MADRID — The Mediapro Studio and Amazon Prime Video have teamed to make “Una Vida, Una Cena,” the most Proustian of 2019 Spanish original series, a portrait of six celebrities through their gastronomic emotions, sensations and memories.
Created and hosted by Spanish three-star Michelin chef Quique Dacosta and Ran Tellem, The Mediapro Studio’s head of international content development, the series stars singer -composer Alejandro Sanz, and actors Najwa Nimri, an international figure after “Vis-a-Vis” (“Locked Up”), one of Spain’s first big breakout hits, and Inma Cuesta, the lead of Movistar Plus’ “Arde Madrid,” a major Rose d’Or winner on Dec. 1.
Other interviewees are bullfighter José María Manzanares, Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza, actor Andrés Valencoso (“Velvet Collection”).
Bowing on Dec. 17, “The Dinner of a Lifetime” says much about The Mediapro Studio and Amazon Prime Video’s non-fiction ambitions, as well as the singular intellectual pursuit of Dacosta, a thinking man – and woman’s – chef whose recent docu-feature, “The Taste of Beauty” (“Cocinar Belleza”), rehearsed arguments for cooking as one strain of ephemeral art – like music or dance – shifting cooking from the physiological to philosophical, to use philosopher Javier Goma’s phrase.
It’s hard to imagine Jamie Oliver or “Hell’s Kitchen” citing Wittgenstein or Hegel: “The Taste of Beauty” most certainly does.
Two strong business models are currently thriving in drama series production, Manuel Marti, at Argentina’s Pol-ka, argued before Mipcom.
One is “Work-for-hire for platforms in a global environment, where they buy all rights and fund 100% of production costs”; the other “co-production, where production companies work as studios, sourcing co-funding in other countries from other channels, networks and local operators, where no one owns 100% of the IP and platforms buys a stake in shows.”
The Mediapro Studio at times may accept the first model, which helps it finance the second, allowing it to own or share IP, building company asset value.
Directed by Irene Arzuaga, “The Dinner of a Lifetime” is produced by TMS, with Amazon Prime Studio co-financing via the acquisition of rights to Spain and Mexico. Elsewhere, The Mediapro Studio has sold territories on the open market, very successfully, TMS corporate director Laura Fernández Espeso said at the series’ press conference this week in Madrid. Introduced to the market at October’s Mipcom trade fair, “The Dinner of a Lifetime” is under negotiation for sale to Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, Norway and Brazil with the U.S., U.K., Australia and France in first talks.
In Spain, Amazon Studios moved waves announcing the production of “El Cid,” starring Jaime Lorente, “Denver” in “La Casa de Papel,” possibly the biggest series made to date outside the U.K. in Europe, a rags to riches tale with an accurate historical base of the legendary Medieval warrior-knight once embodied by Charlton Heston. It had already announced Atresmedia Studios-produced “La Templanza,” a big romantic period drama spanning 1860s’ Mexico to Colonial Cuba and Spain’s Jerez.
But Amazon Prime Video wants to create a far broader offer for clients, Ricardo Carbonero, Amazon Prime Video contents director in Spain, said at the presentation of “The Dinner of a Lifetime.” .
That presages a world where SVOD players will battle to become appointment services for clients that have to offer a broad entertainment range for multiple members of subscription households.
Amazon’s first non-fiction and non-sports series in Spain, “The Dinner of a Lifetime“ is in line with our aim at Amazon Prime Video to be the TV service preferred by our clients for any type of programming,” Carbonero added.
Also produced by The Mediapro Studio, created by Toni Sagarra, and making a splash at September’s San Sebastian Festival where it world premiered in Culinary Zinema, “The Taste of Beauty,” inspired by Dacosta, interviewed philosophers, writers and artists to find echoes in cooking of the precepts of Fine Arts.
“Art stems for millennia from rules, techniques, depth, geometry,harmony. Then in the late 19th century, some people say ‘Art has nothing to do with objective rules but my subjectivity,’” said philosopher Javier Goma, citing Cubism and abstract art.
“The aim of art in many epochs has been to stimulate the senses,” says Guillermo Solana, Thyssen Museum artistic director. “Today,” he adds, “the focus of art is what kind of experience we can give to the person who is enjoying it.”
“Una Vida, Una Cena” has it all: Glorious aesthetics, and art as personal expression. Dacosta begins his portrait of Nimri, who visits him at his beach-side restaurant in Denia, eastern Spain, admitting, rather disarmingly, that he’s always cooked to please himself, to transform his life into food, taste, “drama, realism.” If he manages to seduce, move, please, that is “on the margins.”
In “The Dinner of a Lifetime,” however, he sets out to explore art as consumer experience, narrating his interviewees’ lives and sentiments through a four-course dinner. “Do sentiments taste of anything? I think so. You can reach memories through the palate,” he affirms.
In the only episode of “Dinner of a Lifetime” seen by Variety, with Najwa Nimri, it is Nimri, however, who detonates cliché, time and again.
Dacosta and his creative team decide that the word that defines her best is “mystery.”
Maybe she’s made some films which were darker than most, and there’s her Arabic name, which comes from her Jordanian father, Nimri reflects. But really her life is utterly ordinary, she insists. It’s just that in interviews, when asked about her life, she’s reluctant to go into details. “People can think I’m mysterious, but I’m really just being rude.”
Nimri leapt to fame with her first movies as an actor: Daniel Calparsoro’s 1997 debut “Salto al Vació”; Alejandro Amenabar’s “Open Your Eyes” and Julio Medem’s “Lovers of the Polar Circle.” From after “Sex and Lucia,” however, she gradually dropped off the cinema radar.
Then in 2015, she made an extraordinary comeback, playing Zulema Zahir, an inmate of a women’s penitentiary who commands the small-screen in “Vis-a-Vis” (“Locked Up”) with a towering sense of tyranny.
Audiences warmed to Zahir, however.“You reach the conclusion that people who haven’t had anything good happen to them are really hijos de puta,” Nimri tells
“Are they right?” she asks. “No. But it’s logical. In a f****-up world, there are lots of f*****-up people, who behave in a f*****-up way. So many people identify with the character.”
Nimri is disarmed, however, by the Bacchanalian opulence of Dacosta’s second course: Grilled lobster, prawns, smoked shrimps, and then the endearing homeliness of the third: Meat-bone broth with children’s little star-shaped pasta.
Fame is “hell,” she confesses. The “happiest years of my life” were when she was under-employed, broke, had debts, but got to see her partner, her son and her family. She sang a song to her grandmother in Basque just before she uttered her dying brief, “the most beautiful thing that’s happened to me, better than giving birth.”
Nimri said at the press conference that she’s never talked about her private life. Dacosta’s conversation and the intimate act of consuming fine food however worked their ways. To her horror, Spain’s queen of circumspection finally dropped her guard.