PAMPLONA — No presentation at Conecta Fiction is as important as its CoPro Pitching Sessions, packed this year with 12 scripted series projects from Latin America and Europe. 2020’s hybrid edition – with Spanish producers and creators pitching in Pamplona, Latin Americans mostly online – is proving no exception. Following, a drill down on the 12 projects, half of which were presented on stage Wednesday morning at Conecta Fiction, whose budgetary level and historical setting reveal a heightened ambition in drama series from the Spanish-speaking world:
“Chained” (“Encadenados,” Weekend Studio, Spain)
June 1940: Dunkirk ends with British defeat, France falls to Hitler’s troops. Two spies – English party girl – or so it seems – June Robinson and Spanish bon vivant Alejandro Salvatierra are recruited in a desperate attempt by Winston Churchill’s government to stop Spain entering WWII and the Dukes of Windsor negotiating Britain’s capitulation. A two programe type genre blender, mixing period drama and espionage thriller, an d laced with elements of romantic comedy, one of the most popular series in Pamplona. Written by Carlos López (“El Príncipe,” “The Embassy”), “Chained” is produced by Weekend Studio, the company behind early Netflix Spanish series “Hache.”
“Follow Me!” (Mulata Films, Kapow, Argentina)
A photo accompanying the dossier on “Follow Me!” shows Carlos Saúl Menem, Argentine president over 1989-99, beaming beside Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. Under Menem, president for more consecutive years than any other Argentine politician in history, these were indeed the rock and roll years for the country, as he sluiced the economy with massive privatization but borrowed hugely from the IMF, priming Argentina for 2001 economic collapse. Menem’s foibles and failures – he was a populist, a sloganeer, charismatic but corrupt, promised the world – recall present-day figures. Billed as a biopic, but also a dramedy and political thriller, a six-part series that aims to capture the ethos and ethics of today’s political dawn.
“Graf Spee” (Coral Cine, Gretha Media, Uruguay)
A six-part drama set against the background of one of the most dramatic of World War II naval confrontations, the Battle of the River Plate, the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, the fastest and most modern ship in the German navy, take on three British cruisers. The story line mixes fictitious and real-life characters, none more towering than the noble commander of the Graf Spee, Hans Langsdorff, “a Shakespearian tragic hero,” said Coral Cine’s Andrés Varela, who will direct with Oscar-nominated “City of God” DoP César Charlone. At Conecta Fiction, Varela, hailing into Conecta Fiction from Uruguay, unveiled impactful archive photos of the Battle of the Plate and of Langsdorff.
“Great Yarmouth,” (Uma Pedra no Sapato, Portugal)
Billed as a social thriller portraying “modern-day slavery” in contemporary Europe and the post-Brexit U.K., and told through the tragic, despairing love story of two Portuguese migrants. Written and directed by Marco Martins and produced by EAVE graduate Filipa Reis with Kris Hitchen (“Sorry We Missed You”) attached to co-star.
“The Hate Farm,” (“La Granja del Odio,” Jaque Content, Argentina)
A series which plumbs the sewers of social media as online “hater” Mery-Lo is recruited at a rehabilitation center to lead a motley crew of digital addicts united to overthrow the government’s corruption-sodden intelligence services. Sketching a battle for power between Gen Z centennials and an old order, “The Hate Farm” is created by Argentine directors Gustavo Cornillón (“Instrucciones para la poligamia”) and Marcelo Politano, (aka Who Filmmaker). It marks the latest series from Argentina and Mexico-based Jaque Content whose “The Cleaning Lady” is the subject of a Fox drama pilot U.S. remake and a Mexican redo from Turner Latin America and BTF Media.
“Lemoniz” (Salon Indien Films, Spain)
Taking its name from the unfinished nuclear power plant in Spain’s Basque Country, a supernatural crime thriller, which kicks in with the discovery in 1992 of unidentified bodies with strange tattoos in woods near the power station. Investigating, two cops discover dark forces at work. A move into fiction by Spanish documentary filmmaker Pablo de la Chica (“El mundo de Mao”), and produced by Salon Indien Films, headed up by De la Chica and with offices in Madrid and New York. At Pamplona, De la Chica screens stunning photos of verdant Basque woods, some framing sinister-looking half human figures.
“Lisbon Noir,” (Plural Entertainment, Portugal)
Channeling U.S. beats – it’s described as “‘Mindhunter’ meets ‘The Alienist’ meets ‘True Detective,’” “Lisbon Noir” is set apart by its setting – the under-filmed and delightful Lisbon – plus a Portuguese cop duo where it’s the woman who’s the deductive genius. There’s also a large dose of Nordic Noir to season one as a thief removes from Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine the severed and perfectly preserved 180-year-old head of Portugal’s first serial killer, Diogo Alves, a replica of which was revealed on stage in Pamplona by the series producer, Tiago Pires. A modern-day serial killer then proceeds to copycat Alves’ M.O., pushing a victim off Lisbon’s aqueduct as Alves did in the 1830s. Showrun by Artur Ribeiro (“Belmonte”), a bid for premium TV prominence by double Intl. Emmy-winning Plural Entertainment, one of Portugal’s biggest TV production groups.
“Patagonia Winds” (Invercine & Wood, Chile)
A crime thriller, marking one of the latest series projects from Chile’s Invercine & Wood, a mainstay of Chilean premium TV production, behind shows such as “Mary & Mike,” made for Turner Latin America, and “Dignity,” the first drama series original offered by ProSieben’s AVOD service Joyn in Germany.
“Pharoah” (Limmat Films, Spain)
Budgeted at $80 million per season, which must be some kind of record in Spanish TV projects, a hugely ambitious multi-season series set in Ancient Egypt in the 1,000 years between the building of the pyramids and the reign of Tutankhamun, as Egypt sunk into chaos. Here the series’ protagonists battle (and often die, sometimes very nastily) attempting to reunite a fractured and fractious Egypt under there control, producer Marc Chica i José and egyptologist Joann Fletcher, a series consultant, explained on stage at Pamplona.
“Tenebris,” (Fidelio Films, Colombia)
The Tribeca Film Institute’s 2019 Our Local is Global Grantee, and latest from Colombia’s high-flying Fidelio Films whose partners – David Figueroa García, Mauricio Leiva Cock, Juan Diego Villegas and Mauro Mueller – boast an extraordinary recent record of direction, production and most especially writing for streaming platforms, whether Netflix’s “Tijuana,” “Green Frontier” and “Wild District,” Amazon’s “Falco” or Movistar’s “Capital Roar.” Here, they deliver a classic horror tale but in series, not feature, form: a washed-up paranormal TV show host and medium receives a request from a woman convinced her daughter is possessed. The series is currently out to Latin American writers and directors, said Leiva Cock.
“Twinned,” (“Hermanados,” Manada de Dios, Argentina)
Vicente, a shyster Spanish lawyer embezzles his fiancee’s family company and flees to Argentina as he is given weeks by his father-in-law to return the money or the wedding will be off. Beaten up and robbed one night, he’s taken in by Antonio, who has intellectual disabilities but an inspiring humanity which cannot but affect Vicente. Created by Sebastián Suárez, the second TV scripted drama from Argentina’s Manada de Dos, which specializes in inclusive fiction, integrating stars and actors with learning disabilities. Suárez and Manada already scored audiences and kudos with “Si solo si,” now in its third season on Televisión Publica Argentina. With “Twinned,” Suárez and Manada aim to export their concept of integrated fiction to the world.
“The Year of the Rat,” (“El año de la rata,” Morena Films, Spain)
Usera, Madrid’s Chinatown, captured through the story of three families, two Chinese, one Spanish, with a special focus on the second-generation of Chinese immigrants in Spain and their racial and sexual identity conflicts. “A realist series, that will have a playful, optimist and positive tone,” said producer María Kindelan. Written by Laura Sarmiento (“Diablero,” “Matadero,” “La zona”) and Aurora Gracià (“Valeria,” “Perdida”), “The Year of the Rat” is directed by Jiajie Yu Yan, who scored a Spanish Academy Goya nomination for short “XiaoXian,” and produced by Morena Films, one of Spain’s biggest movie (“Champions,” “Everybody Knows”) and ever more TV producers (“Diablero,” “Diarios de cuarentena”).