International Emmys: Host, Winners Praise Immigrants, Slam Trump Administration

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Kenneth Branagh and Anna Friel

“The International Emmys are like the World Cup of TV,” said Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani, who hosted the event. “Like the World Cup, a lot of Americans don’t know it’s happening.”

The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented awards in 11 categories for work in television around the world at the New York Hilton on Monday night. The ceremony celebrated the diversity of the community and the works, and the winners spanned eight countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Turkey, the  U.K. and the U.S.

“The International Emmys are like the World Cup of TV,” said Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani, who hosted the event. “Like the World Cup, a lot of Americans don’t know it’s happening.”

The event was truly an international affair as various languages were heard during the pre-awards cocktail conversation and even the red-carpet fashion showcased the best of various cultures, from dress kilts to glamorous kimonos.

But the event made headlines well before it started when the Television Academy, which had previously announced that the Founder's Award would go to Kevin Spacey, rescinded the honor amid claims of sexual harassment and assault against the actor. “The academy felt that in light of recent events we could not present the award to him,” said academy president and CEO Bruce Paisner.

Paisner welcomed guests to the event alongside Fred Cohen, chairman of the academy, and the gala chair Andy Kaplan, president of Sony Pictures Television Networks.

Jobrani and many of the presenters and winners advocated for immigrants and criticized the current American administration. “[President Trump] actually won on this very stage,” said Jobrani of the Hilton, where Trump hosted his 2016 election victory rally. “I know immigrants that voted for Trump because they wanted fewer taxes. They ended up with fewer relatives.”

Kenneth Branagh and Anna Friel won best performance by an actor and actress for their work on the British series Wallander and Marcella, respectively. In his speech, Branagh thanked his fellow nominees and applauded his colleagues who have worked on the show.

“It is my privilege to inhabit the fracturing mind and the troubled soul of Kurt Wallander across 10 years, 12 films and many crimes,” Branagh said from the podium, as music started to play him off. “It taught me a great deal about acting and about life, and I thank the International Academy for this beautiful fellowship of work.”

Friel received her award from Homeland star Sebastian Koch, and was visibly shocked by the win. “Thanks to America. They’ve always been so lovely to me and always supported me,” Friel said. “May you continue to do so, and may I continue to deliver.”

Norway won drama series for Mammon II, and the U.K. won comedy series for Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle.

As nominees were announced, attendees from that country would whoop and holler, with representatives from Brazil and Belgium arguably the most vocal. When Belgium won for non-scripted entertainment with Sorry About That, a large group cheered in the back corner of the room and rushed onstage.

Mexico also had a large contingent in the room to support Emilio Azcarraga Jean, chairman of the board, president, and CEO of Grupo Telelvisa. Jean received the Directorate Award. “It is also our way of saying the Mexico is a remarkable country, and we are proud to recognize Mexico and its people while we honor Emilio,” Paisner said.

Jean dedicated the award to his colleague Adolfo Lagos, who was murdered in Mexico City on Sunday night.

Larry King presented the award for documentary to the U.K. for Exodus: Our Journey to Europe.

Before King took the stage, Jobrani praised him for his interview with Marlon Brando. “At the end of that interview, Marlon Brando kissed me on the lips,” King said. “I’d never been kissed on the lips by a man up until that moment, and I got to tell you the truth tonight: I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Gotham star Crystal Reed and Westworld star Rodrigo Santoro presented the miniseries award to France for Don’t Leave Me. The Turkish series Endless Love received the award for telenovela, and the non-English programming award went to Sr. Avila. The arts programming honor went to Hip-Hop Evolution, from Canada. A new award this year, the shortform series honor, went to Germany for The Braun Family.

Other presenters included Aasif Mandvi, Melissa Villasenor, Helene Yorke and Kevin McKidd.