Before the red-carpet fanfare of the Emmy Awards proper, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences customarily honors the behind-the-scenes toilers who make television programming look and sound as it should. At this year’s technical awards ceremony, history was made when Lila Yomtoob, a sound editor on the HBO documentary “Baghdad ER,” became the first Iranian Jew to win an Emmy.
“Baghdad ER” chronicles two months in the day-to-day lives of doctors, nurses, medics, soldiers and chaplains working in the U.S. Army’s premier medical facility in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Brooklynite Yomtoob told the Forward. “But when I saw that I was seated in the sixth row, I had a feeling I was going to win.”
Yomtoob is one of a growing number of young Iranian Jews who — contrary to familial expectations — have made a go of it in show biz.
“I would say that my decision to get into the industry was met with skepticism,” Yomtoob said. “My parents, my family, a lot of cousins are doctors and lawyers. My father wanted the same for me, but I went ahead and did it anyway.”
After completing film school in 2000, Yomtoob worked as a freelance sound editor on a variety of film and television projects, including “Two Weeks Notice,” which starred Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, and the HBO series “The Wire.”
Yomtoob’s win comes at a time when other Iranian Jews in the United States are also being recognized for their achievements in the industry. Earlier this year, Iranian Jewish film producer Bob Yari’s independent film “Crash” won the Oscar for best picture and generated $93 million in worldwide sales.
Yomtoob says that her ultimate aspiration is to direct. She already has written, produced and directed the 2005 feature film “High Life,” about a day in the lives of five Brooklyn teens.
Karmel Melamed is an award-winning Iranian Jewish journalist, activist and attorney based in Southern California.
Iranian Jew Makes Emmy History