The awards, widely considered the world's most prestigious honors for documentary filmmaking, are presented by The Grierson Trust, a nonprofit established in 1972 to preserve the legacy of acclaimed Scottish documentarian John Grierson (1998-1972), whose verite style has influenced succeeding generations of filmmakers.
At the opening of the awards' 40th anniversary celebration, The Grierson Trust Charmian Dawn Airey commented, "From relatively modest beginnings the Grierson Awards are now truly international and rightly considered the documentary world's equivalent to the Oscars. The past few months have demonstrated more than ever the vital role factual film-makers continue to play in not only illuminating the world around us but also in exposing wrong doing and injustice."
2012 Grierson Documentary Award Winners
From this year's record number of submissions, awards in ten categories were presented to the following documentaries:
- The Bengali Detective - Directed by Phil Cox - The Most Entertaining Documentary Award went to this heart-warming film about Rajesh and his team of private investigators who, when not busy apprehending criminals, have showbiz ambitions.
- Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die - Directed by Charlie Russell - The Best Documentary on A Contemporary Theme Awards was presented to a film that follows acclaimed author and screenwriter Sir Terry Pratchett, who is afflicted with Alzheimer's, as he travels to Switzerland to witness an assisted suicide and bring the subject into public debate.
- After Life: The Strange Science of Decay - Directed by Fred Hepburn - The Best Science Documentary Award was presented to a film that explores the work of George McGavin, whose investigations of decay provide fascinating revelations about the natural world.
- Gypsy Blood - Directed by Leo Maguire - The Best Newcomer Award was presented to this intimate profile of the relationship between Gypsy fathers and their sons, and the tradition of bare knuckle fighting. Honorable mention went to Panorama: The Truth About Adoption, directed by Clare Johns
- Bobby Fischer Against the World - Directed by Liz Garbus - The Best Cinema Documentary Award went to this theatrically released documentary about the rise to fame of American chess master, Bobby Fischer, and how celebrity impacted his life.
- Love of Books: A Sarajevo Story - Directed by Sam Hobkinson - The Best Historical Documentary was presented to this film showing how Bosnians struggled to save their capital city's cultural legacy in the face ongoing civil strife.
- The Betrayal - Directed by Karen Winther - The Best Student Documentary Award was presented to an autobiographical documentary in which the filmmaker looks at the consequences of her youthful involvement with extremist politics.
- Jeremy Deller: Middle Class Hero - A Culture Show Special - Directed by Jack Cocker - The Best Arts Documentary Award went to this profile of conceptual artist Jeremy Deller whose unconventional and sometimes controversial works have included collaborations with striking miners, brass bands, and pop fans, among other interesting groups of people.
- Hell and Back Again - Directed by Danfung Dennis - The Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme - International Award was presented to this compelling portrait of an injured American Marine who returns disabled from doing battle in Afghanistan to the huge and daunting struggle to survive in his home town.
- Protecting our Children - Directed by Sacha Mirzoeff - The Best Documentary Series Award, which recognizes excellent story-telling combined with editorial ambition, was given to the series about people who work at safeguarding the safety and well being of Britain's youth. Special mention went to Educating Essex, directed by David Clews and others.
The Grierson Trustees' Award
Additionally, each year the trustees of The Grierson Trust present a special award to a documentary filmmaker for career achievements. This year the recipient was Kevin Macdonald, acclaimed as both a nonfiction and narrative director, and the winner of numerous documentary prizes, including the 2000 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for One Day In September, and the 2004 BAFTA Award for Best British Film for Into The Void.