Streaming online via video presentations from March 25, Series Mania’s experimental Digital Forum will make or break on the quality of its centerpiece, its Co-Pro Pitching Sessions. This year’s lineup, at least on paper, looks particularly strong.
Following, a break-down on the 16 originally selected projects:
“The Abduction of Yossele Shuchmacher” (Israel)
Co-created and to be directed by celebrated Israeli cineaste Eran Riklis (“Lemon Tree,” “The Syrian Bride,” “Dancing Arabs”), based on a notorious true case in 1961 and co-created by “Fauda” writer Moshe Zonder.-Backed by veteran producer Michael Sharfshtein, the title “blends an intimate, painful drama within a powerful social-political set up, wrapped as a psychological thriller,” says Riklis.
“The Black Lady” (Belgium, France, Germany)
An English-language six-part bio-series led by Brussels-based AT-Prod about Madga Goebbels which author Hélène Duchateau describes as a “depressingly modern” miniseries: “Beyond Madga Goebbels’ unique experience, it echoes the growing populist trends in Europe and the processes of radicalization in our time.”
“Casa Girls” (France)
A comedic, pop-palette toned take on Morocco “freed of any clichés,” as four young Moroccan girls battle for a blooming sex life in Casablanca and “a quest for femininity beyond maternity,” says creator Laïla Marrakchi, one of Morocco’s highest-profile female and feminist movie filmmakers, who also directed episodes of “The Eddy.”
“Döppelganger” (Spain, Argentina)
A dark crime thriller where the viewer is encouraged to empathize with a serial murderer, who kills and steals the identity of wealthy businessman. Created and co-written by Jesica Arán, and part of a burgeoning Argentina-Spain TV axis.
“Frozen Land” (Russia)
Russian Noir, set in the remote republic of Khakassia, with a serial killer on the loose, but set apart by its POV: That of a woman in love with the murderer. Produced by Alexander Rodnyansky at Non-Stop Production, which backed Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Cannes Festival-prized “Elena” and “Leviathan.”
“Good People” (Belgium, France)
Founding fathers of Belgian Noir with “The Break” (“La Tréve”), Stéphane Bergmans, Benjamin d’Aoust and Matthieu Donck return with “Good People,” “a crime series where tragedy flirts with farce, and where the characters are magnificent losers who are as funny as they are terrifying,” they say. Hélicotronc, producer of “The Break” and idiosyncratic Netflix drama-comedy “Mytho,” which won 2019’s Series Mania’s Audience Award and best actress plaudit for Marina Hands, once more produces.
“The Island” (Germany, U.K.)
Produced by Germany’s At Work (“Where Are We Now”) and co-produced by U.K.-based production and distribution company All3Media, “The Island” unspools in 1978 when a British citizen is found stabbed to death in a West German gay club. Described by creators Anders August (“A Fortunate Man”) and Alexander Rümelin (“Transporter: The Series”) as a “modern noir, told with the sharp contrast of the different cities within the city.”
“Life and Fate” (U.K., Poland)
Set up at the U.K’s Cosmopolitan Pictures and Clerkenwell Films and Poland’s Apple Film, with three-time Academy Award nominee Agnieszka Holland (“Europa Europa”) attached to direct, “Life and Fate” is a small-screen adaptation of Russian Vasily Grossman’s massive novel. It deals with a subject close to Holland’s movies: A Russian family at the Siege of Stalingrad, battling a totalitarian enemy and suffering totalitarian government.
“A Marriage” (Italy)
Italy’s Oscar-winning production house Indigo Film (“The Great Beauty”) presents creator Giacomo Bendotti’s story of Anna and Enrico, a couple falling and eventually fallen out of love. Spread across 12 years, from first date to a bitter custody battle, the series looks at what influences can morph a couple’s unconditional love into abject hate after the arrival of their first child.
“My First Family” (France, Israel)
First fruit of a first-look development deal struck by France’s Haut et Court TV – producer of “The Returned,” “Last Panthers” and “The New Pope” – and Israel’s Quiddity – whose Eilon Ratzkovsky has producers credits on “Ananda,” “Yellow Peppers,” “Milk & Honey” and “Sirens,” all sold for U.S. remake. Set in an alternate reality where people need a license to have children.
“Play of Mirrors (Velázquez In Rome)” (Spain)
The celebrated painter travels to Rome on Spanish state business, faces off with Olympia Pamphili, the most powerful woman in Rome, head of the mysterious Black Order. “A contemporary thriller spy story set in 18th century,” vindicating not Velázquez but Pamphili, founder of the first counterespionage agency in history, series creator Pedro Barbero explains.
Marking Globo Studios’s second venture into English-language series co-production, here with Spain’s “The New Pope” and “The Head” producer The Mediapro Studio, “Submarine” is created by TMS’s Ran Tellem (“Homeland”) and Mariano Baselga (“The Boarding School”) and Brazil’s Marcos Bernstein (“Central Station”) and described by them as a “complex political criminal thriller,” sparked when organized crime sequesters Brazil’s first nuclear sub.
Set against the backdrop Egypt’s 2011 Arab spring uprising, “Island” clocks the 48 hours of a violent takeover of the Israeli embassy in Tahrir Square, Cairo. Six staff members become trapped while the world outside devolves into violent chaos and crossfire. Artza Productions and Yes Studios produce the political thriller from creators Ariel Benbaji, Anat Gafni and Sahar Shavit.
From Germany’s Rohfilm Factory, “Transitniki” is a drama set behind the Iron Curtain in 1985. The series tracks groups of young East Germans, feeling trapped in their own country, who find a way to enter the Soviet Union illegally using transit visas and satiate their desires for travel and adventure. The series is written by an experienced trio of TV screenwriters in Heide Schwochow, Constantin Lieb and Christian Mackrodt. MDM is attached to co-produce.
A buzzed-up series from Belgrade-based Sense Production, producers of Cristi Puiu’s “Malmkrog,” which opened New Berlinale section Encounters and billed as Serbia’s first real international co-production. Set in 1991, an aging mobster drama-thriller, framed by war, and succession them as gangster Dragan tries to do right by his wayward son, who secretly plots to take over his empire.
Billed as smart sci-fi, and an attractive proposition for a post-COVID-19 world, a “post-dystopian utopia” series where humanity, with life uninhabitable on earth, has retreated underground and successfully built a new Eden. But, say its creators, “there is of course a snake in this paradise.” An initially feel-good drama that, rather like ITV Studios-distributed “Kieler Street,” also from Ole Marius Araldsen and Anne Kolbjørnsen’s ambitious and co-pro avid Anagram Norway, questions basic human nature.