Elodie Polo-Ackermann, who runs the Mediawan-owned Paris-based banner Imagissime, has become one of Europe’s key documentary producers since delivering “Who Killed Little Gregory?,” a different kind of true crime series which marked Netflix’s first documentary original in France.
“Who Killed Little Gregory?” was directed by Gilles Marchand, a critically acclaimed screenwriter and director whose credits include the Cannes title “Who Killed Bambi?” and “L’autre monde.” With his cinematic approach to the genre, Marchand was able to cast a new light on the infamous cold case revolving around the mysterious murder of 4-year old Grégory Villemin in 1984. The company recently launched its second Netflix docu, “The Women and the Murderer,” a female take on the 1990s serial killer Guy Georges, co-written and co-directed by Mona Achache (“The Hedgehog”) and Patricia Tourancheau.
Imagissime is now developing two human interest documentary series which have an international resonance: “Un si long silence” tells the powerful story of Sarah Abitbol, a former professional ice skater who became world champion in 2000 and was sexually abused by her trainer at the age of 15; and “Sirius,” an investigative series shedding light on The Order of the Solar Temple, a cult that’s been linked to murders and mass suicides in the 1990s in France, Switzerland and Canada.
“Today, the artistic boundary between fiction and documentary is blurred and we have a similar mindset when it comes to storytelling and character development,” said Polo-Ackermann, a seasoned producer who previously worked side-by-side with revered French journalist and filmmaker Daniel Leconte on Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos,” and “It’s Tough Being Loved By Jerks.” The executive said Netflix has paved the way for TV documentaries without voiceover narration that can be both cinematic and culturally relevant, yet entertaining.
“France has long had an ‘elitist’ documentary tradition, where it was perceived as vulgar to think you could tackle a serious issue in an entertaining way, but that’s completely changed,” said the producer. She added, however, that the only aspect that’s still lagging in documentary compared with drama series is the level of financial commitment from broadcasters.
“As we aim to produce more ambitious documentaries, budgets are slowly increasing but we’re still under-financed and that’s impacting the development, the crew sizes and rights’ management issues,” said Polo Ackermann.
Now shooting, “Un si long silence” is a 90-minute documentary directed by Remy Burkel, whose credits include the Netflix docu “Trial 4,” and Emmanuelle Anizon, an investigative reporter who co-wrote Abitbol’s testimonial book in 2020. It’s been commissioned for primetime airing by French public broadcasting France 2. Abitbol shares her story in the film and unveils archives that have never been seen before.
Polo Ackermann said that Abitbol’s story, (“Un si long silence”) is addressing the issue of sexual abuse in sport that’s often facilitated by the imbalance of power between coaches and athletes.
“Sirius,” directed by Nicolas Brénéol and Raphaël Rouyer, is a four-part documentary series commissioned by TF1 and developed in partnership with Canada’s Attraction and TVA. Mediawan Rights is handling sales on “Sirius.”
A previous Lagardère Studios subsidiary, Imagissime is now owned by Mediawan with powerful sister companies, including ON Entertainment (“The Little Prince”), Chi-Fou-Mi (“Bac Nord”), Radar Films (“The Deep House”), Atlantique Production (“The Eddy”), CC&C (“Apocalypse”), Troisieme Oeil (“Montre jamais ça à personne”) and Black Dynamite (“Champion (s)”).