Veteran drama series writer-producer Alon Aranya (“Hostages,” “Betrayal”) and writer Pieter Bart Korthuis (“Penoza,” “Red Widow”) have teamed on “Atrocity,” a legal thriller with a global twist, set around The Hague’s International Criminal Court.
The two will pitch the series, produced out of the Netherlands by Fiction Valley, at this year’s Series Mania CoPro Pitching Sessions.
Aranya and Bart previously worked together on “Penoza,” one of Holland’s most well-respected series, later remade in the U.S. as “Red Widow.” After “Widow” had wrapped, the writers met for a coffee in Amsterdam and discussed what was on the horizon for them.
“I told him I’d started developing this show about the International Criminal Court,” Aranya recalled in a conversation with Variety, “and he gave me this weird look and said: ‘That’s what I’m doing.’”
It was clear to both of them that the time had come to team up once again. Since then, not only have they come up with a complete synopsis and bible for the first season, but finished a pilot script which is now making its way into the hands of European producers.
Before addressing the series’ specifics, Aranya first described the general thesis of the project, and a brief overview of the history of the ICC.
“In 2002 a lot of countries signed up to be part of the Court, but some major world powers didn’t,” he explained, “One of the countries that didn’t was the U.S. Others were Russia, Israel and China. The list goes on.”
That declared non-involvement is where the series lays its foundations.
“While some countries are not an official part of the Court,” he continued, “they certainly make an effort in the background to influence the outcomes of cases. The simple truth is that war crimes, atrocities and genocide don’t happen because of one person, or a group of people, and not because of one country. They happen because the party most responsible was helped by outside forces. This is where it gets complicated.”
More specifically, the series will follow lead character Denise, the daughter of an American “diplomat” – a polite way of describing a CIA operative – and a British mother who is a peace activist. Denise herself becomes a prosecutor for the ICC, using knowledge and cultural sensitivity acquired having grown up in embassies all over the world.
When assigned a new case, Denise realizes she was chosen for the job because it’s felt that she can be easily controlled. Each season of the series will represent one major case handled by Denise and the court, with the first coming from the Congo.
While good drama is the main goal of the writers, Aranya acknowledged that a series like this could have a larger social impact.
“It has become a piece that is so relevant now,” he reflected. “We sort of found a new excitement about this project because we are telling a story about another democratic instruction that has come under fire. There are forces out there trying to undermine this court and push it to the brink of collapse. If that happens there will be no court capable of trying these crimes.”
The Series Mania CoPro Pitching sessions take place on May 2.