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Three members of the team of the series pose, one holds the award.
Norwegian historical series 'Atlantic Crossing' was the evening's big winnerImage: Evan Agostini/AP/picture alliance
CultureGlobal issues

WWII drama wins top International Emmy

November 23, 2021

The 49th annual awards ceremony honored the best TV shows produced outside of the United States. While Netflix was once again in the spotlight, other networks also had a chance to shine.


With television shows made outside of the US becoming international hits, like  "Squid Game," this year's 49th annual International Emmy Awards were in the spotlight more than usual.

The awards are given by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to the best television shows produced outside of the United States. This year's winners were announced during an in-person ceremony in New York City on November 22, hosted by actress and comedian Yvonne Orji.

"The diversity and geographic spread of tonight's winners demonstrate once again the universal power of great storytelling and performances," said International Academy President and CEO Bruce Paisner of the event.

Indeed, this year's award ceremony was more representative than any in the International Emmy Award's decadeslong history, with 24 countries represented among the 44 nominees for 11 awards.

Historical drama 'Atlantic Crossing' crowned best mini-series

The winner of the ceremony's biggest prize — best TV movie or mini-series — was "Atlantic Crossing," a historical drama based on the life of the Crown Princess Märtha of Norway.

The series focuses on Märtha's period in the US as a war refugee following the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940 — and her interactions with President Franklin Roosevelt.

It features actress Sofie Helin as the young royal. Actor Kyle MacLachlan, famed for his role as Agent Cooper in David Lynch's series "Twin Peaks," plays President Roosevelt.

French comedy 'Call my Agent!' in the spotlight

Best comedy went to the fourth season of the French series "Call my Agent!" which centers on the lives of a ragtag group of employees running a talent agency in Paris.

Michel Feller, from left, Dominique Besnehard, Aurelien Larger and Harold Valentin pose in the press room with the Emmy for Comedy for
This year's best comedy, 'Call My Agent!' is already in its fourth seasonImage: Evan Agostini/AP/picture alliance

The show launched on streaming giant Netflix in 2015 and was inspired by the real-life experiences of former agent Dominique Besnehard. The show has also inspired remakes in other countries, according to its producer Michael Feller.

The success of the show is also thanks in part to Netflix, he told French news agency AFP. "The Netflix broadcast of the four seasons has allowed us, with a production that we could say is local, to be seen in more than 200 territories.”

British talent sweeps ceremony

British actress and playwright Hayley Squires won in the best actress category for her role as Jolene, a single mom working in the adult entertainment industry, in the drama "Adult Material" on Britain's Channel 4.

Squires also appeared in the Ken Loach 2016 film "I, Daniel Blake" and was nominated for a BAFTA award for her acting in the film.

David Tennant wearing glasses and sitting in a chair, dressed as his character in a still from the series.
Scottish actor David Tennant won best actor for playing serial killer Dennis Nilsen in 'Des'Image: ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

The best actor award went to Scotland's David Tennant for his role as narcissistic serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV's mini-series "Des." 

The three-part miniseries is based on a real-life serial killer of the same name who was arrested in 1983 after it was discovered human remains were clogging the drainage coming from his home. "This show was developed very slowly, sensitively and carefully through the years," he said as he accepted the award remotely, thanking the writers and directors of the show.

Following a dangerous mission

The best drama series went to Israeli production "Tehran," which follows an Iranian-born Mossad agent while she embarks on a mission to disable a nuclear reactor in Tehran. 

Eight members of the cast pose while holding an Emmy.
The cast of 'Tehran' celebrate winning best dramaImage: Evan Agostini/AP/picture alliance

Best documentary went to "Hope Frozen: A Quest To Live Twice," which was picked up by Netflix, spreading its reach around the world.

It follows the quest of a Thai couple who decide to have their deceased three-year-old daughter's body cryogenically preserved. It won best international feature documentary at Canada's Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival in 2019.

German former NBA player Dirk Nowitzki presented the International Emmy Directorate Award, a lifetime achievement award, to the director-general of German broadcaster ZDF, journalist Thomas Bellut.

Thomas Bellut poses with an Emmy.
Director of German TV channel ZDF Thomas Bellut received a lifetime achievement awardImage: JOHN ANGELILLO/newscom/picture alliance

The winner in the best arts programming category was the documentary film "Kubrick By Kubrick," a co-production by Temps Noir, Telemark and Arte France about the life and work of director Stanley Kubrick.

Meanwhile, best short-form series went to "INSiDE," by New Zealand-based production company Luminous Beast. It tells the story of Rose, a girl starved for social interaction during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences started to honor programming made outside the United States with what they called an "International Award" in 1963, the first international Emmy Awards were held in 1973 in their present format.

The Primetime Emmy Awards, which honor the best in US television programming, were awarded in September.

Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier