Beta Film has added two new titles to its growing slate of titles from Central and Eastern Europe, acquiring international distribution rights to Serbian supernatural drama “Block 27” and the Czech crime series “Ultimatum,” the company announced on the eve of the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Veronika Kovacova, Beta’s EVP of international sales and acquisitions for Eastern Europe and Turkey, said the deals underscore the company’s continued commitment to the fast-growing region. “We are there for the creators, for the producers, to help them and to support what they want to produce,” she said.
Directed by Momir Milosevic and Milica Tomovic, and produced by Belgrade-based Firefly Productions, “Block 27” is a science fiction-mystery that follows the disappearance of a teenager in Belgrade, and the search by his twin sister to find him—a journey that finds her traveling to another dimension. The 6 x 45’ series is created by Ivan Knezevic and stars Branko Djuric, Stefan Lazic and Katarina Markovic.
The show is set amid the rough apartment blocks of New Belgrade, an area that was built during the 1960s and ‘70s in the former Yugoslavia. “It was a big symbol of Yugoslavian progress and brotherhood and unity of the people. But when the country collapsed, also these ideals collapsed,” said Kovacova.
The teen drama brings a fresh genre twist to the booming Serbian TV industry. Comparing it to “Stranger Things” and the hit German Netflix series “Dark,” Kovacova said the show has “a very modern approach…combined with a historical element” that will make it appealing to audiences of all ages.
“Ultimatum” (pictured) is an 8 x 60’ crime drama directed by Michal Kollár and produced by Czech Television KFS Production and TV JOJ. Starring Ján Koleník, Ester Geislerová and Milan Bahul, it follows a police negotiator who gets embroiled in a hospital hostage crisis that entangles his pregnant girlfriend and the Minister of Defense.
A partnership between the Czech public broadcaster and Slovakia’s commercial network TV JOJ, Kovacova said the series “is something very much new for us, and for them.” Steeped in regional history and political intrigue, the Beta exec said that “with some action on top, ‘Ultimatum’ can really attract an international audience.”
Both titles will be part of Beta’s MIPCOM catalog, which also includes “Cardamom Coffee,” a historical drama from Ukrainian writer Natalia Hurnytska set in Lviv at the tail end of the 19th century. The series is produced by Solar Media Entertainment for Ukrainian broadcaster STB and stars Olena Lavrenyuk (“Woman at War”) and actor Pawel Delag (“Schindler’s List”). “It very much fit in the Beta catalog, as we are trying to bring the best of Europe” to international audiences, said Kovacova. “It’s also our way to support Ukrainian creators with whom we have been working for many years.”
Also on the slate are “Golden Boy,” a coming-of-age story produced by Fantastika Film Studio for Telekom Serbia about a young, talented soccer player who has to fight against all odds to succeed; and “The Silence,” a crime drama that follows the fallout for a detective, a reporter and the wife of a local politician after a young girl’s body washes up on a riverbank in Croatia.
Since buying a majority stake two years ago in Drugi Plan, the Zagreb-based production outfit behind “The Silence” and the Netflix-acquired political crime thriller “The Paper,” Beta has stepped up its presence in Central and Eastern Europe, with Kovacova noting that the Munich-based company is drawn to “the authenticity and the very raw emotion that they display in their productions.”
To illustrate how its relationships in the region are bearing fruit, she pointed to the example of “The Silence,” which Drugi Plan produced with Croatian broadcaster HRT. Beta brought ZDF/ARTE on board as co-producers, and the show was picked up by HBO Max this year.
Such collaborations, Kovacova added, are a sign of more to come from the region. “There are incredibly talented people out there, wonderful scriptwriters. On the creative side, it’s very rich,” she said. “They should simply be more motivated to put financing together in order to bring even more high-end stories to the international market.”
The Sarajevo Film Festival runs Aug. 12 – 20.