News & Documentary Emmys: 'I Am Evidence' Wins Top Doc Prize; 'I Am Not Your Negro,' 'Crime + Punishment,' 'King in the Wilderness' and More Earn Trophies
Science Fair, directed by Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster, wins Outstanding Science and Technology Documentary
Two documentaries about alarming issues in law enforcement took major prizes as the 40th New and Documentary Emmy Awards were presented in New York.
I Am Evidence, the HBO film about the shocking backlog of rape kits that remain untested in jurisdictions across the United States, earned Best Documentary at the ceremony Tuesday night at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. An emotional Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: SVU, who produced the documentary, accepted the award.
You are all evidence of courage and strength and perseverance and the possibility of reclaiming a life.
"I have often said that the backlog of untested rape kits in this country says to survivors that you don’t matter and what happened to you doesn’t matter," Hargitay said while fighting through tears. "And I want to say to you - and we all made this movie to say - you matter deeply and what happened to you matters. So, you are all evidence of courage and strength and perseverance and the possibility of reclaiming a life, and you have my deep gratitude and admiration."
Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir, directors of the film, joined Hargitay on stage. When I spoke with the filmmakers two years ago, they gave me a sense of the scale of the problem documented in I Am Evidence.
"Right now we have about over 200,000 [untested] rape kits that have been counted so far from the [communities] that have reported," Adlesic told me in 2017. "So it appears this problem is just about everywhere."
Another law enforcement-centered film, Hulu's Crime + Punishment, won the Emmy for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary. The film directed by Stephen Maing explores the case of the "NYPD 12," a group of New York police officers who filed a class action lawsuit to oppose an alleged quota system that forces cops to arrest, or issue court summons to, a sufficient tally of people to pour revenue into the city's coffers.
The result of the alleged policy -- which the NYPD denies exists -- is to harass, tax and incarcerate a disproportionate number of young people of color, who serve as easy targets for officers in need of keeping up their arrest and summons totals.
"These men and women of law enforcement continue to walk a dangerous path by standing up for their beliefs," Maing said as he accepted the award, joined by some of the subjects of his film, including Lt. Edwin Raymond and Officer Richie Baez. "They need our attention and support as they continue to fight discrimination and corruption in law enforcement."
Lt. Raymond invited the parents of Trayvon Martin, the African-American teenager killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida in 2012, to come to the stage. That act alone suggests the degree to which Raymond and his fellow NYPD 12 are willing to go against a conservative "law and order" culture that so often regards young black and brown people as inherently suspect.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.