Grierson wins for “The House I Live In,” “Bionic Man”

Channel 4's How to Build a Bionic Man and the BBC's The House I Live In (pictured) were among the doc winners at the 2013 Grierson British Documentary Awards.
November 5, 2013

Channel 4′s How to Build a Bionic Man and the BBC’s The House I Live In (pictured) were among the doc winners at the 2013 Grierson British Documentary Awards.

Bionic Man, from Darlow Smithson Productions, took the prize for Best Science or Natural History Documentary; while House, from director Eugene Jarecki, took the award for Best Cinema Documentary.

The awards ceremony also saw Century Films and Halcyon’s Hearts Films’ BBC2 series The Secret History of our Streets picking up two prizes: the Radio Times Readers’ Choice Award and the Best Historical Documentary award.

As previously reported, producer John Battsek was honored with the Grierson Trustees’ Award.

The 41st Grierson awards were hosted by Claudia Winkleman and took place last night (November 4) in London. The full list of winners, with synopses provided by the Grierson Trust, follows below:

Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme – Domestic

7/7: One Day in London

The day after London won the Olympic bid, terrorists attacked the public transport network killing 52 people and injuring over 700. 7/7: One Day in London gathers the testimony of over 50 people directly affected by the bombings, exploring the long lasting effects as they reflect on their experiences and how their lives have changed.

Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme – International

Law of the Jungle

In 2008, the Peruvian government divided Peru into more than 100 blocks covering 70% of the territory. Exploitation rights were sold to multinational companies. Protesting against the destruction of their homes, an indigenous group occupies Pluspetrol’s airstrip.

When a policeman is killed, protesters are arrested and charged. Now they must seek to clear their names against all odds. Their only hope is their courage, an impassioned defence lawyer and an eyewitness too frightened to testify.

Best Documentary on Current Affairs

Syria: Across the Lines

Award-winning documentary maker Olly Lambert has spent weeks living deep inside Syrian territory – with both government and opposition supporters – to explore how the two-year-old conflict is tearing communities apart.

Best Arts Documentary

Imagine: The Fatwa – Salman’s Story

Salman Rushdie tells for the first time the gripping inside story of how it felt to be condemned to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and to spend the next decade in hiding.

To coincide with the publication of Rushdie’s new book, Alan Yentob has been given unique access to the author and the bodyguards who lived with him. Friends and writers like McEwan and Kureshi speak frankly, as do Rushdie’s sister, ex-wife and sons.

Best Historical Documentary

The Secret History of our Streets: Deptford High Street

In the 1880s Charles Booth visited every London street and ranked them according to their class. This film returns to Deptford High Street, to tell its story from Booth’s time to the present. Once ‘the Oxford Street of South London’, now one of the poorest shopping streets in the capital. Decimated by 60s ‘slum clearance’ – which uprooted millions of British families.

Best Science or Natural History Documentary

How to Build a Bionic Man

We are on the verge of a revolution that will allow us to replicate many of the body’s parts and organs with man-made devices. How to Build a Bionic Man follows the worldwide quest of a man who uses a bionic arm, and construction of the world’s first prosthetic human, to discover breakthroughs in body replacement technology – and the challenges they will create for us in the future.

Most Entertaining Documentary

Nina Conti: A Ventriloquist’s Story – Her Master’s Voice

Internationally acclaimed ventriloquist Nina Conti, takes the bereaved puppets of her mentor and erstwhile lover Ken Campbell on a pilgrimage to ‘Venthaven’ the resting place for puppets of dead ventriloquists.

She gets to know her latex and wooden travelling partners along the way, and with them deconstructs herself and her lost love in this ventriloquial docu-mocumentary requiem.

Best Documentary Series

The Year the Town Hall Shrank

This series tells the story of Austerity Britain through one city, Stoke on Trent. Filmed over a year, it begins as the Coalition announces the biggest spending cuts since the war. With access to Stoke City Council, local politicians have to decide what goes and what stays.

The impact on those living in one of Britain’s most deprived cities is devastating and heart-wrenching. As care homes, libraries and swimming pools are shut, this is the story of us all in Britain 2011.

Best Cinema Documentary

The House I Live In

For over 40 years, America’s ‘War on Drugs’ has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet for all that, drugs in America are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever before.

Filmed in more than 20 U.S. states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories at all levels of America’s drug war – from the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge. Together, these stories pose urgent questions: What caused the war? What perpetuates it? And what can be done to stop it?

Best Newcomer Documentary

High Tech, Low Life

High Tech, Low Life follows two of China’s first citizen-reporters as they document the underside of the country’s rapid economic development. A search for truth and fame inspires a young vegetable seller to report on censored news from the cities, while a retired businessman documents the struggles of rural villagers.

Land grabs, pollution, corruption and the growing willingness of ordinary people to speak out are grist for these bloggers who navigate China’s evolving censorship regulations.

Best Student Documentary


Sodiq dreamt of going to University and becoming a doctor in 2008. Fast-forward five years he is on trial for murder.

Director Adeyemi having a unique bond with Sodiq set up a football team on their council estate together, and made a film in 2008 celebrating Sodiq’s dream of becoming a doctor, stating at the time, he didn’t want to end up in jail.

Documentary Presenter of the Year

Grayson Perry, for All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry

Radio Times Readers’ Choice Award

The Secret History of our Streets

Grierson Trustees’ Award

John Battsek heads the film department at Passion Pictures producing a number of acclaimed documentary films. Kicking off with the multi-award winning One Day in September in 1999, Passion Pictures has gone on to produce a raft of over 25 feature documentaries with Oscar, Emmy and Grierson Award winners amongst them.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.