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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Arab TV stars hit Abu Dhabi for International Emmys

The semi-final round of regional voting for the November ceremony took place in the UAE on Saturday night

The judging panel for the International Emmy Awards met in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Courtesy Pyramedia

The cream of the Arab world’s TV industry were in Abu Dhabi over the weekend for the regional semi-final voting round of the International Emmy Awards, the global sibling of the well-known Prime Time Emmy Awards, which in recent years has seen shows such as Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale and Veep carry off armfuls of awards.

Among the 17-strong panel voting in Abu Dhabi were actors such as the Syrian pair Bassem Yakhour and Dima Al Jundi, the UAE’s Abdallah Bin Haidar and Hollywood’s French/Moroccan star Said Taghmaoui, as well as key industry figures such as MBC Action channel manager Ashraf Younis and Majid Channel chief Mariam Al Sarkal.

If you’re not familiar with the International Emmy Awards, don’t worry. The concept of the awards is essentially the same as the Prime Time Emmys, but for non-US shows (or US shows that are not in the English language). Last year’s winners included Best Actor Kenneth Brannagh (Wallander) and Best Actress Anna Friel (Marcella), the BBC’s Syrian refugee crisis documentary Exodus: Our Journey to Europe for Best Documentary, and Best Drama Series for the Norwegian financial crime thriller Mammon.

The awards are organised annually by the New York-based International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the sister organisation of the National Academy of International Arts and Sciences, which runs the Prime Time Emmys, and will be presented at a black tie gala in New York on November 19. The IATAS also organises the International Emmy Kids’ Awards which are presented at MIPCOM in Cannes each year, and events such as the International Emmy World Television Festival.

The IATAS’ judging manager, Jessica Franco, who spends her summer flying between 30 different host cities across the globe to different semi-final voting rounds before heading back to her New York base following the final Abu Dhabi round in September, explains: “IATAS presents and recognises excellence in TV produced outside the US, as well as US programming in languages other than English. We have a total of 20 categories from Best Actress to news, so in order to have a global perspective we divide the world into four regions. One for non-US English language production, so the UK, Canada, New Zealand and so on, one for Europe, one for Latin America and one for Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”

The voting system sounds complex, though at the same time impressively thorough. Producers and broadcasters from all around the world are able to nominate their own work in a competition that starts each year in December. These nominations are then judged online by a pool of verified experts in their respective fields across the globe, with the most successful entries passing through to the semi-final round.

The judging panels in this semi-final round then gather for a day in their respective cities, as in Abu Dhabi at the weekend, to watch and judge the shows relevant to their panels. Saturday night saw the Middle East’s short form series and kids’ factual panels gathering in the capital. Judges are supplied with a list of criteria to mark the shows against, and do not discuss the shows among themselves, or judge any shows from within their own region – that task is always carried out by other regions to avoid conflict of interest.

Sealed results are then sent from each international semi-final to multinational accounting firm Ernst and Young. Once all the results from the semi-finals are in, Ernst and Young work out the final nominees, and these shortlisted finalists go through a final round of online voting by Academy members and industry professionals before the awards are given out in November.

Unfortunately, with all the sealed envelopes and secrecy, neither Castro nor the judges were giving anything away about this year’s nominees. We’d take a stab in the dark at Netflix’s Spanish hit Money Heist making a grab for Best Drama, and a strong showing from Brazil and Mexico in the Telenovela section. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait until November.

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