142, Bridgeman Art Library, The Bertha Foundation, Current, Envy and the British Council.

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