Icelandic film production company Sagafilm and Sweden’s LittleBig Productions are developing a historical series about 17th-century Icelanders abducted by Barbary corsairs and sold into slavery in North Africa.
Tentatively titled “Salé” — a city on the North African coast that was also a haven for pirates — the series is inspired by true events. It begins in the summer of 1627, when several hundred people in settlements along Iceland’s coast are captured by Barbary privateers under the command of the Dutch pirate Jan Janszoon, more commonly known as Admiral Murat Reis. Among his prisoners are Gunnur, the wife of a young fisherman, and her 12-year-old daughter Gríma. When they are brought to the North African slave markets, mother and daughter are separated, sold to different masters and forced to develop different strategies in order to survive.
Described as a thrilling tale of love, survival, revenge, and the power of hope, “Salé” tells a story that could reverberate with viewers at home and abroad, says Sagafilm CEO Hilmar Sigurðsson. “This is a story that most Icelanders know but it also has a strong global reference, so it should attract international viewers as well as Icelandic ones.”
“Aiming for the highest visual quality in all respects, strong storytelling and great acting, our vision and intention is to tell an entertaining, engaging, and compelling fictional story, whose historically true and documented background helps build an authenticity that captures audiences,” adds LittleBig Prods.’ Anna G. Magnúsdóttir, who created the series with fellow producers Anders Granström and Herbert Gehr.
“‘Salé’ is a dramatic panorama about power, abduction and the loss of home and loved ones. It is about coping in dire circumstances and finding a new life in a foreign culture,” Magnúsdóttir adds. “We think it is important to bring forth the dramatic but largely forgotten history of European captives and privateers in North Africa during the 17th century, an era which in so many ways shaped the world as we know it today.”
The partnership between LittleBig Prods. and Sagafilm has accelerated the series’ development and shortened the distance to production, Magnúsdóttir stresses.
The prolific German writing trio known as HaRiBo — Hanno Hackfort, Richard Kropf and Bob Konrad (“You Are Wanted,” “4 Blocks”) — also worked on the development of the series. “Salé” is “a truly European collaboration,” adds Sagafilm Nordic producer Kjartan Thor Thordarson. “We feel the market is ready for ambitious European drama.”
One of Iceland’s leading production companies, Sagafilm most recently produced the crime drama series “Sisterhood,” directed by Silja Hauksdóttir, the second season of “Stella Blómkvist,” which premieres on Icelandic channel Síminn at the end of September, and the feature film “Wolka,” directed by the late Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson.
LittleBig Prods.’ works include such recent features as Kristín Jóhannesdóttir’s Icelandic co-production “Alma” and Maximilian Hult’s “Pity the Lovers.”