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HBO Europe Greenlights ‘Patria,’ Its First Original Production in Spain

HBO Europe has greenlit “Patria,” its first original series out of Spain, to be written and produced by Aitor Gabilondo (“El Príncipe”) and directed by award-winning helmers Pablo Trapero and Félix Viscarret (“Under the Stars”).

The eight-part series adapts author Fernando Aramburu’s 2016 novel of the same name, one of the most acclaimed of recent Spanish bestsellers. Variety reported on the development of the project last year.

Trapero, a leading light of New Argentine Cinema who won a best director plaudit in Venice for “The Clan” in 2016, will serve as lead director. Trapero has made movies that deal with weighty social and political issues but appeal far beyond art-house audiences, such as Cannes competition contender “Lion’s Den” and Ricardo Darin-starrer “Carancho.” Viscarret, a Goya award winner who helmed the Caribbean noir series “Four Seasons in Havana” for Tornasol, will direct some of “Patria’s” episodes.

The 646-page novel looks at the impact of Spain’s Basque conflict on ordinary people on both sides, such as the widow of a man killed by the ETA who returns to her home village after the 2011 ceasefire between the separatist group and the Spanish government, and her former intimate friend, the mother of a jailed terrorist.

Both families must deal with grief and moral contradictions while life goes on. The series asks if they will be able to someday forgive, erase their differences, and move forward, HBO Europe said in a statement Monday.

The series is produced by Alea Media, co-owned by Mediaset España.  It will go into production in 2019 for a planned 2020 premiere.

Antony Root, EVP of original programming and production for HBO Europe, described “Patria” as a “personal, human story that unfolds against the backdrop of political violence in the Basque country, and which explores themes of grief, community and forgiveness.” Root called the story “at once acutely local and affectingly universal.”

“To me, ‘Patria’ is not only the challenge of adapting a powerful and moving novel that has reached readers all over the world,” added the Basque-born Gabilondo. It is “also a personal journey which, through these characters, takes me back to the toughest years of ETA that made such an impact on my youth.”

For Miguel Salvat, commissioning editor of original programming for HBO España, “‘Patria’ is the perfect expression of HBO Europe’s ambition regarding original production. We want to create something different, with great quality, that lives up to the legacy of our brand.”

In late 2016, HBO Espana launched a standalone streaming service in Spain with former Canal Plus and Movistar exec Miguel Salvat on board as its programming chief.

HBO has always stood apart from many pay TV and VOD operator through its highly selective production output which seeks to strengthen its brand. That said,  it has been ramping up its slate of originals out of Europe. It recently set launch dates for Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”) series “Success,” its first drama out of Croatia, Polish crime series “Blinded by the Lights,” and HBO-TNT co-production “Hackerville.” In the Nordics, it has set comedy-drama “Gosta,” from filmmaker Lukas Moodysson (“Mammoth”), as its first original.

Strengthening the distribution of its originals,  HBO Europe shows now also reach the U.S., on HBO’s on-demand services. HBO Latin America originals are released in Europe snd the U.S.

HBO Europe currently operates standalone services in Eastern Europe, the Nordic territories and Spain. Elsewhere, it has signed output deals with major pay TV operators, most notably Sky, which sees Sky taking exclusive first-run broadcast rights to HBO programming, across its services in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy. The large question is whether it might opt one day for total standalone distribution across Europe.

Stewart Clarke contributed to this article 

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