From ‘Delhi Crime’ to ‘Fifty,’ Breaking Down the Odds to Win at the International Emmys

Elizabeth is Missing Delhi Crime Made in Heaven International Emmys Preview
Elizabeth: Mark Mainz/PBS; Delhi: Netflix: Heaven: Amazon Studios

This year’s crop of Intl. Emmy nominees across categories feature strong and diverse showings for series and performers alike. Here, Variety breaks down the races.

Few categories sum up current trends in global TV better than drama series, which also continues to be the biggest prize at the ceremony. Three of the four titles come from big, global-reaching companies (Netflix has “Criminal: U.K.” and “Delhi Crime,” while HBO Latin America has “El Jardín de Bronce” [The Bronze Garden 2”] with “Charité 2” coming from Ufa Fiction), and three of are also crime thrillers, still the stock-in trade of much high-end international drama. On paper, any of the four titles could win, with interrogation room-set “Criminal: U.K.” from “Killing Eve” writer George Kay, pitting cops against suspects played in memorable turns by a stone-faced David Tennant and swanking Hayley Atwell. “The Bronze Garden 2” has Argentina’s Joaquín Furriel take on a new case to honor his dead friend Doberti (Luis Luque). Set in Berlin’s renowned Charité university hospital, the second season of “Charité” unspools in 1943, weaving personal stories against the backdrop of Hitler’s rapidly failing war. However, for its chronicle of painstaking female-centric police procedure, writer-director-creator Richie Mehta “Delhi Crime,” based on the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case, may have a slight edge.

In the actor category, Arjun Mathur is the openly gay wedding planner protagonist of “Made in Heaven,” (Amazon Prime Video) set in India, a culture where homosexuality is legal but not widely accepted. In the powerful “Responsible Child,” (BBC) Billy Barratt plays a 12-year-old who is on trial for murder in the U.K. judicial system. Guido Caprino is majestic in “1994,” (Sky) the searing take on Italian politics that follows on from “1992” and “1993,” while Raphael Logam is incandescent in the second season of Brazilian crime drama “Impuros” (Fox). It should be a straight shootout between Mathur’s taboo-breaking role and young Barratt.

The best performance by an actress category is packed with heavyweights. In “Hebe,” (Globo) the series that follows on the feature film “Hebe: The Brazilian Star,” Andrea Beltrão plays real-life Brazilian television host, singer and actress Hebe Camargo. (Beltrão has already won an actress award for the feature at Brazil’s Grande Otelo Awards.) Similarly, for her turn in “Elizabeth Is Missing,” (BBC) Glenda Jackson has already won the leading actress BAFTA for her role as a woman with dementia who must solve a mystery, and that makes her seem like the one to beat. Also in the category: Yeo Yann Yann of “Invisible Stories,” (HBO Asia) which is a deep dive into Singapore’s Housing Development Board projects and arrives on the back of her Golden Horse award for “Wet Season” in 2019, while Emma Bading, as the woman who finds succor online rather than in real life in “Play,” (BR) has already won the young performer category at the Bavarian TV awards.

The comedy series category is blessed with some of the best women-themed shows in years. In Israel’s “Fifty,” (Yes TV) a 49-year-old widowed screenwriter wants to achieve two goals before she turns 50: get a development deal for a comedy series, and have sex. In the U.K.’s “Back to Life,” (BBC/Showtime) a woman (Daisy Haggard) tries to return to a semblance of normal life — in a deeply conservative seaside town — after 18 years in jail. India’s “Four More Shots Please” (Amazon Prime Video) centers on upwardly mobile women who prove that “Sex and the City” can exist beyond Manhattan. Meanwhile, in Brazil’s “Nobody’s Looking,” (Netflix) a guardian angel breaks every rule in a world where the ultimate punishment is being forced to watch Nicolas Cage in “City of Angels” on a loop. Here, “Fifty” has the edge, being one of the most fresh and original series in a long time.

In the documentary category, all eyes will be on directors Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts’s moving portrait of the female experience of war, “For Sama,” which has already won at BAFTA, Cannes, SXSW and Hot Docs and was Oscar-nominated. The other nominees are no less affecting, though. In “El Testigo” (The Witness), Colombian photographer Jesús Abad Colorado revisits his work documenting the armed conflict in the region; “Terug naar Rwanda” (Back to Rwanda) looks at genocide via five deeply personal stories; and for something completely different, Korean septuagenarian women try their hand at hip-hop in “Granni-E-minem.”

Latin American-produced series continue to dominate in this category. See “Órfãos da Terra” (Orphans of a Nation), from Brazil’s Globo, which begins in spectacular fashion (a mortar attack on a family home in Syria) before becoming a tale of illicit love. Also nominated are “Pequeña Victoria” (Victoria Small), a drama-comedy hybrid and upscale take on modern motherhood first seen on Argentina’s Telefe and overseen by former cineaste Daniel Burman, as well as Portuguese powerhouse Plural Entertainment’s “Na Corda Bamba” (On Thin Ice), which centers on a couple who have committed the perfect crime but may have to commit another as the past haunts them. The fourth entry on the ballot this year marks China’s iQiyi’s first nomination: romantic fantasy “Chen Xi Yuan” (Love and Destiny), which relates the love story between the God of War and a young fair maiden. Variety’s money would be on a win by “Orphans,” for its ambition, or “Victoria Small,” for its good-humored take on progressive parenting politics.

Non-English Language U.S. Primetime Program
Univision and the Latin Recording Academy scored a nomination with the 20th annual Latin Grammy Awards out of the U.S., otherwise, logically enough, Telemundo Global Studios rules the roost with the other three nominees. These range from the Kate del Castillo-starring in the 60-part, high-end, shoot-em-up action-packed second season of “La Reina del Sur,” to political drama thriller “Preso No. 1,” produced with Keshet Intl. about a disgraced Mexican president breaking out of jail to prove his innocence; to the 10-part, largely Spain-shot, abduction thriller “No te Puedes Esconder” (You Cannot Hide). If star power, ratings and production values are anything to go by, “La Reina del Sur 2” may have the edge in this field, but it’s a category that’s very hard to call.

Arts Programming
The arts programming category is particularly joyous this year. Curated and presented by British choreographer and dancer Akram Khan, “Why Do We Dance?” (Sky) features Kenyan choreographer Fernando Anuang’a, Senegalese-French artist Germaine Acogny and flamenco legend Eva Yerbabuena, among other world artists. It is the most eye-catching of the nominees, which could help it curry favor with voters. But don’t count out the others just yet. “Jake and Charice” (NHK) chronicles Filipino singer Jake Zyrus’ journey as a transgender man; in France Television’s “Vertige de la Chute (Ressaca),” Brazil’s National Ballet fights for survival; and “Refavela 40” (HBO Brasil) revisits Gilberto Gil’s evergreen album.