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A Tribute To Roger Graef

2 June 2014

To recognise the outstanding contribution Roger Graef has made to television documentary, BAFTA held a Tribute evening to celebrate Graef's groundbreaking body of work.

On 12 May 2014, BAFTA held a Tribute evening to celebrate Roger Graef’s 50th year as a filmmaker. During the event Graef looked back over his career in conversation with BBC One controller Charlotte Moore and delivered a 12 point manifesto that “will help filmmakers and commissioners build on the current success of documentaries.” Matters of justice have always been close to Roger’s heart - he first chose theatre as the medium through which to harness his passion for conveying important human stories. This then led to the start of an illustrious career in TV, beginning in 1964 with One Of Them Is Brett, a film commissioned by The Society for the Aid of Thalidomide Children to show head teachers of infants’ schools that children who lack limbs can still have perfectly good brains.

Well-made documentaries are islands of evidence and tools for change in a sea of noise

Graef's other credits include In the Name of Allah - the first full-length film on Islam for Western television, as well as the first Amnesty International film, Pleasure at Her Majesty’s and BAFTA-winning experimental prison musical Feltham Sings (2002). As a director, producer and executive producer, BAFTA award-winning Roger has been responsible for more than 160 documentaries to date spanning current affairs, criminal justice, communication, business, city planning and architecture, science, comedy and the arts.

During the celebratory evening, footage of Graef's work was shown and the filmmaker received personal tributes from colleagues & friends Michael Palin, Richard Klein, Jay Hunt, Tom Giles and many more admirers from the industry. In conversation with Charlotte Moore, Graef revealed what inspired him to bring difficult issues into people's homes, whilst reflecting on his work to date and his high hopes for the future of filmmaking. 

Graef also used the Tribute evening as an opportunity to outline his manifesto for the future of filmmaking. Graef covered the problems that filmmakers face in the fight for ratings and urged them to "make room for failure", because "commissioners need the time and the freedom to take more risks."

Blurring the line between current affairs and documentaries helps to bring the human face to stories that are only summarised by the news

Graef made clear the importance of "letting subjects speak for themselves" and remembering that "documentaries are not fact-driven, even though they’re factual."