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Monte Carlo TV Festival: Nominees, Jurors and Star Guests Mingle on Riviera

The Monte Carlo Television Festival drew to a close Tuesday with “Escape at Dannemora” winning the Golden Nymph in the limited series and TV movie section, and “My Brilliant Friend” winning best drama series. “The festival is testament to the fact that as the industry adapts and evolves with the times, good storytelling never goes out of fashion,” Laurent Puons, the fest’s CEO, said.

The previous evening Puons welcomed nominees, members of the competition juries and star guests to the Golden Nymph Nominees Party, sponsored by Variety, a lavish celebration of the nominated shows at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel. Among the guests were Patricia Arquette, who the following day received the best actress award for “Escape at Dannemora,” Eric McCormack, one of the stars of “Will & Grace,” British actor Ricky Whittle, star of “American Gods,” and German actor Tom Wlaschiha, who played Jaqen H’ghar in “Game of Thrones” and is now starring in Hulu’s “Das Boot,” for which he was nominated.

Earlier that day Whittle, president of the Fiction jury, and documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, president of the News jury, and the other jurors spoke about how they came to decide the winners of the Golden Nymph Awards.

“For me it is about what speaks to you,” Whittle said, reflecting on how he judged the different entries, which included “A Very English Scandal,” “Assassination of Gianni Versace,” “Killing Eve” and “Bodyguard.” He paid tribute to the lesser known shows in the contest, such as “Thirst for Life,” a TV movie from France about an alcoholic mother, and “On the Spectrum,” an Israeli comedy about three roommates, all on the autistic spectrum, both of which won awards.

“The greatest thing for me was my eyes were forced open by unknown quantities to me – actors and actresses in shows that I have never heard of before and I am now completely aware of and want to binge watch because they spoke to me so strongly,” Whittle said.

Fellow jury member Pedro Alonso, the Spanish actor best known for Netflix breakout hit “La Casa de Papel” (Money Heist), added that although he “didn’t believe in competition in the arts,” he had looked for stories and performances that would “touch your heart more than your mind.”

Monte Carlo

Eric McCormack, one of the stars of “Will & Grace”

Gideon Raff, the creator of Israeli series “Prisoners of War,” which was adapted as “Homeland,” said: “It is very hard even to use the word ‘judge’ when we are looking at these amazing performances and amazing works of art, and that is why at the end of the day we just spoke about what moved us the most and not what we thought was ‘better’.”

The growing number of new platforms and digital channels have encouraged program-makers to be braver and innovate, Raff said, tackling new subjects – for example, one comedy was set in a psychiatric hospital, France’s “HP.”

“One of the things with this tsunami of content that we are all seeing with hundreds and hundreds of new shows every years is that people are trying to be disruptive and the platforms are allowing it by showing worlds and exploring issues that we haven’t seen before,” Raff said. “But at the end of the day, even if it is a world that we have seen before, it is a question of if it moves us, if it’s authentic, if it’s true.”

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“The Bold and the Beautiful” actors Annika Noelle, Scott Clifton and Denise Richards

Anne Kolbjornsen, exec producer of “Lilyhammer” and “Maniac,” commented that for smaller countries like her own, Norway, the growth in the number of outlets was a boon as it had allowed their shows to be seen in many more places in the world.

Whittle and Kennedy both said that they put to one side considerations of projects’ production values as these often merely reflected their budget levels. Kennedy added that, like the Fiction jury, the News jury focused on “which films touched us the most and moved us and stayed with us.”

John Irvine, senior international correspondent at ITV News in the U.K., underscored the professionalism with which the jury had approached the job, and the due consideration they gave the entries.

“Journalism is a difficult and dangerous business these days when you look at annual fatalities, and the people who are kidnapped and detained. Some of these pieces involved quite a bit of endeavor, not to say risks, so we gave everyone due consideration, but in the end we were impressed by the standard that we got,” he said.

“Journalism is under pressure around the world. Not just the dangers but the caliber of journalism. People are questioning the quality of the news that is being fed to the public, but I think we all agreed that world journalism is quite healthy, despite it all.”

Asked about how journalists can verify information in the era of fake news, Irvine said: “It points to the importance of there being individuals who go to places, and that is becoming increasingly difficult because talking heads are cheap, deploying people on difficult assignments in far-flung places is expensive.”

Irvine added: “The fake news thing is a really big problem. Nearly three weeks ago I was in Idlib Province watching men dig their children out of rubble following a Syrian regime airstrike 18 hours earlier, and we aired our piece that night and the number of Tweets that I received saying it was fake was just incredible and it was anything but… The best thing you and I can do is go there and say look I was there, I saw it, I felt it, I spoke to him, I spoke to her, I saw their children, and we know that’s true.”

Kennedy said that even when fake news is revealed as being so, “once it is out in the world it has its own life, so it’s complicated and it is scary … We don’t have a solution, we haven’t gotten in front of this.” She referred to “the billions and billions of dollars spilling forth in our country alone to dispute that climate change exists. When you are trying to combat that it can be overwhelming and it is the struggle of our lifetime.”

Paul Refsdal, Norwegian documentary filmmaker and former war correspondent, said: “Propaganda is nothing new, it is just the method of delivery is new… And it is a constant war for truth and journalism. We just have to adapt to the new situation and it is a big challenge, and we are lagging behind.”

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Patricia Arquette (above, with boyfriend Eric White) received the best actress award at Monte Carlo

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