PARIS — French TV festival Series Mania has chosen 16 projects from over 200 submissions and 33 countries to be presented from this morning at a strongly-attended three-day Co-Production Forum, its central industry event.
Unsurprisingly, current affairs figure strongly, with Lupa Film/Atlantique Films’ “Eden,” a French-German co-production, sure to attract interest. Previously known as “The House” and to be directed by Edward Berger, who helmed the international hit “Deutschland 83,” Eden is a multi-strand story set in seven major European and north African cities. It deals with day-to-day matters that arise in the fallout from the current refugee crisis after one of two African boys on the run from a warzone is shot dead by a security guard while hiding out at an empty holiday home in Greece.
A similar theme is explored in Conquering Lion Pictures’ “The Illegal,” from Canada, which is adapted from Lawrence Hill’s recent novel of the same name. Set in near future, it tells the story of Keita, a young marathon runner who is forced to flee a repressive government and must find shelter within a secret underground community of undocumented refugees on the margins of a neighboring Western nation, Freedom State. To stay alive and win his freedom, Keita must take part in a series of grueling marathons while eluding a corrupt regime that seeks to deport him to his own country where he faces certain death.
One of the companies with the strongest track records at the Forum is Israel’s Drama Team, who arrive with “Gastronomy.” Closer in spirit to their successful export “BeTipul” – remade as HBO’s “In Treatment” – it is an eight-part human-interest drama series in which each episode is themed around one of eight courses at a lavish New Year’s Eve dinner in Tel Aviv.
As to be expected, the Scandinavian sector has a strong and quite typically varied lineup. Perhaps encouraged by the recent Oscar brush for Tobias Lindholm’s post-Afghanistan drama “A War,” Miso Film’s six-part series “Warrior” (Denmark) – to be directed by Christoffer Boe (a Cannes Camera D’Or winner for “Reconstruction” in 2003) – is the story of a returning soldier who investigates the suicide of a man he once served with, infiltrating a gang to do so. Also from Denmark is Fridthjof Film’s “The Specialists,” a more traditional Scandi-noir in which the main character returns from seven years with America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation to head up a murder squad. He immediately fires all his staff, searching – for reasons only he knows – for the ‘specialists’ of the title.
Recent Icelandic events effected by the ongoing Panama banking scandal should attract partners to Sagafilm’s “Stella Blomkvist,” which is described by its makers as film noir rather than Nordic noir. Based on a series of eight best-selling – and pseudonymous – novels, dating back to the late ’90s and never translated into English, it follows a hard nosed lawyer who is navigating the treacherous waters of corruption and murder in Icelandic politics. Each series consists of three feature-length episodes that work independently but form a larger story arc.
Also working from a literary property, Sweden’s Yellow Bird Entertainment offers “,” an eight-part series based on Filip Alexanderson’s debut novel “Firstborn” (“Förstfödd”). Described in its homeland as “like Harry Potter for adults”, Alexanderson’s gritty fantasy tells the story of a young man who learns that he is descended from a secret race of “hidden” creatures from a world within our own, one that harbors dark secrets.
One of two projects representing the U.K., Two Brothers Pictures present “Liar,” a story that, at first glance, would appear to be as social issue drama in the style of BBC3’s recent brace of “Murdered By…” one-offs. However, as the six-part series unfolds, what starts as a story about the hot-button topic of date rape becomes something more complicated, as the protagonist’s motives come into question. The other, Vox Pictures’ “Keeping Faith,” written by award-winning crime writer Matthew Hall, is described as an “Erin Brockovich for Wales”, as a mother of three investigating her husband’s disappearance discovers that he has been living a double life using an assumed identity. She turns investigator and discovers a trail of bribery and corruption, only to find herself arrested on a charge of murder.
Surprisingly, cyber crime is represented only by Submarine’s crime series “Pwned By The Mob” (from the Netherlands, title subject to change), in which a pair of computer hackers are persuaded by a criminal gang to hack the port of Antwerp and facilitate a drug smuggling scheme. Two series, however, deal explicitly with themes of ecological crisis. Apple Film Productions’ “Pipeline” (Poland) sees a scientist taming up with an environmentalist and a policeman to find out why seals are dying in the Baltic Sea. Constantin Film’s “Let’s Save The World,” meanwhile, is the decades-spanning story of in which one woman’s journey from citizen to eco-warrior reflects the growth of the environmental movement.
Not all the projects are politically angled. Lux Vide’s “16 Knot” (Italy) is a more traditional thriller, in which a woman goes missing on a luxury cruise ship, while Makingprod’s “Flight 1618” (France) sees the entire passenger list of an Airbus go missing en route from Paris to San Francisco, to reappear in a manner that echoes US series such as “Lost”. Scarlett Productions’ “Belle Epoque” (France), deals with the backstage world of early 20th century opera via the story of two rival sisters; and “One Square Mile” (France) finds a Flemish police officer exploring the local Indian and Jewish business communities after a dramatic diamond heist in Antwerp.