Israeli Film ‘Advocate’ Wins Best Documentary Emmy

Netflix's 'Athlete A' was recognized for best investigative documentary, while Matthew Heineman picked up the directing honor for 'The Trade.'

Israeli film Advocate won best documentary during Wednesday’s 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.

Directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche for PBS, the story follows the work of Israeli human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel, who throughout her career representing Palestinians has defended political prisoners as well as clients accused of extremist crimes.

Filmmaker and comedian CJ Hunt was a presenter during the evening, handing an award to the team behind Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool for best arts and culture documentary. The project was later awarded best sound.

The award for best writing went to The Story of Plastic, from director Deia Schlosberg; while Rick Rowley’s Jamal Khashoggi-centered film Kingdom of Silence was recognized as the best politics and government documentary.

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Documentary filmmaker June Cross presented the cinematography award to Ross McDonnell for Showtime’s The Trade, which examines the lives of those affected by illicit industries. Season one studied the opioid epidemic, while season two centered on human trafficking and smuggling.

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Later on in the show, Matthew Heineman picked up the directing award for The Trade.

Netflix’s Athlete A, which follows the Indianapolis Star reporters who broke the story of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser’s abuse of gymnasts such as Maggie Nichols, was awarded best investigative documentary. Meanwhile, PBS’s Frontline: Once Upon a Time in Iraq accepted best historical documentary.

Filmmaker and actor Sonja Sohn presented the science and technology documentary to Netflix’s The Surgeon’s Cut, which profiles four surgeons from around the world.

The virtual ceremony was hosted by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and followed Tuesday’s presentation of the news category winners, in which ABC’s The Shot: Race to the Vaccine and CNN’s The Death of George Floyd were among the recipients.

Wednesday’s event was streamed live on the NATAS website. View the complete winners list here.

Oct. 11, 11:42 p.m. PT: This story was updated to reflect that although Lea Tsemel has represented political prisoners during her career, Advocate focuses mostly on two clients accused of extremist crimes.