CANNES — Distribs at Mipcom are discreetly making money out of the Sept. 11 disaster as it becomes clear that anything that relates to terrorism is a hot property.
A rash of documentaries — some put together in a hurry — that aim to explain terrorism or shed light on the Arab world have quietly surfaced at Mipcom.
Canuck pubcaster sales exec Susan Hewitt said there’s great interest from current affairs departments “for anything that relates to terror.”
“They’re asking for tapes to screen so that they can air them in the next week or so,” Hewitt said.
Take Mundovision’s “Holy Terror: Beyond the Veil of Militant Islam.” The one sheet shows an angry Semite surrounded by young girls in Arab garb juxtaposed before the World Trade Center’s stricken Twin Towers. It was nixed by Mipcom execs when it was submitted as an ad in their daily publication. Instead, the ad ran without the towers.
Mundovision CEO George Matta whipped up the one-hour doc from a three-hour 1998 series, “Beyond the Veil,” to which he owns the rights.
“It was finished Oct. 1,” he told Daily Variety Tuesday. Doc aired on TVE in Spain Oct. 3, and since then he has licensed it to Belgium’s VRT, Denmark’s DR and Sweden’s SVT.
Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arabic satellite channel that owns the chilling footage of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden aired around the globe last week, has also expressed interest.
Matta says he isn’t raising the price just because the pic’s a hot-ticket item.
He’s not the only one quickly reworking material. German United TV sales manager Kim Fatheurer has sold “In the Crosshairs of the CIA,” a doc about the U.S. embassy attacks in Tanzania and Kenya, to Austria’s ORF. But she tacked 10% onto the going price. “They wanted it fast,” she said. Stations in Egypt, Italy, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland have also shown interest, she said.
Bobbi Valentine, CEO of Sante Fe-based Zia Film Distribution, is selling “Abandon All Hope: Welcome to Afghanistan,” as well as three hours of undercover footage of bin Laden’s training camps in Pakistan. An Eastern European publisher wants to distribute the doc as a CD with a daily newspaper.
“Since the market is so splintered, you have to be creative to make it worthwhile for a buyer,” Valentine said. If the deal goes through, Zia will get an advance plus royalties.
An upcoming doc on Yasser Arafat, the first feature-length doc made with the Palestinian leader’s cooperation, is being flogged by Canada’s Harmony Entertainment.
But it’s not just the small fry who are cashing in on the recent tragedy.
National Geographic Channels rented a yacht and is hosting lunches and cocktails to promote its current affairs series, “Frontline Diaries,” which debuts in the U.S. and U.K. Oct. 18 with an international rollout starting in January.
The series’ first one-hour program, “Into the Forbidden Zone,” shadows Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance who was assassinated two days before the WTC attack.
And in a different twist, WNET senior producer Andy Halper is meeting potential international co-production partners for docs that shed light on “why some portion of the world hates Americans.”
“This is a new strand for PBS, focused on foreign affairs subjects looked at in a timely fashion,” Halper said.
Discovery Networks is not selling terror-related docs at Mipcom but has gone into high gear on the production side, according to Discovery Networks exec John Ford. A strand called “Deadline Discovery” will soon devote five segments to aspects of the terrorist attacks. The global channel will also air specials called “Weapons of War” and “Deadly Germ Warfare.”
Britain’s Channel Four is offering “Twin Towers,” which explores why the WTC imploded, and “Firefighters,” a look at the effects of the disaster on firefighters’ families. Over at Granada Intl., prexy Nadine Nohr confirmed buyer interest in some of her company’s classic docs, including the self-explanatory “Sword of Islam” and “Afghanistan,” which details the war of the Afghan tribesmen against the Soviets.
Finally, Richard Propper, head of L.A.-based indie supplier Solid Entertainment, said his doc “The Great Bazaars,” which paints a positive picture of Arab culture, piqued the interest of some buyers. “But,” he added, “the one they’re really interested in is the one I have called ‘Navy Seals.’ ”
(Elizabeth Guider and Eileen Tasca contributed to this report.)