Sheffield DocFest ’22: BBC unveils slate of projects

BBC head of commissioning for documentaries, history and religion Clare Sillery announced a number of new documentary projects from the pubcaster during a session at Sheffield DocFest. The lineup includes three new documentary ...
June 28, 2022

BBC head of commissioning for documentaries, history and religion Clare Sillery announced a number of new documentary projects from the pubcaster during a session at Sheffield DocFest.

The lineup includes three new documentary films along with two new series, as well as the return of the popular true-crime title The Detectives for a fourth series.

“It’s a really exciting time for documentaries at the BBC, with recent highlights such as Uprising, House of Maxwell, Our Falklands War, Then Barbara Met Alan and Gazza demonstrating our commitment to telling distinctive British stories and bringing viewers new perspectives on recent events,” said Sillery in her announcement. “Growing and developing new talent is incredibly important to me, and I’m delighted to be announcing three impactful new single films from female directors, underscoring our commitment to 50 percent representation of women directors.”

Leading off the slate is Family 23 (w/t, pictured)  from director Niamh Kennedy (Abused By My Girlfriend), which tells the story of the first family in the world to be diagnosed with hereditary Alzheimer’s disease. The 90-minute film is produced by Expectation Factual for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer, and was commissioned by Clare Sillery. Executive producers are Colin Barr and Arthur Carey, and the commissioning editor is Emma Loach.

Also on the way is Christine McGuinness: The Secret World of Autistic Women and Girls (w/t), a follow-up to last year’s Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism. The hour-long doc will look at how autism in women and girls has been ignored and misunderstood by science and society — which tends to view the condition as something that mostly affects men — and raises questions around the effects of gender bias in diagnoses and support. The film is produced and directed by Imogen Wynell-Mayow, and is being produced by Optomen for BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Nick Hornby and Tina Flintoff serve as executive producers for Optomen, while the BBC commissioning editor is Emma Loach.

Rounding out the new documentaries is Saved: Inside AA (w/t) from director Jemma Gander, which promises unprecedented access to Alcoholics Anonymous as the organization marks its 75th anniversary in the UK. The 60-minute film explores the group’s origins, its religious foundations, and what still brings so many people through its doors. The doc is produced by Daisybeck Studios for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer, with Pamela Gordon serving as executive producer for Daisybeck. Daisy Scalchi is the commissioning editor for the BBC.

First up on the series front is a new co-commission between BBC Three and BBC Scotland, Body on the Beach (w/t), which investigates the discovery of the body of a young Swedish woman on a beach in southwest Scotland in 2005. The 4 x 30-minute series will reopen the cold case using information that is now in the public domain, as well as new evidence. Rogan Scotland is the prodco behind the series, which was directed by Liam McCardle and  executive produced by Mark Hedgecoe. It was commissioned by Fiona Campbell, controller, BBC Three, along with Louise Thornton, head of commissioning, BBC Scotland and Clare Sillery. Emma Loach is commissioning editor for BBC Three, and David Harron for BBC Scotland.

Finally, the BBC Three–BBC Wales co-commission Paranormal (w/t, 4 x 30 min.) explores a series of uncanny incidents that unfolded in a remote part of north Wales from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, as it follows a present-day investigation into the case. The series was commissioned by Fiona Campbell, Claire Sillery, and Nick Andrews, head of commissioning for BBC Cymru Wales, and is being produced by Twenty Twenty, where the director of programs is Ruth Kelly, the series director is Rory Jackson and Hugo Pettitt serves as series producer. BBC commissioning editors are Max Gogarty and Sian Harris.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.