2017 Documentary Award

Winners: Martin Butler, Liz Jackson, Bentley Dean and Tania Nehme, A Sense of Self, ABC TV

Award-winning television journalist Liz Jackson is no stranger to making incisive reports, but this film was new territory. Jackson had the role of both subject and storyteller in this account of her descent into Parkinson’s disease. Made by three close friends and co-directors – Jackson, her husband Martin Butler and director of photography Bentley Dean – A Sense of Self is built on a foundation of trust that allowed for a truly raw, intimate and compelling documentary about degenerative disease and its effects on a family. It’s fearless reporting, with heartbreak and humour, and touched a nerve with more than a million Australians.

Jackson graduated from the University of Melbourne before studying law in London. She joined the ABC’s Radio National in 1986, and since 1993 has worked on Four Corners, except for 2005, the year she worked as the presenter of Media Watch. With this win, Jackson has won nine Walkley awards, including the 2006 Gold Walkley.

Co-producer Butler emigrated to Australia in 1981 after studying politics and economics at Oxford University and working for the manager of The Who. He has produced award-winning long-form current affairs television for Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent and Dateline. Butler teamed up with Dean in 2007 and together they have made films including Contact, First Footprints and Tanna. They have won awards including the 2013 Walkley Documentary Award, and been nominated for an Oscar. Cinematographer and co-producer Dean participated in ABC TV’s inaugural Race Around the World series in 1997. After multiple international stories for Dateline, he shot and directed feature documentaries The President Versus David Hicks, The Siege and A Well-Founded Fear. Dean has won several cinematography awards as well as best documentary and director awards for these films.

Editor Tania Nehme has 30 years’ industry experience, cutting award-winning feature films, documentaries, TV dramas and shorts. Her key credits include the 2017 Oscarnominated film Tanna, A Sense of Self, Charlie’s Country, The Tracker, Ten Canoes, Contact, Alexandra’s Project, The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, First Footprints series, Dance Me To My Song and The Quiet Room. Nehme is currently working on a documentary about David Gulpilil.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

After a lifetime spent turning the camera on others, journalist Liz Jackson becomes the subject in this absorbing documentary about her struggle with Parkinson’s disease and its impact on those closest to her. We were impressed by her absolute courage, her vulnerability and her willingness to expose herself to get to the bigger issues relating to this degenerative disease. There’s not a sentimental bone in this story. This is a compelling, beautifully structured and utterly moving documentary of the highest calibre.