MADRID — In the first confirmation of its production plans, HBO España has commissioned Alea Media to develop an original adaptation of Fernando Aramburu’s bestselling novel “Patria,” with Alea Media founder Aitor Gabilondo, one of Spain’s best-known showrunners, both writing and producing.
Confirmation of the project comes after months of speculation over HBO’s Spanish production plans. Last November, HBO España launched a standalone streaming service in Spain and hired Miguel Salvat, a highly respected former director of content at Canal Plus and of premium channels at Movistar, as its commissioning editor of original programming.
“Patria” studies the impact of the Basque conflict on ordinary people on either side of the divide, such as the widow of a man shot dead by the armed separatist group ETA who returns to her home village after the 2011 ceasefire, and the mother of an incarcerated terrorist. The novel, published last year, runs to 646 pages.
Gabilondo has a deep knowledge of the Basque conflict, having been born in San Sebastián, the capital of one of its three provinces. He is a seasoned writer with a proven track record, including police procedural “El comisario” (1999-2009) and undercover cop thriller “The Prince,” the biggest primetime series hit in Spain last year. Alea Media, his new production house, was launched in January. Top Spanish TV network Mediaset España holds a 40% minority stake, and Gabilondo owns the remaining shares.
“HBO is the home for series, the place all storytellers in the world yearn to get to,” Gabilondo said. “We’re convinced HBO is the home for this unique and moving story.”
“We share Aitor’s passion and vision for the material and look forward to working with him to develop the series,” added HBO España’s Salvat.
HBO España’s production strategy is likely to be similar to that of HBO in the U.S. – namely, to “deliver limited, high-selective and unique content, the best of which may turn out to be iconic to its brand,” said François Godard of Enders Analysis. That means the sheer volume of series production at HBO España is unlikely to rival that of Telefonica-owned Movistar +, which will release about 13 high-end original series in Spain starting Friday, with “Velvet Collection,” through the end of 2018.
Not that HBO España lacks production ambition. In “Patria,” which spans 30 years of the Basque conflict, HBO España and Alea Media are set to combine high-end production values, scale, tension, multiple characters and a vision of a contemporary phenomenon: the legacy of terrorism. It is also based on a bestseller that is now being translated into several languages.
“Reading ‘Patria’ was cathartic for me. I have been all the characters of the novel at some moment of my life, or at least I’ve felt like them,” Gabilondo said. “Despite taking place in a small community, its story is common to all conflicts in the world. It challenges us with a question which is as painful as necessary after so many years of suffering, hate and death: Will we ever be able to weep together?”
Confirmation of first details on an HBO España series comes two days after HBO Nordic announced production on its first original series,“Gosta,” a comedy-drama about a child psychologist created by Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson.
Both “Patria” and “Gosta” form part of a HBO ramp-up in production in Europe. In April, HBO and U.K. pay-TV giant Sky announced a multi-year, $250-million co-financing deal to develop and produce high-end drama out of the newly founded HBO Sky Studios.
Gabilondo, who is currently in production on “Vivir sin permiso” – starring José Coronado (“El Principe”) and to be aired on Mediaset España – is currently writing “Patria.” The HBO deal on “Patria” showed that Alea Media, despite Mediaset España co-ownership, is keen to work with “other channels and platforms,” Gabilondo said.
Created in 1959, ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) was a separatist organization which killed more than 820 people until it declared a ceasefire in 2011. It is listed as a terrorist organization in Spain, the rest of the European Union, and the U.S.