PARIS — “Narcos” showrunner Chris Brancato and “Godfather of Harlem” star Giancarlo Esposito, actors Carole Bouquet and Zabou Breitman, and the cast and crew behind the Canal Plus series “The Bureau” will be among the many guest of honor at this year’s Series Mania, which will kick off its 11th edition on March 20.
Returning to the northeastern French city of Lille, Series Mania will once again offer a broad cross-section of international scripted dramas, with a selection culled from 25 different countries including Chile, Peru, Niger, Senegal and South Korea alongside high profile productions from the US, the UK and France.
Among the 38 productions world premiering in Lille, the BBC/TVNZ literary adaption “The Luminaries” will play as opening series while the closer remains unannounced.
Once again, Netflix will make a strong showing this year. Beyond bringing the cast and crew of their Paris-set drama “The Eddy,” the streamer will offer the world premiere of “Inhuman Resources,” a French-language thriller written by award-winning author Pierre Lemaitre and led by actors Eric Cantona and Alex Lutz, and the German series “Unorthodox.” Created by “Deutschland 83” writer Anna Winger and Alexa Karolinski, “Unorthodox” follows an Hasidic Jewish woman who fleers from Brooklyn to Berlin.
HBO will launch Spanish terrorism drama “Patria,” which was adapted from a bestselling book by showrunner Aitor Gabilondo, and offer the French premieres of the Philip Roth adaptation “The Plot Against America.” They will also screen the Israeli drama “Our Boys” in a special screening, with series creator Hagai Levi on hand to present.
This year’s jury will be led by novelist and screenwriter Tom Perrotta (“The Leftovers”) alongside actress Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under”), producer Veena Sud (“The Killing”), actress Caroline Proust (“Spiral”), “In-Treatment” co-creator Nir Bergman and writer Karine Tuil.
The industry focused Series Mania Forum will offer co-pro pitching forum for which 15 projects have been selected. Entertainment One’s Polly Williams and four as-of-yet unannounced jury members will evaluate the selected projects and offer the winning one a €50,000 ($54,000 USD) development prize.
Festival directors Laurence Herszberg and Frederic Lavigne hope to spotlight series from female showrunners evincing dynamic new perspectives. To that end, the directors point out the Channel 4 series “Adult Material” and the Sky drama “Little Birds.”
Created by playwright Lucy Kirkwood, “Adult Material” focuses on the work-life balance of a loving mother of three who happens to be the UK’s most successful porn actor. The show features “I, Daniel Blake” star Hayley Squires and Rupert Everett, and offers pop punk twist on traditional social mores.
The Juno Temple-led “Little Birds” is adapted from a short story by Anaïs Nin, and focuses on the sensual awakening an American expat in 1960s Tangiers. The Sky series is written and created by Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria, and has a diverse cast that also includes Jean-Marc Barr (“The Big Blue”) and Rossy de Palma (“Julieta”).
Israeli productions will also leave a significant footprint at Series Mania this year. Premiering in competition, “Valley of Tears” recounts the experience of IDF soldiers during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, and represents the highest budget Israeli series yet produced.
Meanwhile, the Franco-Belgian-Israeli co-production “No Man’s Land” marks a return of sorts to this auspicious berth. Then titled “Fertile Crescent,” the Hulu project won the inaugural best project prize at the Series Mania Forum in 2017.
Amazon Prime will retrace the fall of ex-FIFA chief Sepp Blatter with their satirical series “El Presidente.” Written and created by “Birdman” screenwriter Armando Bo, the series takes a farcical approach to FIFA’s 2015 corruption scandals, tackling the story from the perspective of a small-town Chilean football club.
Rounding out the competition are the Danish social drama “Cry Wolf” and the French genre piece “Moloch.” The former tracks the fallout after a 14-year girl accuses her stepfather of assault; the later follows a French town where the inhabitants begin to spontaneously combust.
“In terms of sheer numbers of countries represented, this is our most international edition to date,” says festival director Laurence Herszberg.
Speaking to Variety after the Wednesday press conference, Herszberg points toward “Wara,” a Nigerian-Senegalese-French co-production that marks the first African series to play at the festival. As she it, the French language series offers festivalgoers a new perspective. “The French spoken is very different, and the style of acting is very different from what we’re used to in Europe. That makes the series very interesting for a festival like ours,” Herzberg notes, “because the phenomenon of series production goes well beyond the usual suspects.”
As Herszberg explains, a series specific festival requires a different professional focus if it wants to attract industry support. “We’re not a market,” she notes. “The industry no longer needs a market in the traditional sense.” Instead, Herszberg and her team have fostered the Series Mania development forum for upcoming projects.
“Today, buyers position themselves as soon as something is written. The market is driven by scripts, and we’ve positioned ourselves around that,” she continues. “That’s why Series Mania is able to attract international sales agents – because they know they’ll have the best window into all future projects here.”
Series Mania 2020
(Title, series creator, country of origin)
“The Luminaries” (Eleanor Catton, UK and New Zealand)
“Adult Material,” (Lucy Kirkwood, UK)
“Cry Wolf” (Maja Jul Larsen, Denmark)
“Dérapages (Inhuman Resources)” (Pierre Lemaitre, France)
“Little Birds” (Sophie Al-Maria, UK)
“Moloch” (Arnaud Malherbe, Belgium and France)
“No Man’s Land” (Maria Feldman, Eitan Mansuri, Amit Cohen, Ron Leshem, Belgium, France, and Israel)
“Patria” (Aitor Gabilondo, Spain)
“El Presidente” (Armando Bo, Chile)
“Unorthodox” (Anna Winger, Germany)
“Valley of Tears” (Amit Cohen, Ron Leshem, Daniel Amsel, Yaron Zilberman, Gal Zaid, Izhar Har-Lev, Israel)
“Cheyenne et Lola” (Virginie Brac, Belgium and France)
“La Garconne” (Dominique Lancelot, France)
“Ils Etaient Dix (They Were Ten)” (Bruno Dega, Jeanne Le Gouillou, France)
“Moah” (Henri Debeurme, Benjamin Rocher, Bertrand Soulier, France)
“Parlement” (Noé Debré, France)
“Romance” (Hervé Hadmar, France)
“22 July” (Sara Johnsen, Pål Sletaune, Norway)
“Behind the Door” (Eriko Shinozaki, Japan)
“Buffalo” (Peter Duncan, Tanya Phegan, Australia)
“Cold Courage” (David Joss Buckley, Brendan Foley, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, UK)
“Commandos” (Oscar Van Woensel, Boudewijn Rosenmuller, The Netherlands)
“The Cursed” (Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea)
“The End” (Samantha Strauss, Australia and UK)
“La Jauría (The Pack)” (Sergio Castro, Enrique Videla, Lucía Puenzo, Chile)
“Lucky Day” (Daniel Vega, Diego Vega, Peru)
“The Minister” (Birkir Blær Ingólfsson, Björg Magnúsdóttir, Jónas Margeir Ingólfsson, Iceland)
“Normal” (Lior Dayan, Asaf Korman, Israel)
“Thin Ice” (Lena Endre, Søren Stærmose, Sweden, Greenland, Iceland)
“Unchained” (Joseph Madmony, Tamar Kay, Davd Ofek, Israel)
“Wara” (Charli Beleteau, Niger, Senegal, France)
“World on Fire” (Peter Bowker, UK)