Finland’s Vertigo Goes Beyond Nordic Noir at Series Mania

Refugee drama ‘Layla’ to take part in Co-Pro Pitching Session

Finland’s Vertigo is moving beyond Nordic Noir with an ambitious, six-part TV series about Europe’s migrant crisis which they’ll be presenting at Series Mania.

Based on the book by best-selling Finnish novelist Jari Tervo, “Layla” is the story of a 15-year-old Kurdish girl who travels the perilous migrant route from Turkey to northern Europe, where she hopes to be reunited with her older sister.

Vertigo’s Minna Virtanen and Sagafilm Nordic’s Kjartan Thor Thordarson will be looking for financing when they present the series at the Co-Pro Pitching Session in Lille. “Layla” will be directed by the Kurdish-born, Swedish helmer Karzan Kader.

Virtanen says she was immediately drawn to the acclaimed book, and bought the rights with an eye toward developing it into a feature film. “But as a concept, it didn’t work really well,” she says.

Following the eponymous heroine as she flees an arranged marriage in Istanbul on her wedding night, “Layla” travels from the refugee camps of Italy to the brothels of Finland, taking a panoramic view of the current refugee crisis in Europe with a narrative depth, says Virtanen, that’s particularly well-suited to a longer format. “The characters have so much substance,” she says.

Virtanen estimates that 60-70% of “Layla” will be shot outside of Finland, with much of the drama unfolding in Italy and Germany. Though the novel was published in 2011, the Finnish producer has worked with Tervo to ensure the series reflects the most recent stage of Europe’s ongoing refugee drama.

“We’re on the same page, and that’s very important,” Virtanen says of the best-selling author. “He doesn’t even want to get involved with the scriptwriting process.”

Though “Layla” exposes the networks of human traffickers profiting from Europe’s refugee crisis, and reveals the dark side of the “land of white lilies” when Layla is forced into prostitution, Virtanen says the ultimately uplifting story is “like a fairy tale.”

“This [plot] sounds very horrifying, but the storyline is still full of warmth and hope,” she adds.

Earlier this month in Cannes, Vertigo won the inaugural Coup de Coeur Award at the MipDrama Buyers Summit for “Bullets,” a female-driven political thriller about an undercover cop and an ex-terrorist. “Layla” is the latest example of the company’s drive to go beyond Nordic Noir.

“I think they are just very good storylines with very strong characters,” says Virtanen.

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