Paris-based production banner Cinetévé is powering up several international-driven premium series across different genres, including the contemporary Afghanistan-set “Kabul,” procedural “Birdwatcher,” mystery thriller “L’ile prisonnière,” feminist dramedy “Split” and a French adaptation of “On the Spectrum.”
“Kabul,” co-developed by Cinétévé’s Thomas Saignes, Fabienne Servan Schreiber, Matthias Weber and Thibault Gast at 2425 Films, is a six-part thriller set between the Taliban’s sweep to power on Aug. 14 and the closure of borders two weeks later. The series is being penned by Olivier Demangel, whose credits include Cedric Jimenez’s upcoming movie “November” and Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” together with Thomas Finkielkraut (“Les guerriers”).
Saignes, who joined Cinetévé in late 2017 as a driving force behind the company’s push into international series, stated that “Kabul” will revolve around the refugee crisis that was prompted by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, describing how locals and expats embarked on a race against the clock to flee the country before the definitive exit of U.S. troops. The series will also show how the grassroots efforts of embassies, community groups and NGOs across Europe joined forces to help evacuate hundreds of people. Saignes said Servan Schreiber, Cinetévé’s founder and CEO, who is known to be politically engaged, was involved in these efforts over the summer.
One of “Kabul’s” subplots will also shed light on how the CIA was tracking an ISIS cell which was believed to be plotting an attack at the airport. Citing “Chernobyl,” “Argo” and “Babel” as references, the French producer said “Kabul” will follow several characters whose paths intertwine amid the tragic events. Cinétévé is looking to attach a high-profile filmmaker to direct the series which will shoot in Afghan, French and English.
Demangel said he was drawn to the project because “the evacuation of Kabul was a moment of very high dramatic intensity. [It] is one of the most astounding event of the last decade.”
The screenwriter, who recently completed the script of “Father & Soldier” with Omar Sy, said “Kabul” will show the “evacuations of embassies, the arrival of Talibans, the ISIS attack and in the middle of all this, the flood of Afghans trying to escape.” Demangel said the idea was to contain the timeframe on the two weeks of evacuation and focus the action on what went on at the airport. The series will bring together Afghans and international characters, including French and Americans, said Demangel, who is writing the series based on articles and interviews, as well as research on the contemporary history of Afghanistan.
“Kabul” is the second show that Cinétévé is launching in partnership with 2425 Films. The two companies recently teamed up on “Cuisine Interne,” a series following a young Franco-Senegalese chef who quits a prestigious position leading the kitchens at a top Manhattan hotel to start from scratch in Paris. Back home, she is confronted with the male-dominated environment of French cuisine and has to cope with mafia criminals. HAGO is handling world sales on “Cuisine Interne.”
Also on Cinétévé’s development roster, “Birdwatcher” is a neo-noir procedural thriller with dark humor following a former agent who’s been hired to solve crimes across Europe. Mathieu Missoffe, whose credits include “Zone Blanche,” created the series and will be showrunner. Saignes said “Birdwatcher”‘s “charismatic star will deliver a modern, tech-savvy and international twist on the classic hard-boiled detective genre.” Cinétévé is producing the show with Jan Diepers at Studio-Hamburg in Germany.
“Split” is a comedy series penned by well-respected French feminist author Iris Brey who will also direct. The show, which Cinétévé is producing with Canal Plus, revolves around Anna, a 30 year-old stuntwoman who falls in love with a famous actress during a film shoot. Casting is underway with Elodie Demey, the topnotch casting director of Audrey Diwan’s Venice Golden Lion winning “Happening” and Francois Ozon’s “Summer of 85.” Studiocanal is handling sales on the series, with a shoot expected to begin next year. Saignes said the show will be in the same vein as “Fleabag” and “I May Destroy You.”
Cinétévé is partnering up with Federation Entertainment on “Dans le trouble,” the anticipated French remake of the hit Israeli show “On the Spectrum.” Lola Doillon (“Greek Salad,” “Call My Agent!”) and Marie Desplechin, the bestselling author of the children’s book, are writing the adaptation. Set in Paris’s vibrant 19th arrondissement, “Dans le trouble” will follow Nolwenn, Martin and Ibrahim who have been diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum and share a flat together. The series comprises of eight half-hour episodes.
The company is currently shooting “L’ile prisonnière,” a fantasy series produced by Cinétévé’s Jean-Pierre Fayer and Servan Schreiber. It also recently completed the second season of “Parlement,” a political satire about the European Parliament created by Noé Debré (“Stillwater,” “Dheepan”).