Feeling your way around a cave in the dark: a quick guide to Denmark winning at the Emmys

Syrian director Feras Fayyad’s ‘The Cave’ grabs two gongs, but is it the best documentary? We’ll never know!

‘Denmark triumphing at the Emmys’ has been doing the rounds on the front pages and social media today, but you’d be forgiven for feeling a little confused.

First off, ‘The Cave’, a Danish-produced documentary made by Syrian director Feras Fayyad that has won two Emmys, did not pick up the awards on Sunday.

No, it was at a different ceremony 24 hours earlier – bereft of star quality and razzamatazz, most media don’t tend to pay it much attention.  

There are a ridiculous number of Emmys these days. In fact, ask how many on Google, and it will tell you “numerous”.

Even AI can’t be bothered to count them.

Not the best documentary … well, maybe one of them
Up until 2015, a theatrical release documentary like ‘The Cave’ was ineligible to win an Emmy – they’re TV awards, after all – but then they changed the rules to permit films that have been at the cinemas for over 70 days to compete.

But instead of freeing up films like ‘The Cave’ to win the ‘best documentary’ award, the long-established ‘Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special’, they instead compete for the ‘Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking’ gong, a category established in 2005. 

The nominations and winner of the award are selected by a jury made up of ‘experienced filmmakers’, which makes it sound more like a manager’s player of the year award than a fans’ MVP.

Upon receiving the award, the film’s producers, Sigrid Dyekjær and Kirstine Barfod, paid tribute to “all those who are still fighting the atrocities in Syria”. 

Out-of-this-world award for cinematography
In addition, ‘The Cave’ also won the award for ‘Outstanding Cinematography For A Nonfiction Program’, which sounds like a lesser award, but is in fact vastly superior, as all documentary series and films were under consideration. 

In fact, as an added coup … no, you can call this a scalp … it only went and beat ‘Apollo 11’, for which the cinematography was attributed to … Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin! Who’s moonwalking now?

However, Fayyad missed out in the best director category (to Neil Armstrong … no, we jest).

The title of the documentary ‘The Cave’ refers to an underground hospital in Al Ghouta run under the leadership of Dr Amani Ballour.

Sigrid Dyekjær, Dr Amani Ballour and Kirstine Barfod (photo: DR)