Graced by Uma Thurman, “The Good Doctor” star Freddie Highmore and “Black Mirror” creators Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones, the 10th edition of Series Mania will kick off March 22 with a prominent Netflix presence, a broader geographical reach and a strong showing of women writers and directors.
Thurman will make the trek to Lille, in northeast France, for the international premiere of Netflix Original Series “Chambers,” which looks like one of the hottest tickets in this year’s 10-title Official Competition. “Chambers” is a YA supernatural drama thriller from Stephen Gaghan and Turner’s multi-platform Super Deluxe. In it a young heart attack victim begins to take on the sinister characteristics of her deceased heart donor. Thurman plays the donor’s mother.
Thurman, Highmore, and Brooker and Jones will deliver Series Mania masterclasses, as will writer-producer-director Marti Noxon (“Mad Men,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Glee”), who is president of the Official Competition jury. Other members of the jury include “The Good Wife” star Julianna Margulies, French actress Audrey Fleurot (“Spiral,” “Safe”), French writer Delphine de Vigan and Thomas Lilti, creator-director of Canal Plus hit “Hippocrate.”
Eric Rochant, one of France’s few showrunners and the creator-writer-director of acclaimed Canal Plus series “The Bureau,” will talk on stage with British scriptwriter and showrunner Hugo Blick (“Black Earth Rising,” “The Honorable Woman”).
Dominik Moll (“Harry, He’s Here to Help”) will take an audience through “Eden,” one of the high-profile European series in Lille.
Of the dramas from Netflix and HBO, Series Mania will also host in French Competition the world premiere of awaited Netflix Original Series “Osmosis,” created by Audrey Fouché and produced with Capa Drama. HBO’s “Folklore,” an Asian horror anthology created by Eric Khoo, plays in International Competition, as does HBO Europe’s “Success,” directed by Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”). Amazon teams with Arte to back Gaia Guasti’s “Une Ile,” in French Competition. CBS’ “Red Line” and “The Twilight Zone” receive international premieres at Series Mania’s Best of USA sidebar.
Sporting three U.K. Channel 4 dramas, Series Mania’s Official Competition also features “Eden” from “Deutschland 83’s” Edward Berger and Moll, “Just for Today” created by Israel’s Nir Bergman, a writer on the Israeli original inspiring “In Therapy,” and “Mytho,” directed by “Les Revenants’” creator-writer-director Fabrice Gobert.
If one theme dominates the lineup, it’s the Zeitgeist of uncertainty, dislocation and pessimism, Series Mania founder and general director Laurence Herzberg and artistic director Frédéric Lavigne said.
“In a context of political and social instability, the trend is towards series which replay history or demonize the future. There’s an explosion of series set in 1980s or 1990s,” Herzberg and Lavigne write in an introduction to this year’s selection.
They added: “What we’ve done wrong and where that can lead us: Two sides of the same coin are shown, however, via a palette of languages from realism noir to burlesque comedy.”
Shane Meadows wrote and directed “The Virtues,” a humor-laced Channel 4 series produced by Warp Films and sold by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. The revenge drama stars Stephen Graham (“Boardwalk Empire”) as a man confronting the demons from a childhood in care.
Lucy Kirkwood’s “Chimerica,” another Channel 4 series, questions the divisiveness of current geopolitics as an American photographer seeks out nearly 30 years later the subject of a photo he took during the massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Immigration-themed dramas mark another trend in this year’s selection, said Herszberg.
Backed by Arte and Germany’s SWR/ARD, sold by France’s Lagardère Studios, and created by Berger and then totally directed and co-written by Moll, “Eden” is set in a context of mass diaspora, a refugee camp on a Greek beach.
Produced by Yes TV (“Fauda”), screening in International Panorama, and co-created and directed by Eitan Tzur, Israel’s “Asylum City” is set in the underworld of south Tel Aviv, where a young detective investigates a murder case in which the main suspect is an asylum seeker from Africa.
Other dramas picture the world, and families, falling apart. Created by Stephen Butchard (“House of Saddam”), directed by Alice Troughton, and the second series from Euston Films, Official Competition entry “Baghdad Central,” is a crime thriller set in 2003 as a post-Saddam Hussein Baghdad implodes. The drama will be broadcast on Channel 4, and is being sold by Fremantle.
Playing in International Panorama, Sky Deutschland’s family survival thriller “8 Days,” produced by Germany’s Neuesuper and co-directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (“The Counterfeiters”), pictures the breakdown of society in modern-day Berlin as a meteor hurtles towards Earth.
Starring “Game of Thrones’” Kristofer Hivju, Norwegian broadcaster NRK’s “Twin” is another kind of social-issue family survival thriller about a man who accidentally kills his identical twin and takes his place, with the complicity of his sister-in-law, in the dead man’s family.
In Competition, backed by Federation Entertainment and Netflix and starring Marina Hands and Mathieu Demy, “Mythos” chronicles how a family unravels after the devoted wife and mother tells just one white lie.
Of other Official Competition titles, Bergman’s “Just for Today” is set at a transit station for ex-cons’ social reinsertion. The show is produced by Endemol Shine Israel (“Harem”) and sold by Yes Studios,
“Year on year, the quality of series from countries we are not used to having is getting higher and higher,” said Herzberg, citing, as one example, Valery Federovich and Evgeny Nikishov’s “Identification,” a drama set in an illegal immigrant community originating from Kyrgyzstan, which marks the second time a Russian drama has made Official Competition.
A second Russian title, the buzzed-up “Blackout,” plays in International Panorama.
Series Mania’s Official Competition also features “Lambs of God,” produced by Endemol Shine Australia and described by Foxtel a “dark, Gothic tale” about three nuns, each a generation apart, whose isolated convent life is interrupted by a young priest. Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Leftovers”), Essie Davis (“Game of Thrones”) and Jessica Barden (“The End Of The F***ing World”) co-star.
Written by Sarah Lambert, “Lambs of God” marks one of multiple dramas at this year’s Series Mania either penned or directed by women, making up 29 – or 41% – of the selected series, said Herzberg.
Nearly half of the series projects at Series Mania Forum, to be announced next week, are also written or to be directed from women. The only sector where women still have to make up large ground is when it comes to producers of selected festival series, Herzberg added.
Three of the six titles in French Competition, all world premieres, are fantasy/genre series: “Osmosis,” set in a dystopia where an algorithm guides peoples love lives; public broadcaster channel France 2’s “The Last Wave,” about how a peaceful French surfing resort is afflicted by climate change; and “Une Ile,” a mermaid drama-thriller starring Laetitia Casta and Noe Abita.
“It’s a departure for French series to venture into fantasy and genre,” said Lavigne. “French series are normally more intimate family comedies or psychological dramas.”
Described by Series Mania president Rodolph Belmer and Laurence Herszberg as an “mini audiovisual Davos,” the 2nd Lille Trans-Atlantic Dialogs take place on March 27, and the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions on March 25, both as part of Series Mania Forum, the festival’s industry strand which runs March 25-27.
The Forum takes in presentations of projects from the TorinoFilmLab’s SeriesLab and UGC Writers Campus as well as a VR projects focus, and Coming Next showcases from France and Quebec, all on March 26.
SERIES MANIA 2019
(Title, series creator, country of origin)
“Baghdad Central,” (Stephen Butchard, U.K.)
“Chambers,” (Leah Rachel , U.S.)
“Chimerica,” (Lucy Kirkwood, U.K.)
“Eden,” (Edward Berger, Nele Mueller Stöfen, Marianne Wendt, France, Germany)
“Identification,” (Valery Fedorovich, Evgeny Nikishov, Russia)
“Just for Today,” (Nir Bergman, Ram Nehari, Israel)
“Lambs of God,” (Sarah Lambert, Australia)
“Mytho,” (Anne Berest, France)
“Twin,” (Kristoffer Metcalfe, Norway)
“The Virtues,” (Shane Meadows, U.K.)
“The Last Wave,” (Raphaëlle Roudaut, Alexis Le Sec, France)
“Super Jimmy,” (Camille Pouzol, Stéphane Drouet, Lionel Olenga, France)
“Family Shake,” (Baya Kasmi, France)
“Osmosis,” (Audrey Fouché , France)
“Soupçons,” (Lionel Bailliu, Yann Le Gal, France)
“Une île,” (Gaia Guasti, Aurélien Molas, France)
“8 Days,” (Peter Kocyla, Rafael Parente, Germany)
“Asylum City,” (Eitan Tzur, Uzi Weil, Liad Shoham, Israel)
“Blackout,” (Sergei Ursuliak, Russia)
“The Cry,” (Jacquelin Perske, U.K., Australia)
“Curfew,” (Matthew Read, U.K.)
“Exit,” (Petter Testmann-Koch, Øystein Karlsen, Norway)
“Flack,” (Oliver Lansley, U.K.)
“Folklore,” (Eric Khoo, Indonesia, Singapore, Japon)
“The Guest,” (Seo Jae-won, Gwon So-ra, South Korea)
“Hierro,” (Pepe Coira, Spain, France)
“Les misérables,” (Andrew Davies, U.K.)
“Monzón,” (Francisco Varone, Leandro Custo, Gabriel Nicoli, Gabriela Larralde, Jesus Braceras, Agustin Bossi, Pol Bossi, Argentina)
“Motherfatherson,” (Tom Rob Smith, U.K.)
“Pros and Cons,” (Thor Bjørn Krebs, Mikkel Serup, Denmark)
“Success,” (Marjan Alčevski, Croatia)