Each year at the BAFTA TV Awards, the Academy bestows its Special Award – handed out in the past to the likes of Lenny Henry, Cilla Black and Clare Balding.
In 2017, it goes to prolific documentary executive Nick Fraser whose contribution to the genre has produced such films as Man on Wire, Project Nim and India’s Daughter.
Who is Nick Fraser?
For a man who has built his reputation as the king of documentaries, Fraser has previously admitted that “for a long time I didn’t really like them”. The 69-year-old first changed his mind back in 1994 when he saw the film Hoop Dreams and by 1997 he was the editor of the BBC’s documentary strand Storyville, a post he held for nearly 20 years until 2016. During his time at the helm, Storyville won five BAFTAs, four Oscars, 15 Griersons, three Peabodys and three International Emmys.
During his long career, Fraser’s credits include the Oscar-winning Man on Wire and Taxi to the Dark Side, the BAFTA-nominated Notes on Blindness and Project Nim, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, and India’s Daughter.
It was the latter – about the brutal rape of 23-year-old Indian student Jyoti Singh – that created a media storm back in 2015 when the Indian government banned it from being shown. Fraser’s daughter, Isabelle, recalled to The Telegraph: “after Dad persuaded the BBC to screen it, the documentary was uploaded to the internet and went viral there anyway.”
Fraser has also served as the series editor on global documentary project 2007’s Why Democracy? and has been executive producer on 2012’s Why Poverty? The upcoming Why Slavery? will see him work once again as series editor. He’s also just launched Yaddo – a documentary streaming platform – with Lawrence Elman.
Nick Fraser: “To be recognised by BAFTA for my work is such an honour, and I would like to thank the academy for this award. There is an increasing hunger for documentaries, particularly among young people, and it’s time that they are put front and centre. They have come into their own as an art form and they help make sense of the world around us. I also want to thank those talented filmmakers that I have worked with along the way. We have made some incredible films together, and will definitely continue to make more in the future.”
Fraser learned of his Special Award in January of this year, but in February suffered a stroke which has affected his speech. He will appear at the BAFTA ceremony but will be accompanied on stage by his daughter, Isabelle, who will read his acceptance speech on his behalf.
“The irony, of course, is that just as Dad is being celebrated for his storytelling, that ability has been taken away from him,” she said.
“In the meantime, I am happy to be his voice when necessary – and will be hugely proud to be up on stage with him as he accepts his BAFTA.”