‘Sparrowhawk’ flies at French TV mart

It was most watched show at Rendez-Vous

A wide range of French drama sparked buyers’ interest at the 16th TV France Intl. Rendez-Vous, which wrapped Thursday in Biarritz.

Repped by AB Distribution, “The Sparrowhawk,” a comicbook-based series turning on an adventurous French knight, topped the list of most-watched programs at the market.

The $11.5 million skein (which comprises six one-hour episodes) has been pre-bought by Gallic pubcaster France 2 and French-speaking cable network TV5 Monde.

Another Biarritz standout was Haut et Court-produced “Xanadu,” a bold director-driven series centering on a dysfunctional family dealing with a declining porn business empire.

Sold by Film and Picture, “Xanadu” is directed by Canadian helmer Daniel Grou and French filmmaker Jean Philippe Amar. Show was developed for Franco-German net Arte, which is following Canal Plus’ footsteps in its mandate to vamp up French drama.

Buyers also showed wide interest in Mabrouk El Mechri’s “Maison Close,” a rock-and-roll period skein produced by Noe Prods. for Canal Plus.

Sold by Roissy Films, the 1871-set series turns on a high-class Parisian brothel.

“Maison Close” marks El Mechri’s first foray into TV. The French-Tunisian helmer, who’s currently lensing Bruce Willis starrer “The Cold Light of Day,” is developing another series for the French pay TV giant.

A popular French TV export, documentaries took most slots of the top-10 list of most-watched shows. “The Destiny of Rome,” a Greco-Roman docudrama, which mixes 3D animation and live action, was one the market’s highlights.

Handled by Largardere Active’s sales arm, Europe Images Intl., the miniseries was pre-bought by Arte. Deals have been inked for major territories including the U.S. (National Geographic Intl).

The Rendez-Vous once again lured most French TV sales companies and buyers from major territories looking to get a sneak peek of new shows in the run-up to Mipcom.

This year’s edition was attended by more than 60 French outfits (a 13% jump from last year), and 205 buyers (35 more than in 2009). The video library also boosted its offer with 1,250 programs, a 50% increase from last year’s edition.

“After a difficult 2009, we saw this year that buyers were back, looking for new product to fill slots,” said Mathieu Bejot, TVFI CEO. “Prices are still on the low range but sales are picking up, so there are good reasons to be optimistic.”

New Gallic sellers included high-profile film production companies like Le Petit Bureau and Le Pacte.

“As the international film market gets tougher, it’s important for us to diversify and develop our film catalog as much as possible,” explained Naomi Denamur, library sales manager at Le Pacte.

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