Created by Philip Koch and produced by Wiedemann & Berg Television, the company behind Netflix hit “Dark,” “Tribes of Europa” follows three siblings as they struggle to survive in a new Europe emerging from cataclysm. Henriette Confurius, Emilio Sakraya (“Warrior Nun”), David Ali Rashed and Oliver Masucci (“Enfant Terrible”) star.
Set in 2074, the story unfolds in a land divided into micro-states and tribes — some peaceful, others bloodthirsty.
It was 2016’s Brexit referendum that inspired the series, Koch tells Variety. As a supporter of the European Union, Koch found the decision “very shocking.”
Since then, however, the pandemic, a growing political divide in the U.S., not to mention the Capitol Insurrection in Washington, D.C., have made the premise of a show about the collapse of civilization and the rise of tribalism somewhat prescient.
“In 2016 that was all very much in the future,” says Koch. “We had right-wing separatism going on quite extensively in Europe, but end-of-the-world apocalyptic vibes weren’t on the table. For me it was only a subtext of what’s going on. Now with corona, we can literally see it close in front of our own eyes, which is sort of scary.”
The intention, Koch adds, was to make a big entertaining action sci-fi saga with “a political, humanistic subtext.”
“I don’t refer to it as a dystopian show,” he says. “For me it’s like a new frontier, a Wild West situation. You have tribes that are on the dystopian side, but not the whole world is dystopian. It’s a new beginning, a completely new world to discover, where you also have tribes that are very egalitarian, liberal — utopian even.”
“The whole thing started with me wanting to do a show about the end of Europe and what we ended up with is actually a show about the new beginning of Europe.”
While uniquely German, the nature of the story makes it very universal, Koch points out, noting that the series explores a Europe that is still divided by language and in which English remains the lingua franca.
Following the successful collaboration with Netflix on “Dark,” W&B Television’s Quirin Berg says “Tribes of Europa” was another ideal project for the streamer.
“I think the real international quality comes from the way of storytelling,” says Berg. “We’ve all seen many shows on Netflix that have grown into a global phenomenon even when not shot in English. Look at ‘Dark’ – we had 10 times more viewers internationally than we had in Germany. That was not the original anticipation but an amazing outcome.
“If you tell a story right, if it’s really strong, it will travel and grow. The beauty with ‘Tribes of Europa’ is that it’s very organically rooted; it’s very local. At the same time it is global because it’s about Europe as a continent; it’s about different tribes and naturally different backgrounds, different languages. I think it’s very rare to find that kind of idea and setup where so organically those things come together.”
As a fan of science fiction and fantasy, Koch also drew inspiration from a slew of popular sources. “There are a few pop culture references hidden throughout the entire show for fans to discover. From ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Mad Max,’ or the ‘Fallout’ video games — my very own personal love letters.”
The show, which shot in Germany, the Czech Republic and Croatia, continues W&B Television’s foray into the realm of science fiction and fantasy.
“Personally I love that genre — we grew up with it,” says Berg. Developing the genre in Germany was initially challenging, but global audiences are increasingly embracing science fiction and fantasy from around the world, he adds.
“Now we have the beautiful situation that no matter where you are, in which language or territory you’re operating in, you can tell pretty much any story, in any setting, and reach a global audience, and that’s a totally different situation.”
Germany was well known for classic genre works in the 1920s and ’30s, but they have been largely missing from modern cinema, Koch points out. Streaming platforms are changing that, however.
“It’s really amazing to see that especially through Netflix and the streamers, high-concept genre, also in Germany, is on the rise. I think that’s a huge chance for German genre because it’s automatically seen by an international audience.”
“I really hope that with ‘Tribes’ we can play a small part in making other creatives commit to the genre,” Koch says. “And I hope that for the industry and for German culture that genre can again become a big thing here, as it is for the States.”
For its part, W&B Television is already working on Amazon’s first German fantasy series, “The Gryphon,” based on Wolfgang Hohlbein’s bestseller. Set to go into production this year, the show follows three young friends who enter a magical world menaced by a terrifying mythological beast.
(Pictured: Philip Koch, Emilio Sakraya, Henriette Confurius, David Ali Rashed and Quirin Berg)