European arms industry corruption, forbidden love in 1920s Berlin and the impact of public outrage on the justice system are some of the themes explored by upcoming Germans TV productions showcased on Aug. 30 on the opening day of the Series Mania Forum in Lille, France.
In collaboration with German Films, the presentation offered a sneak peek at five new high-end shows that look to continue the country’s impressive rollout of recent hit series like “Dark,” “Deutschland 83,” “Babylon Berlin,” “Bad Banks” and “Barbarians.”
The new titles included ZDF and Arte’s ambitious French-German thriller “Algiers Confidential”; ARD’s period drama “Eldorado KaDeWe”; the globetrotting melodrama “Paradiso” and dark comedy “The Wasp,” both from Sky Deutschland; and TVNow (soon to be RTL Plus) and Vox’s legal drama “The Allegation.”
“Algiers Confidential,” based on Oliver Bottini’s novel, is a political thriller set in present-day Algiers and focuses on the world of arms trafficking and political corruption.
Producers Mario Krebs of Berlin-based Eikon Media and Philippe Alessandri of Watch Next Media in Paris hired acclaimed writer Abdel Raouf Dafri (“A Prophet,” “Braquo”) to pen the series. Dafri’s participation made it much easier to find a French broadcaster, Allesandri noted.
For Krebs, the adaptation was also an opportunity to examine Germany’s role in the global arms trade.
“In former times the Germans invaded countries with their arms,” said Krebs. “Now they invade countries by selling arms. That’s why I was attracted to the topic of the novel.”
Adrienne Frejacques, commissioning editor at Arte France, was immediately taken by the series’ multi-layered stories. “It was extremely interesting to hear about arms trafficking and corruption in Germany, which is not the image of Germany that we usually deal with, but arms trafficking is a common point between Germany and France. Public awareness about this part of the industry is quite low in both countries.”
“The fact that this novel, this adaptation and the added value of having Abdel Raouf Dafri tackling the script and giving it a very thriller-like approach was immediately appealing to us,” she said.
The series also follows young Algerian militants and their struggle against government corruption.
There is a responsibility in France to tell these stories because of the complex relationship with Algeria, Frejacques added.
Directed by Frederic Jardin, “Algiers Confidential” stars Ken Duken, Hania Amar and Dali Benssalah.
“Eldorado KaDeWe” follows four young people in 1920s Berlin whose fates become intertwined at the famed Kaufhaus des Westens department store, also known as the KaDeWe. They include Fritzi (Lia von Blarer) and Harry (Joel Basman), the daughter and son of KaDeWe owner Adolf Jandorf, and store workers Hedi (Valerie Stoll) and Georg (Damian Thüne). When Fritzi and Hedi embark on a passionate love affair, they risk shattering social mores and family values.
Producer Alicia Remirez of Munich-based Olga Film praised writer-director Julia von Heinz, noting, “She’s more than the director; she created this wonderful world around the department store.”
Stressing the series’ timely themes, Remirez said von Heinz used some anachronistic scenes to show aspects of modern society in the period drama (perhaps even the Berlin TV Tower in the above still).
It’s a slight political hint since several of the series’ themes remain relevant today in many countries, Remirez noted. “Part of the show is the love story between Fritzi and Hedi. Unfortunately we even have several European countries that have laws against homosexuality and we want to make a statement with the show.”
Writer Sabine Steyer-Violet stressed the importance of viewers finding themselves and their desires in stories and the need for greater diversity on screen. “I hope this is where our series comes in.”
“Paradiso” follows a journalist (Albrecht Schuch) as he travels to Italy for an interview with a celebrated German writer (Friedrich Mücke), who is living in seclusion. While there, he becomes entangled in the mystery of a missing person and a love triangle that spans the globe.
“Paradiso” shot from last fall through early 2021 in Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Finland, New York and Cuba during the pandemic.
“If you need an expert for Covid-19 shooting circumstances, don’t ask me, because I’m really done with it — but it was quite an adventure and we were lucky to have Sky on our side,” quipped Martin Heisler of Berlin-based Flare Entertainment. “I have to say that working with Sky was maybe one of the best experiences of our careers. With their backing we were free to do what we planned.”
“It’s a really melodramatic piece, and that’s what we love about it,” said Frank Jastfelder, Sky Deutschland’s director of original production scripted.
“Paradiso” is based on the novel “Funeral for a Dog” by Thomas Pletzinger, who also penned the series with Hanno Hackfort and Bob Konrad.
“The Wasp,” another Sky series produced by Gaumont Germany and created by Jan Berger, follows Eddie (Florian Lukas), a one-time professional dart player who finds himself in an existential crisis when he loses everything.
Jastfelder described the show — Sky’s first half-hour comedy series — as “very British” in its humor, noting that Eddie was “your classic working class hero.”
With “The Allegation,” Berlin-based Moovie continues its long collaboration with bestselling author Ferdinand von Schirach. Based on his script and inspired by a notorious, real-life case in Germany in which 25 people were accused of mass child abuse as part of a porn ring only to be eventually acquitted, “The Allegation” explores the impact of social media-fueled mass hysteria on the justice system and on the truth.
“What interested Ferdinand von Schirach and us was that it was not a story of intrigue or about one evil person setting up all the others,” said producer Sandra Gürtler. “It is a story of systemic failure in a generalized atmosphere of public outrage.”