MELILLA, Spain — Spain’s pay TV leader Movistar+ has announced its newest original series, the anti-terrorist police drama-thriller series “La Unidad,” which started filming last week in the small autonomous Spanish community of Melilla, located on the Moroccan coast.
One of the biggest international plays to date for Movistar +, the pay TV/SVOD unit of telecom Telefonica, “La Unidad” re-teams director Dani de la Torre and writer Alberto Marini (“Sleep Tight”), who found audience and international sales success with the 2015 Venice-selected “Retribution” (“El Desconicido”), which won Spanish Academy Goya Awards for new director, editing and sound, as well as six other nominations.
Marini wrote the screenplay with Amèlia Mora, a story editor on famed Spanish horror film “[REC]” and head of development on “Sleep Tight,” another key Filmax title.
“La Unidad” turns on a group of Spanish Civil Guard anti-terrorist police officers who operate as one of the world most effective agencies at preventing terrorist attacks. The group works on the fenced-off border between Morocco and the Spanish city of Melilla, one of Spain’s two enclaves on the African continent.
The group is led by Carla, played by four-time Goya nominee and one time winner Nathalie Poza, who runs the unit like a family. When her unit captures the most wanted terrorist in the world, it makes Spain the prime target for his followers, including his son, who are all willing to die for their cause.
The series is produced by Movistar+ and A Coruña-based Vaca Films, the latter having produced “Retribution” and De la Torre’s “The Shadow of the Law,” as well as standout titles in Spain’s recent crime thriller cannon, such as 2009’s “Cell 211,” a co-production with Morena Films, and Miguel Angel Vivas’ 2010 breakout “Kidnapped.”
Launching its first original high-end drama series “Velvet Collection” in 2017, and aiming to release some 19 new or returning series this year, Movistar + has never hidden its ambition to become the most important content producer in the Spanish-speaking world, making a sufficient volume of series to attract distinct demographies to an integrated mobile-broadband-TV offer in Spain and now Latin America, where it announced its first series during MipTV.
16th century mafia-crime thriller “The Plague,” which unleashes Season 2 later this year, stands out as Movistar’s most ambitious series to date in both budget and scale. But, according to Domingo Corral, the company’s director of original fiction, “La Unidad” promises the same level of scale, only applied a bit differently.
All Movistar + Original Series are “important in some way, but in terms of scale yes, this series is of an ambition very similar to ‘The Plague,’ he said in Melilla.
But, this has a different complexity to “The Plague.” Corral explained at a press Q&A held after the day’s shooting wrapped.
“Here one of the most complicated things in this series are the locations,” he continued. “Another is the action, because we want the action to be realistic and for the audience to believe it. That level of production is very demanding and complicated, so the challenges are different, but I would say yes, that this series will be on a level with ‘The Plague.’”
Marini and Mora took three years to develop the script – long and thorough development periods are a hallmark of Movistar’s modus operandi for original series.
What marks “La Unidad apart is the international spread of its locations, a large ensemble cast, an emphasis on full-on action entertainment which is designed to appeal to a broader audience rather than targeted demography, and a subject which, while highly relevant to Spain, is a global concern. Movistar +’s series have often appealed because of the universality of their characters. Here the context is equally relevant as well.
According to Vaca Films’ co-founder Emma Lustres, the film will be shot like a documentary, with the camera following characters through scenes to enhance the feeling of reality for viewers. It’s a filmmaking style that De la Torre utilized with aplomb on “Retribution.”
The production team is banking on the series’ international marketability. At the announcement, it suggested it will be Movistar +’s broadest targeting series to date. It boasts a large, polyglot cast and a script featuring multiple languages and regional dialects as well as scenes shot in Melilla, Tangier and Nigeria in Africa, Perpignan and Toulouse in France, and Madrid, Girona and Galicia in Spain. The series adrenaline-fueled action sequences should turn a few heads as well.
“La Unidad” is scheduled to premiere spring 2020, perfect timing for festivals such as Series Mania or Canneseries which have proved fertile ground for other Movistar+ titles. Earlier this month Movistar+ women-centric dramedy series “Perfect Life,” co.written and directed by Leticia Dolera, won both best series and special performance prizes for its three lead actresses at Canneseries.
Pictured: Dani de la Torre