International Newswire: Canneseries Presents Its Credentials

In today’s International Newswire, Canneseries presents its credentials; Cannes hopeful among new Icelandic projects; Mar del Plata Film Festival appoints first female artistic director; EFP backs 54 European films at Filmart; and Keshet Intl. sets up $55 million drama fund.

The inaugural Canneseries competition lineup, announced today in Paris, can be judged in various ways. The most obvious: How its competition dramas play to industry audiences and the public. That will be known by fest end, on April 11. Until then one metric that can be applied is star wattage. Among those attached to the series are Sandra Oh, who plays a desk-bound MI5 operative in “Killing Eve,” Gael Garcia Bernal, the showrunner on “Here on Earth,” and “Dexter’s” Michael C. Hall, who appears in “Safe.”

A better metric, though, is the stature of the companies backing the titles, the importance they give to them, and the creative talent behind them. Netflix, Fox Networks Group, BBC America, Vivendi, Beta Film, Telefonica and Anonymous Content, grandees of the new wave of TV production, are behind the chosen series. The companies laud the significance of their titles, such as “Here on Earth,” which Fox Networks Group says is an attempt to take Latin American drama to another level, and “Felix,” which Movistar + says is its biggest play of the first-half of this year. Of competition talent, “When Heroes Fly,” “State of Happiness” and “Miguel” are from creators/writers of “Hostages,” “Nobel” and “In Treatment.”

There are weaknesses to the lineup, however. There’s nothing to match the epic nature of last year’s “Babylon Berlin,” for example; and the U.K. companies are notably absent.

The series still have to be seen, of course, but the signs are promising.

CANNES HOPEFUL ‘WOMAN AT WAR’ AMONG ICELANDIC WORKS IN PROGRESS
Seven forthcoming Icelandic features were previewed as works-in-progress at last week’s Stockfish Film Festival in Reykjavik.

“Woman at War,” the latest from Benedikt Erlingsson (“Of Horses and Men”), is tipped for a Cannes Film Festival berth. Described by the helmer as an “action arthouse environmental thriller – and musical,” it follows a choir conductor who wants to save the world, especially the highlands of Iceland. She’s a one woman green brigade who uses sabotage to fight the capitalistic system that has created climate change. Erlingsson cleverly deploys music to illustrate the protagonist’s inner conflict. World sales of the Icelandic-French-Ukrainian co-production are with Beta Cinema.

After directing “Life in a Fishbowl” (2014), a huge local hit, Baldvin Z is in post with the drama “Let Me Fall,” about addiction in Iceland from the p.o.v. of the addicts. Based on several years of research and interviews, the film follows two girls during their teen years and then some 15 years later when their paths cross again. The Icelandic-Finnish co-production is slated for a Sept. 7 local opening.

Also of note, Ásthildur Kjartansdottir’s “The Deposit,” a drama with a social-political edge, about power and control when locals and immigrants meet, and the charming family film “The Falcons,” about the Westman Islands soccer tourney for youngsters.

CECILIA BARRIONUEVO APPOINTED ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF MAR DEL PLATA
For the first time, a woman, Cecilia Barrionuevo, has been appointed artistic director of Argentina’s Mar del Plata Film Festival, joining the select number of women – think Cairo’s Magda Wassef – who have headed up “A” grade festivals. She replaces Peter Scarlet, who says he “underestimated the difficulty of working at such a great distance from my home and family for such a long time.”

Mar del Plata showcases one of Latin America’s biggest and internationally most successful cinemas: Argentina’s. Its major challenge, as Scarlet put it, is to command the attention it deserves on the international stage. Barrionuevo has an international sensibility, co-programming Neighboring Scenes: New Latin American Cinema at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Joining Mar del Plata as a programmer in 2010, she was already one of its driving forces.

54 EUROPEAN FILMS RECEIVE EFP FUNDING AT FILMART
The marketing and sales campaigns of 54 European films at Hong Kong-set market Filmart will be boosted thanks to European Film Promotion’s Film Sales Support program. Some €106,000 ($131,000) has been earmarked for the films, which hail from 19 countries. Among the films receiving funds, which will be channeled through sales companies, are Małgorzata Szumowska’s “Mug,” the winner of the Berlinale’s Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize, Rupert Everett’s “The Happy Prince,” and Pernille Fischer Christensen’s “Becoming Astrid.” Filmart runs March 19 to 22.

KESHET INTL. LAUNCHES $55 MILLION FUND FOR DRAMA PROJECTS
Global distribution company Keshet Intl. has set up a $55 million fund, KI Fund, to bring high-profile TV and film drama projects to a global audience. The fund has been established in partnership with several of Israel’s largest holding and asset management companies, including Altshuler-Shaham, Phoenix Insurance, Arxcis Global Wealth Management and Halman Aldubi Investment House. Keshet Intl.’s catalog includes “Prisoners of War,” on which “Homeland” was based; espionage thriller “False Flag”; and International Emmy award-winning buddy comedy “Traffic Light.”

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