CANNES – Belgian serial killer suspenser “Public Enemy,” one of a clutch of thrillers at the inaugural MipDrama Screenings, won its first Coup de Coeur Award, awarded Sunday on the eve of MipTV in Cannes.
Sold by Zodiak Rights, airing May on Belgian pubcaster RTBF, and the first TV production of Entre Chien et Loup and Playtime Films, the 10 one-hour-seg “Public Enemy” charts the impact on a community of an ex-child killer’s release from prison. He is given shelter at the local monastery – just as a new wave of child murders breaks out. Some community members want to take justice into their own hands. The female cop on the case is equally conflicted, having had her own younger sister disappear when she was a small girl.
“The series asks: ‘What do you do with monsters like child killers? After a serial killer is released from prison, can we forgive him? writer-director Mathieu Frances said at the Screenings.
One of the few dramas which has been selected for Sunday’s MipDrama Screenings and for Series Mania, which unspools from mid-month in Paris, “Public Enemy” was also one of three thrillers selected for the 12-title Official Selection of the MipDrama Screenings, along with the Fisher King/Federation Ent. “Bordertown,” also one of the Screenings favorites, and “I Know Who You Are,” from Filmax’s Arca label in Spain.
Directed by Pau Freixas, a director/writer on the Spanish original of the U.S-remade “The Red Band Society,” the Filmax Intl. and Mediaset Sales-sold “I Know Who You Are” turns on a charismatic university lecturer suspected of murdering his own niece when she disappears after a car accident which leaves him claiming near total amnesia. Fast-paced, but intricately plotted, with each episode beginning with a flashback, “I Know Who You Are” – which talks about “justice, lawyers, power and how power interferes in relationships,” said Filmax’s Ivan Diaz – suggests the large cable-heft that the more sophisticated free-to-air dramas in Spain are now acquiring.
One large question for European drama is how long Nordic Noir, which has lent a dark edge to procedurals all over Europe, can exercise an appeal. It certainly doesn’t seem to be waning. But, symptomatically, presenting “Bordertown,” another Screenings fave, writer-director Mikko Oikkonen was quick to point his series’ originality: It is set on the Finnish-Russian border; bucking a dark vision of humanity, it features a family whose members actually love each other. Yet a serial killer’s crimes are connected in some way to this family.
Running all day Sunday, with producers and writers-directors delivering a quick presentation of extracts or a promo-reel of their new drama, the Screenings served, as no doubt MipTV at large this year, to underscore the ambitions of higher-end European drama.
Kicking off afternoon screenings, EuropaCorp TV’s Edouard de Vesinne and star Pascal Greggory introduced “Section Zero,” a Canal Plus original series produced by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp and sold by Vivendi/Canal Plus’ Studiocanal, the first TV linkup between these three French powerhouses. Show-run by Olivier Marchal who created one of Canal Plus’ biggest TV drama hits, “Braquo,” it brings a film noir aesthetic and narrative to a post-Apocalypse class-cordoned urban dystopia, ruled by a bottom-line-obsessed corporation.
In another powerful combo, Frank Spotnitz (“The X-Files”) presented with Lux Vide’s Luca Bernabei a promo and three scenes from the first season of the Lux Vide lead-produced “Medici: Masters of Florence.”
Set over 1429-33, and starring Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden, Rob Stark in “Game of Thrones,” as Giovanni and Cosimo de Medici, “Medici” combines star-power, narrative tension – the first season is structured as a murder mystery – and a chronicle of the dawn of the modern age, Spotnitz argued, as Giovanni, then son Cosimo, use banking to create a new middle-class in Florence, and for wealth to seep down to poorer people, at the cost of the established order.
Co-created by Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer, “Medici’s” settings – often using the same places where the real events took place -are stunning, costumes sumptuous. Broadcaster RAI has already renewed for a second season.
Unveiling the other uber-drama at the Screenings, ITV Studios Global Entertainment world premiered the first 15-minutes of its MipTV flagship drama, “Victoria,” co-produced by PBS, which will air it in its “Downton Abbey” slot.
Based on real events, and inspired in part by Queen Victoria’s diaries, “Victoria” is created by novelist Daisy Goodwin. A coming-of-age romantic drama, it turns on a young Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman, “Doctor Who”) from her accession to the throne in 1837, aged 18, through to her marriage to Prince Albert. The 15-minutes shown emphasized how ITV have set out to tell a human story following an 18-year-old girl, played by Jenna Coleman (“Doctor Who”) who had led a highly-sheltered existence, suddenly becomes the most powerful woman in the world. Battling determinedly with her meddlesome mother, she strikes up a rapid chemistry with prime minister Lord Melbourne (a dashing Rufus Sewell).
The MipDrama Screenings also showcased two big dramas from the East. Polish actress Michalina Olszanska appeared onstage to confirm she was playing the lead role in the Rock Films Studio-produced Russian event mini-series “Mathilde,” to air in 2017 on Channel One Russia, about the future Tsar Nicholas II and world famous ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska.
Billed as the biggest Russian production since Sergey Bondarchuk’s “War and Peace,” “Mathilde” is shot on stunning locations, features over 7,000 costumes. When the producers were unable to shoot in the Kremlin’s Assumption Cathedral, where Nicholas II was crowned, they rebuilt it.
Also big-budget, announced as Polish pubcaster Telewizya Polska’s largest production in years, bio-series “Bodo,” which has just started airing, punching 20% shares on the broadcaster, turns on the icon of swinging ‘20s and ‘30s Poland, stage-film actor-director-producer Eugeniusz Bodo, who died in a Siberian labor camp.
Popular in Cannes, ZDF mini “Ku’Damm 56 – Rebel With a Cause” charts the impact of rock’ n’ roll on a stultified 1956 Berlin, spelling emancipation for the daughter of a dance academy owner.
Three of the most talked-up dramas at the MipDrama Screenings were, however, the most intimate. One, “The A Word,” is produced by Fifty Fathoms – the company behind “Fortitude,” one of Sky’s most successful original series to date – which is sold by Keshet Intl. and remakes an Israeli original. Charting the impact on a family of their five-year-old son being diagnosed with autism, “The A Word” shows how a small story can be universal, said Bambu Producciones Teresa Fernandez Valdes, a member of the Screenings’ selection committee.
The only non-European series in the lineup, Chilean ‘60s drama “Ramona,” directed by Andres Wood (“Violeta”) and lead-written by Guillermo Calderon, scribe of Pablo Larrain’s “The Club” and Nathalie Portman-starrer “Jackie,” follows two sisters. Upon the death of their mother, they flee the countryside and their boorish father to start a new life in a shanty community on a big-city outskirts. Fly Content has acquired worldwide sales rights.
Starring James Nesbitt, present in Cannes, and Genevieve O’Reilly, produced by Hat Trick Productions and written by Stuart Urban (“Tovarisch, I’m Not Dead Yet,” “May I Kill You”), admired mini-series “The Secret” delivered maybe the darkest of stories at the Screenings: How a respectable dentist persuades his lover, a Sunday school teacher, that it is God’s will that they murder their respective spouses. They get away with murder, but not with its psychological toll.
“The Secret” recreates a true-life case; half of the TV series at the Screenings are inspired by real events, in fact: Reality is stronger than fiction.