PBS Leads 2021 Documentary Emmy Tally Thanks to ‘P.O.V.,’ ‘Frontline’

PBS dominated the documentary portion of this year’s News and Documentary Emmys, landing ten awards overall — including three for “POV” and two for “Frontline,” which are two of the public broadcaster’s long-running, signature series.

Netflix followed with four wins, then Showtime with three. The documentary Emmys were awarded on Wednesday by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the second of two individual ceremonies; categories honoring TV news were handed out on Tuesday.

“Tonight, we celebrate these documentary professionals who in the unprecedented year of 2020 delivered the insightful, clear, factual and timely filmmaking necessary to make sense of the tumultuous times that we live in,” said Adam Sharp, President & CEO, NATAS.

Ozy CEO Carlos Watson had originally signed on to host the documentary ceremony, but bowed out earlier this week following a New York Times article chronicling questionable claims and practices inside his company. Instead, the ceremony’s three presenters shared hosting dutires: Columbia Journalism School professor and documentary filmmaker June Cross; documentary filmmaker C.J. Hunt (“The Neutral Ground”) and documentary filmmaker (“The Slow Hustle”) and actor (“Body of Proof”) Sonja Sohn.

“In a year where we received more than 1,200 documentary entries, in an era where, thanks to the advent of streaming television, more people can now see this amazing work on demand across our nation, tonight we celebrate these brave filmmakers for opening their lens and our eyes to the world around us and helping us to better understand the events that affect our everyday lives in remarkable ways,” said Terry O’Reilly, Chairman, NATAS.

The 42nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards honors programming content from more than 2200 submissions that originally premiered in 2020, judged by a pool of 950 peer professionals from across the television and streaming/digital media news and documentary industry.

Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary

“Independent Lens” (PBS)
Belly of the Beast

Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary

“Kingdom of Silence” (Showtime)

Outstanding Social Issue Documentary

The Rescue List

Outstanding Investigative Documentary

“Athlete A” (Netflix)

Outstanding Historical Documentary

“Frontline” (PBS)
Once Upon A Time In Iraq

Outstanding Arts and Culture Documentary

“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” (PBS)

Outstanding Science and Technology Documentary

“The Surgeon’s Cut” (Netflix)

Outstanding Nature Documentary

“The Last Ice” (National Geographic)

Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary

“Frontline” (PBS)
Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

Outstanding Short Documentary

“POV Shorts” (PBS)
The Love Bugs

Best Documentary


Outstanding Interactive Media: Documentary

“In Event of Moon Disaster” (moondisaster.org/MIT Centre for Advanced Virtuality)

Outstanding Writing: Documentary

“The Story of Plastic” (Discovery Channel)
Writers: Kyle Cadotte, Tony Hale, Megan Ponder, Deia Schlosberg, Brian Wilson, Stiv Wilson

Outstanding Research: Documentary

“Independent Lens” (PBS)
Feels Good Man

Outstanding Direction: Documentary

“The Trade” (Showtime)
Director: Matthew Heineman

Outstanding Cinematography: Documentary

“The Trade” (Showtime)
Directors of Photography: Jacopo Campaiola, Pablo Durana, Nicholas Kraus, Ross McDonnell, Max Preiss

Outstanding Editing: Documentary

“Father Soldier Son” (Netflix)
Editor: Amy Foote

Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction: Documentary

“Alien Worlds” (Netflix)
Creative Directors: Paul Simpson, Simon Wood Graphics Producer Sebastian Read

Outstanding Music Composition

“Primates” (PBS)
Composers: Adam Lukas, Denise Santos

Outstanding Sound

“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” (PBS)

Outstanding Lighting Direction and Scenic Design

“Alabama Snake” (HBO Documentary Films/HBO)

Breakdown by Network, Show, Program or Segment

PBS 10
“POV” 3
“Frontline” 2
“Independent Lens” 2
“Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool” 2
“Primates” 1

Netflix 4
“Athlete A” 1
“Father Soldier Son” 1
“Alien Worlds” 1
“The Surgeon’s Cut” 1

Showtime 3
“The Trade” 2
“Kingdom of Silence” 1

Discovery Channel 1


moondisaster.org / MIT Centre for Advanced Virtuality 1

National Geographic 1

The 42nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards were produced by NATAS with Adam Sharp and Steve Ulrich, Executive Producers. The ceremong was directed and co-executive produced by David Parks of Viewfinder, and is available on the web at Watch.TheEmmys.TV and via The Emmys app.


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