Netflix documentaries win big at 2016 Emmy Awards
While Netflix may have carved out a niche in our hearts with such exciting original content as the suspense-horror period series Stranger Things, the tension of the expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe in shows like Jessica Jones and Daredevil, and critically-acclaimed comedies like Master of None, the entertainment giant also creates some mighty compelling non-fiction shows. Among their documentaries of the past year, two titles have stood out among their peers, so much so that the Emmy Awards has seen it fit to nominate and award them for the achievements they have made.
I’m talking, of course, about Making a Murderer and What Happened, Miss Simone?, the two non-fiction Netflix Originals which won big at the 68th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Both shows tied with six nominations, four in the same category. Making a Murderer came away with four wins, while What Happened, Miss Simone? earned one.
Crime, competence (or lack of),and punishment
Winning the major award, Outstanding Documentary or Non-fiction Series, Making a Murderer is a difficult, heavy watch. Over ten episodes, the series examines the strange, sad, twisted life of Manitowoc resident Steven Avery, who served 18 years in a penitentiary before being cleared by DNA evidence of the rape he was convicted of. The documentary series spans almost thirty years, with the filmmakers dissecting the case from multiple perspectives, peeing back layers of nuance and circumstance through video and audio evidence, news coverage, interviews, photographs and more, while letting the audience weigh the case’s merits for themselves. Then, just as you think that Avery’s problems with the law end with his acquittal, he then gets charged for the murder of Teresa Halbach.
It’s an eerie, emotional back and forth, as you watch the show unfold. The information is dense and takes viewers through the entire range of emotions, which is why the series is so compelling: anger, exasperation, impatience, disgust, sympathy, sadness, outrage. One minute, you find yourself rooting for Avery only to doubt your judgment the next (and hate yourself for even thinking it). Frustration at the incompetence and even malice of the investigating officers will grate at your soul, as will the strong class issues that rear their head throughout the show.
Ultimately, what this show wants to happen is to make you think, then talk about the case, with your friends, family, colleagues. You’ll express your own opinions on the case, maybe even defend an unpopular position. Then it will make you think again. What really happened? Will the truth ever come out? Is this an isolated case or does this occur across the entire United States justice system? The world even? Whatever hypothesis and justifications you come up with, know that it will not be enough to silence the feelings and doubt nagging at your mind. Then, Season Two comes around and your ever-so-precarious conclusions come crashing to the ground.
|Making a Murderer (Season One)||Outstanding Documentary or Non-fiction Series||WON|
|Outstanding Directing for Non-fiction Programming||Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos||WON|
|Outstanding Picture Editing for Non-fiction Programming||Moira Demos||WON|
|Outstanding Sound Editing for Non-fiction Programming||Daniel Ward & Leslie Bloom||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for Non-fiction Programming||Leslie Shatz||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing for Non-fiction Programming||Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos||WON|
In What Happened, Miss Simone?, the life of celebrated singer and activist Nina Simone and her music are explored through the lens of Academy Award-nominated director/producer Liz Garbus. The documentary, co-produced by Netflix, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival late last year to much acclaim, due to its accurate, complex portrayal of the “High Priestess of Soul.”
Garbus makes judicious use of archival concert footage, including some rare clips even avid fans might be seeing for the first time, and intimate interviews with Simone’s friends, family and collaborators. She treats the documentary as a musical of sorts, underscoring key parts of the film with Simone’s iconic songs.
Yet even as the life is celebrated, Nina Simone’s personal demons and struggles are brought to the fore, including her bouts with bipolar disorder, her exit from the United States following the death of Martin Luther King, the profound emptiness she felt even as she brought inspiration for millions of African-Americans to fight for racial equality. The film pulls no punches, and presents Nina Simone’s contradictions honestly, almost as if enjoining the audience to dive into the deep with her.
|What Happened, Miss Simone?||Outstanding Documentary or Non-fiction Special||WON|
|Outstanding Directing for Non-fiction Programming||Liz Garbus||Nominated|
|Outstanding Picture Editing for Non-fiction Programming||Joshua L. Pearson||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Editing for Non-fiction Programming||Joshua L. Pearson & Dan Timmons||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for Non-fiction Programming||Tony Volante & Tammy Douglas||Nominated|
|Outstanding Cinematography for Non-fiction Programming||Igor Martinovic & Rachel Morrison||Nominated|
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