MADRID — Adding a new dimension to strong women action series, London-based global drama producer-distributor Fremantle is teaming with Fabula, headed by director Pablo Larrain (“Jackie”) and producer Juan de Dios Larraín (“Gloria Bell”), to produce “Talitha Kum.”
Directed by Marialy Rivas (“Young & Wild,” “Princesita”), the high octane Mexico-set action series promises to deliver a original genre twist to the scenario of valiant women pushing back against toxic masculinity with its bad ass young ninja nuns battling mano a mano with lethal sex traffickers.
“Talitha Kum” marks the second collaboration between Fabula and Fremantle as part of a multi-year first look deal between the partners, following on buzzed-up sexual abuse psychological thriller “La Jauría” (“The Pack”), showrun by Lucía Puenzo (“The German Doctor”), whose Ep. 1 premiered at September’s Zurich Festival to acclaim. As on “La Jauría,” Fremantle is co-producing “Talitha Kum” with Fabula and will handle international sales.
Fabula and Fremantle will introduce a promo during targeted meetings at next week’s NATPE: Miami market looking for potential co-producers, said Angela Poblete, Fabula director of TV.
Designed for mass audience viewership, “Talitha Kum,” is written by leading Chilean playwright Manuela Infante, who co-penned hit Finland-Chile co-production “Invisible Heroes,” as well as Enrique Videla, who worked with Pablo Larrain on the seminal HBO series “Profugos” and has become a lynchpin co-scribe on many titles in Chile’s recent premium TV boom such as “The Pack” and “Dignity.”
Initial action centers on Tenanchingo, Tlaxcala, South-East Mexico, a notorious hub of sexual slavery. There, a faction of kick-ass liberation nuns, part of worldwide covert org Talitha Kum, train in kung-fu within the Convent of Sisters of Charity, before infiltrating the most feared gangs in Mexico as prostitutes, aiming to free its young girls from sexual trafficking.
Magdalena, a young cloistered nun, will receive the call, and joins Talitha Kum, trading her habit for a trashy mini-skirt, as a savage war breaks out between rival gangs. One hell of a bad ass when it comes to martial arts, Magdalena also proves in other ways to be special.
The series “has enormous potential to fly to the most unexpected of territories,” Poblete said. “Its issues are transversal, hot button. Mexico’s a fascinating market, with a rich diversity and actors which can convert this story into a series of worldwide quality.
Like “La Jauría,” “Talitha Kum” is a show about young ass-kicking women fighting for social justice,” added Christian Vesper, Fremantle creative director for global drama, who executive produces the series with Poblete.
“It also has something to say about big ideas, frames local issues very well but really speaks to a universal audience, is super commercial, radical and accessible at the same time.”
Fremantle and Fabula have a fair number of scripts, know the story arc of Season 1, but are likely to look to tie down a broadcast partner before casting, Vesper added.
“The Spanish-speaking market is so huge, there’s so much talent. There’s a real opportunity in the most commercial sense to make a bigger show by casting actors, Mexican or otherwise Hispanic,” he said.
“Talitha Kum” continues Fabula’s mission of empowering women on and off the screen, being directed by Marialy Rivas, who burst onto the international film scene with stylish and sexual-souped coming of age tale “Young & Wild,” which won best screenwriting at the 2012 Sundance Festival.
The series stems from Rivas’ reading a news item about a group of nuns who rescued victims of sexual trafficking. “The legend became an obsession. Around it I built a fantasy universe of avenger nuns, nuns by day, vigilantes by night,” she said.
Attracted to a world of female empowerment, and highly interested in sexual trafficking and prostitution from “a contemporary, feminist viewpoint,” the series, which will have “pop, comic-book, attractive visuals,” Rivas explained.
“Talitha Kum” targets “all demographics” who can take in its action or more profound political layers, she added.
“We’re ever more moved, as women, to enjoy the opportunity of creating fiction with issues that affect and interest us,” Poblete said. “The question is how. How can we get across our issues so that they’re attractive for large audiences? In this case, an action series, bordering on the supernatural, is the perfect and highly sexual wrapping as a way into the material. The scripts are mind-blowing, characters complex and diverse, the ninja nun team has the legs for multiple seasons.”
The International Labour Organization estimated in 2016 that sex slavery generated $99 billion in global profits. Increased migration, the spread of neoliberal globalization, violence against women in war are cited as business drivers.
Alongside Venezuela, Mexico was cited in a 2018 Global Slavery Index as the Latin American country with the highest vulnerability to modern slavery.
“We’ve spent years talking about narcos and corruption, but we haven’t paid attention to human trafficking, the second biggest illicit business in the world,” said Poblete. “There are countries where sex slavery is an enormous sore, affecting millions of people.”
“Talitha Kum” marks the third time in its first three TV shows that Fabula has worked with illustrious women film directors. It follows on sexual abuse psychological thriller “La Jauría” (“The Pack”), showrun by Lucía Puenzo (“The German Doctor”), and Amazon Prime Video soccer corruption drama “El Presidente,” directed by Mexico’s Natalia Beristáin (“The Eternal Feminine”).
“At Fabula, we’re fascinated to work with powerful, brilliant women directors, such as Marialy Rivas, Lucía Puenzo and Natalia Beristain. There’s a dream team of arresting Latin directors and we’re truly thankful to have projects with many of them,” Poblete concluded.
Vesper added: “Pablo and Juan de Dios Larraín have made their mark with genuine filmmaking. Their TV series traverse the premium-mainstream line. They’re not overly auteur. They’re just really good storytellers – tight, crisp and focused.”
(Pictured: “Talitha Kum” concept art; (left to right): Christian Vesper, Marialy Rivas, Angela Poblete)