Series Mania: Argentine Drama ‘El Marginal’ Wins Grand Prix

‘Mr. Robot,’ ‘Kettering Incident,’ ‘Midnight Sun,’ ‘Beau Sejour’ among other main winners

El Marginal Wins Series Mania
Photo: N Preibende

PARIS — Perched high up in his towering armchair, the excitable Seriesmaniac – Series Mania’s new festival trophy, as created by Parisian design studio Hartland Villa – certainly seemed to have his extremely wide eyes on shows from all over the globe.

Voted for by an eclectic jury led by “The Sopranos” showrunner David Chase and comprising Israeli actress Yaël Abecassis, Anglo-Irish-French actress Amira Casar, British screenwriter Tony Grisoni and French screenwriter Fanny Herrero, Series Mania’s top Grand Prix went to gritty crime series “El Marginal” from Argentina, created by Sebastian Ortega and produced by Underground Producciones, in which an ex-cop goes undercover at a California jail to infiltrate a gang that was responsible for the kidnapping of the daughter of a senior judge.

“El Marginal’s” top Series Mania adds to the statute trove of Underground, the company behind some of Telefe’s biggest critical and ratings hits, such as “Graduados” and “Historias de un Clan.” It is also recompense for Television Publica Argentina, the Buenos Aires pubcaster which is making some of the most neo-premium TV dramas in Argentina, backing both “El marginal” and the Lucia Puenzo co-directed “Cromo.”

Television Publica has been pushing hard on drama since 2009. Elsewhere, beyond “Mr. Robot,” Series Mania multiple plaudits prized “The Kettering Incident,” the first TV drama fully-financed by Australian pay-TV giant Foxtel, “Midnight Sun,” the title which, of all series backed by Vivendi-owned Canal Plus this year, looks to have the biggest chance of breaking out internationally and Belgian Noir, with all three of its flagship titles – “Beau Sejour,” “The Break” and “Public Enemy” – in the prize mix.

Zipping over a mere 10,000km, the Special Jury Prize went to Foxtel’s “The Kettering Incident.” Created by Victoria Madden and Vincent Sheehan, the eight-part series follows the story of a doctor who returns to her Tasmanian roots and finds herself caught up in the cases of two girls who mysteriously disappeared in identical circumstances some 15 years apart.

Series Mania’s Audience Award, for which all series were eligible, drew surprised murmurs when it was announced at a prize ceremony Sunday evening that the honor was to be shared. From Belgium came deMENSEN’s fantasy noirer “Beau Séjour,” created by Nathalie Basteyns, Kaat Beels, Sanne Nuyens, and Bert Van Dael, the highest-concept of Belgian procedurals in which a teen girl’s ghost investigates her own murder, perpetrated, it seems, by a member of a close-knit community in a run-down, wane corner of Belgium.

“Beau Sejour’s” representatives took to the stage at a prize ceremony Sunday night alongside those from “Midnight Sun,” a French-Swedish production created made by Lagardere’s Atlantique Productions and Sweden’s Nice Drama, two of Europe’s highest profile high-end drama producers, for France’s Canal Plus and Swedish pubcaster SVT. Created and directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, two of the main writers on “The Bridge,” it turns on an overseas murder case which takes a French cop (Leila Bekhti) to the wilds of Sweden’s Lapland. Series creators spent much of the week telling Variety about the luxury multi-part limited series, especially if premium TV cast, gave to explore character. If its first two episodes are anything to go by, Mårlind and Stein delivered on that premise at “Midnight Sun,” in a procedural which cut insistently from the investigation to not only stunning helicopter shots of the Lapland landscape to the personal drama of the Bekhti’s character who has abandoned her own son, and that of her odd-couple Swedish investigator, a feckless public prosecutor, half Sami and gay, despised by his own police force, a misfit looking for a sense of self-worth.

As chosen by the International Press Jury, Best French-Language Series went to “The Break” (“La Trêve”), a dark premonitory procedural set in a backwards backwoods village in the Ardennes, created by Benjamin d’Aoust, Matthieu Donck, and Stéphane Bergmans, and directed by Donck in their very-first run at TV fiction.

Best Actress in a French-Language Series went to Laurence Leboeuf, for her performance in the Canadian series “Marche à l’ombre”, and Best Actor in a French-Language Series to Angelo Bison for the Belgian series “Public Enemy,” created by Antoine Bours, Gilles de Voghel, Matthieu Frances, and Christopher Yates, and directed by Frances and Gary Seghers. A child killer procedural, “public Enemy” had already topped MipTV’s first MipDrama Screenings in early April.

The French TV Series Critics Association presented a new award this year, chosen from the American series in the selection. The winner was USA’s “Mr. Robot,” adding to its Best Drama Golden Globe, created by Sam Esmail and co-directed with Niels Arden Oplev.

The Bloggers Award for Best Series went to “NSU German History X,” created by Gabriela Sperl and directed by Christian Schwochow and another sign, after “Deutschland 83” and an upbeat sales reception for ZDF Enterprises’ “Ku’damm 56” at MipTV of a revival in higher-profile  German drama with international market prospects. Finally, the Webseries Award was nabbed by “Dating Dali”, a Spanish romantic comedy web-series-come-novel with Dali, just about to make “L’Age d’Or” with Buñuel, time traveling to the 21st century.  Alonso Laporta directs; Laporta and Gon Alonso produce.