Two half-hour gems, Finland’s “Mister 8” and Germany’s “The Allegation,” took top-honors on Wednesday night at this year’s Canneseries, now fully consolidated as one of Europe’s major TV festivals.
The prizes are obvious recognition for the two series creators, Finland’s Teemu Nikki and Jani Pösö and Germany’s Ferdinand von Schirach, and underscore the spirit of innovation at major TV companies across Europe.
“Mister 8” is backed by Finnish SVOD operator Elisa Viihde Viaplay, “The Allegation” by Germany’s RTL Group, which is currently in the throes of a high-end scripted drama revolution as it preps its lineup for its relaunched SVOD service, now called RTL Plus, which goes live on Nov. 4.
Sold by France’s Federation Entertainment and co-written by director Nikki and producer Pösö, Canneseries best series winner “Mister 8” was described to Variety by Nikki as “a thriller with a comedy plot.”
Shot in black and white, it kicks off with Juno and Maria, the daughter of a rich industrialist, having a one-night stand, and then Juno being chosen as Maria’s Monday man. A control freak with father issues, Maria has one lover for every day of the week. Peeka Strang, star of “Tom of Finland,” won Canneseries best performance for his turn as Juho, a seeming ordinary Joe who leverages the weaknesses of Maria’s other lovers to progressively eliminate them as rivals.
“Scripted drama is really a model where great talent can come from anywhere and the codes change all the time. You can’t anticipate that a black-and-white, very funny and cynical Finnish comedy would beat out all contenders,” said Albin Lewi, Canneseries artistic director, noting that this was the second time in four years that a comedy had topped Canneseries.
Conceived by German criminal law attorney turned best-selling writer Ferdinand von Schirach in his first full original series as a writer, “The Allegation” is inspired by the 1994-97 Worm Trails which saw 25 people accused of collective child abuse. The case provoked massive media fury, though the accusations were finally dismissed by a judge as totally unfounded.
Produced by Moovie for Constantin Television, the series is another half-hour – more unusual for drama. A Dior Grand Prize winner at Canneseries, it is brought towards the modern day, the case sparking knee-jerk-reactions on social media, almost all assuming the accused are guilty. The series packs widely praised performances by “Babylon Berlin’s” Peter Kurth as the accused defense lawyer and “Gangs of London’s” Narges Rashidi as a strikingly badass but compassionate mob debt collector. “I’ve never seen such a character in a series,” said Lewi.
“The Allegation’s” elegant screenplay constantly challenges viewers to believe unequivocally that something is true, only to pull the carpet from beneath their feet. Doubt, as Kurth’s character comments later in the series, is a far more intelligent attitude.
Of other top winners in Cannes on Wednesday night, Banijay-Rights-sold “Countrymen,” from Norwegian pubcaster NRK in co-production with Arte, took two awards, for the performance of its ensemble key cast, and a High-School Best Series Prize, voted by students at local lycées. The latest from top Norwegian production house Rubicon (“Beforeigners”), the culture clash comedy has four muslims moving to a farm and ending up becoming Halal cheesemakers, whether they want to or not. “It takes a sensitive subject, creating a mockumentary with a warm heart,” Lewi said.
Directed by Uroš Tomić and Jelena Gavrilović, gritty crime drama “Awake,” the first Serbian series to be in the official selection at Canneseries, also became Serbia’s first winner, taking the festival’s coveted Audience Award.
LONG AND SHORT FORM COMPETITION AWARDS
“Mister 8,” (Teemu Nikki, Jani Pösö, Finland)
Best Short Form Series
“About Saturday,” (Liv Mari Ulla Mortensen, Norway)
Dior Grand Prize
“The Allegation,” (Daniel Geronimo Prochaska, Ferdinand von Shirach, Germany)
Pekka Strang (“Mister 8”)
Special Interpretation Prize
Nader Khademi, Ayaz Hussain, Jonas Strand Gravli, Arben Bala, Erika Strand Mamelund, Syeda Hina Zaidi, Kristin Grue (“Countrymen”)
Dior Revelation Prize
Malik Gervais-Aubourg (“Wipe Me Away”)
Ferdinand von Schirach (“The Allegation”)
Giorgio Giampà (“Christian”)
High School Prize for Best Series
“Countrymen,” (Izer Aliu, Anne Bjørnstad, Norway)
Student Prize for Best Short Form Series
“Lockdown,” (Gilles Coulier, Maarten Moerkerke, Belgium)
“Awake,” ( Jelena Gavrilović, Uroš Tomić, Serbia)