Nov 24, 5:31 PM EST

France has big night at International Emmys with 3 wins; 'Downton Abbey creator honored

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NEW YORK (AP) -- France had a big night Monday at the International Emmys with a leading three awards, led by the hit crime thriller "Engrenages" ("Spiral") which won for best drama series. But the normally festive ceremony was tempered by reflections on the recent Paris attacks by Islamic militants.

"Engrenages" Executive Producer Anne Landois noted that the production team works closely with police to offer a realistic look at the French judicial system. She thanked the police for their response to the attacks and their efforts "to preserve our values."

"I would like to dedicate this award to the victims of despair and hate, and I hope that love and generosity will win in France and all over the world," said the show's star, Caroline Proust, who plays a police captain, in her acceptance remarks at the awards ceremony at the Hilton New York.

"Engrenages," won the Emmy for its fifth season in which its heroes try to unravel the double-murder of a mother and child as they plunge into a world of organized crime, drugs and girl gangs.

The Emmy for arts programming went to "Illustre & Inconnu: Comment Jacques Jaujard a Sauve le Louvre" ("The Man Who Saved the Louvre") about the French National Museums director who organized a resistance group to keep thousands of artworks out of the Nazis' hands.

"This movie is mainly about art, but it's also about resistance against barbarism," said co-director Pierre Pochart.

The other French winner was "Soldat Blanc" ("White Soldier"), about two young soldiers in Saigon whose friendship is shattered when they end up on opposite sides in the early days of the Viet Minh insurgency against French colonial rule, which took the Emmy for best TV movie/mini-series.

The tone for evening the was set by the host, Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef, dubbed "the Jon Stewart of the Arab world," who paused with the joke-making in his opening monologue to observe that "the world is still in a state of trauma" after recent attacks in Paris, Mali, Lebanon, Nigeria, Kenya and the Sinai in his home country.

"When people get together to celebrate art and creativity and the best of what the human race can aspire to we find our capacity to heal and to grow," he said. "When we laugh and do what we do here tonight, those evil bastards lose."

The highlight of the awards ceremony came when "Downton Abbey" creator and writer Julian Fellowes was presented the honorary International Emmy Founders Award by the show's executive producer Gareth Neame and actress Elizabeth McGovern, who stars as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham.

Neame noted that "Downton Abbey," which chronicles the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants amid the backdrop of such historical events as the sinking of the Titanic and World War I, is "probably Britain's most successful scripted TV export." The show wraps up its sixth and final season next month on Britain's ITV, which will begin airing in the U.S. on Jan. 3 on PBS.

McGovern said Fellowes' "all-knowing hand may have led the cast into some sticky situations both upstairs and down but the wisdom, the sensitivity and the humor of his writing was never faulted at least not for those of us who outwitted what he would call the Grim Reaper."

Fellowes noted that he was a late starter who finally got his big break when director Robert Altman asked him to write the Oscar-winning original screenplay for the 2001 film "Gosford Park." He dedicated his award to "all those men and women many more talented than I am who have never been given the chance to show what they can do."

The best actor award went to Maarten Heijmans of the Netherlands for "Ramses," which chronicles the rise and fall of the popular Dutch singer and actor Ramses Shaffy. Norway's Anneke von der Lippe won the best actress Emmy for "Eyewitness" in which she plays a small town police chief caught in the middle of a murder investigation.

Britain's only win came in the non-scripted entertainment category for "50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy," in which thrill-seeking Irish TV presenter Baz Ashmawy brought his mother along for an extreme bucket list trip around the world that had her doing such daredevil stunts as skydiving and alligator wrangling. He brought his mother to the ceremony "as proof I didn't actually kill her."

"I'm the proof that it is very hard to kill an Irish mammy," said Nancy Ashmawy.

Brazil won two Emmys. "Doce de Mae" ("Sweet Mother"), which stars veteran Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro as an aging matriarch who dispenses wisdom to her family, won in the comedy category. "Imperio" ("Empire"), about a man who becomes wealthy by smuggling precious stones only to see his empire collapse, received the Emmy for best telenovela.

South Africa's "Miners Shot Down," which covers the 2012 Marikana massacre in which government security forces fatally shot 34 striking miners, took the Emmy in the documentary category. Its director Rehad Desai dedicated the award to victims of the massacre and their families "and to the continuing fight for justice and equality in South Africa."

"Arrepentidos - El Infierno de Montoya," the story of a once successful Colombian actor who ends up in prison after agreeing to become a drug mule, won in the category for non-English language U.S. Primetime program.

Michael Douglas presented the honorary International Emmy Directorate Award to Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO of HBO. Douglas noted that when major studios turned the project down, HBO gave the go ahead to make "Behind the Candelabra," for which the actor won a Primetime Emmy for his portrayal of flamboyant gay pianist Liberace.

The awards ceremony, organized by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, honors excellence in TV programming outside the U.S.




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