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ANIMATION

Legendary U.K. animation studio Aardman (“Chicken Run,” “Wallace & Gromit”) is teaming with filmmaker Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) on a new feature film project for family audiences. Described by the company as an “exuberant, warm-hearted musical,” the currently untitled Bollywood-inspired feature will follow Bodhi, a young Indian elephant from Kerala who dreams of becoming a famous Bollywood dancer.

Chadha is currently co-writing the screenplay with Paul Mayeda Berges (“What’s Cooking”) under their production banner Bend It Networks. The two companies will enlist top Indian voice talent, musicians and designers to develop the look and feel of the project.

“Aardman is a great British national treasure. I am honored and excited to bring my unique British Asian vision to their acclaimed animation studio. Their work has so much heart, humor and affection, and we share a love of authentic and joyful underdog stories about memorable characters – so it really is a perfect match,” said Chadha in a statement.

Aardman creative director Peter Lord added: “We are so excited to be collaborating with Gurinder, a truly great director whose beautiful, funny, and warm storytelling we have long admired. Her talent, when combined with the team here at Aardman, promises something new and extraordinary in the world of animation.”

COMMISSION

The BBC has revealed a wide-ranging slate of new commissions from its newly created Factual, Arts and Classical Music division, helmed by Patrick Holland. Included among the commissions are an exploration of the private and political life of Frida Kahlo, a celebration of African-American creativity from executive producer Afua Hirsch, the history of the Union with David Olusoga, a science series about the planet Earth hosted by Chris Packham, and a three-part series about the polemical Brazilian Bolsonaro dynasty. For returning content, the BBC has confirmed new instalments of of “Lights Up,” featuring a new series of plays from theaters across the U.K., a new batch of BBC Four monologues on poverty, and a feature film about British composer Michael Tippett by John Bridcut.

FIRST-LOOK

Seven.One Entertainment Group has closed a first-look deal with John de Mol’s TV content development company Talpa Concepts for the German Market. Under the deal, Seven.One secures exclusive first access to any format developed or licensed by Talpa Concepts, and will be the exclusive producer of any future Talpa TV formats in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for the next seven years. De Mol is the co-founder of Endemol and founder of Talpa Media and the creator of iconic formats “Big Brother” and “The Voice,” among many others. Talpa Concepts was established in 2020 alongside Talpa Entertainment Productions and Talpa Distribution after De Mol sold his previous company, Talpa Media, to ITV.

ACQUISITION

Beyond Rights has closed a series of deals with broadcasters across the Middle East and Africa, sending more than 270 hours of scripted and unscripted programming to the region. Among the deals, OSN has picked up 190 hours of factual programming including observational documentaries such as “Maternity 24/7” and “Hitched n Vegas,” as well as a series of lifestyle programs including “Love It or List It.” Discovery MENA also picked up season five of “Abandoned Engineering” for the region and Africa. Other African deals saw AETN pick up seasons seven and eight of “Love It or List It” and two seasons of “Filthy House SOS.” BBC Africa snagged the British version of “Pooch Perfect,” with CBS picking “Murder in the Outback: The Falconio and Less Mystery” and “Handsome Devils.” Also in Africa, Azam Media picked up “Halifax: Retribution.”

EMPLOYMENT

In a new survey from The TV Collective, it has been revealed that ITV and All3Media are the best companies to work at in the entertainment industry for people of color in the U.K. The study was executed under the guidance and supervision of research specialists Dr. Dunkley Gyimah of Cardiff University and Lewis Silkin LLP. The survey reached out to both full-time and part-time employees including freelancers and staff workers, up and down the seniority chain. Among the key takeaways, more than half of the companies studied provided clear Black Lives Matter statements last year, with more than 50% of employees at those companies saying that they felt the measures have been effective and inspired improved working atmospheres. Unfortunately, more than 65% of those surveyed responding that they would not recommend their own place of work to friends looking for a job. 77% of Black, Asian and ethnic minorities reported experiencing micro-aggressions at work, with a dismally low 20% reporting that they felt comfortable enough to raise concerns about these issues in the workplace. The full report can be found on The TV Collective’s website.

DISTRIBUTION

Global distribution group Blue Ant International has acquired international licensing rights to “Spirit to Soar,” a documentary which follows Anishinaabe storyteller and journalist Tanya Talaga as she explores the systemic racism facing Indigenous peoples in the Northern Canadian town of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The film continues the story of Talaga’s book “Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City,” which drew attention to the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students that were not investigated between 2000 and 2011.

Produced by Makwa Creative, in association with Antica Productions, the film premiered at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival this past spring and is due to broadcast and stream on CBC and CBC Gem in Canada in fall 2021. The film is now available for distribution outside of Canada and will feature in Blue Ant’s fall lineup at Mipcom 2021.

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“Spirit to Soar” Blue Ant International

Meanwhile, Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment and Cinemas has been appointed the new distribution partner for Warner Bros. Pictures across the Middle East starting with “The Suicide Squad.” The group operates 615 screens across eight markets in the region.

VOX Cinemas, the cinema arm of the group, has introduced CTRL, the region’s first interactive movie experience which lets the audience collectively decide how the plot unfolds, in partnership with entertainment and tech company, Kino Industries. The first CTRL experience is Tobias Weber’s interactive feature-length film “Late Shift,” where audiences can decide the fate of the lead character and the course of the movie using a voting system on an app. The experience is currently available across VOX properties in the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia.

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Majid Al Futtaim