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Arte marches with ‘Fighters,’ ‘Comrades’

Multimedia docu series focus on Nazism, Communism

LA ROCHELLE, France — Franco-German net Arte has joined forces with Euro partners to produce “Shadow Fighters” and “Farewell Comrades,” two multimedia docu series turning on Nazism and Communism in Europe, respectively.

Bernard George’s “Shadow Fighters” is a six parter centering on resistance fighters from 16 European countries who fought against Nazism during WWII.

Elisabeth Hulten, commissioning editor at Arte France, said at Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle that “Fighters” had been conceived as a global media event, comprising a web program, a DVD collection, a book, historical seminars and an exhibition.

“This multimedia approach allows us to explore different facets of the resistance movement,” said Hulten, adding that the net had never developed such a large scale event docu before. The documentary series is based on archives and testimonies of resistance fighters, while the website will display archived postcards that are interactive to tell individual stories of resistants.

Docu is produced by French production outfit Cineteve and co-produced by Arte France and ECPAD (the French Ministry of Defense’s communication and audiovisual branch).

“Farewell Comrades,” a six-part docu celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism, is also a cross-media event, featuring a webdoc, a smartphone application, a book, an exhibition and various events organized with institutional partners.

Helmed by Andrei Nekrasoc and Jens Becker, “Farewell” spans over 16 years and boasts testimonies of people who were either members of the Communist party or fought against it. Artline Films and Gebruder Beetz Filmproduktion are producing alongside Arte’s three branches, Arte France, Arte G.E.I.E. and Arte Deutschland.

Docu was pre-bought by Germany’s ZDF, Finland’s YLE TV1, Greece’s ERT and Switzerland’s TSR.

“Fighters” will bow on Arte in October, while “Farewell’ will roll out in January 2012.

At Sunny Side of the Doc, Arte France’s project director Vincent Meslet emphasized the network’s goal of producing more investigative and contemporary documentaries dealing with current issues in the coming years.

Addressing concerns from producers over the internal changes at Arte following the appointment of former CNC boss Veronique Cayla at the helm of the group, Arte France’s execs pointed out that the network remains one of France’s major backers of documentaries.

This year, Arte’s three branches have a combined budget of Euros 70 million ($99 million) for documentaries. Arte France’s budget went up from $38.2 million in 2010 to $50.9 million in 2011, which is mostly dedicated to co-production (only $3.6 million is spent on pickups), said Emmanuel Suard, co-topper of programming.

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