PARIS — Graced by Uma Thurman, “The Good Doctor” star Freddie Highmore and “Black Mirror” creators-showrunners Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones, the 10th Series Mania – and second in Lille, north-east France – will kick off March 22 with Netflix prominent, a broader geographical reach and a strong presence of women writers and directors.
Thurman will be in town for the international premiere of Netflix Original Series “Chambers,” which looks like one of the hottest tickets in this year’s 10-title Official Competition, a YA supernatural drama thriller from Stephen Gaghan and Turner’s multi-platform Super Deluxe. In it a young heart attack victim begins to take on the sinister characteristics of her deceased heart donor. Thurman plays the donor’s mother.
Thurman, Highmore and Brooker and Jones will deliver Series Mania masterclasses, as will writer-producer-director Marti Noxon (“Mad Men,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Glee”), president of the Official Competition jury. Its members take in “The Good Wife’s” star Julianna Margulies, French actress Audrey Fleurot (“Spiral,” “Safe”), French writer Delphine de Vigan and Thomas Lilti, creator-director of Canal Plus hit “Hippocrate.”
Eric Rochant, one of France’s few true-blue show runners. creator-writer-director of Canal Plus modern classic “The Bureau,” will talk on stage with the U.K. scriptwriter and showrunner Hugo Blick (“Black Earth Rising,” “The Honorable Woman”).
Of dramas from Netflix and HBO, Series Mania will also host in French Competition the world premiere of awaited Netflix Original Series “Osmosis,” created by Audrey Fouché and produced with Capa Drama. HBO’s “Folklore,” an Asian horror anthology created by Eric Khoo, plays in International Competition, as does HBO Europe’s “Success,” directed by Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”). Amazon teams with Arte to back Gaia Guasti’s “Une Ile,” in French Competition. CBS’ “Red Line” and “The Twilight Zone” receive international premieres at Series Mania’s Best of USA sidebar.
Sporting three U.K. Channel 4 dramas, Series Mania’s Official Competition also features “Eden” from “Deutschland 83’s” Edward Berger, “Just for Today” created by Israel’s Nir Bergman, a writer on the Israeli original inspiring “In Therapy,” and “Mytho,” directed by “Les Revenants’” creator-writer-director Fabrice Gobert.
If one trend dominates the lineup of a now classic TV festival, positioned by French authorities to consolidate as the most important in Europe, it is its strong line in dramas capturing a contemporary Zeitgeist of uncertainty, dislocation and pessimism, Series Mania founder and general director Laurence Herszberg and artistic director Frédéric Lavigne commented.
“In a context of political and social instability, the trend is towards series which replay history or demonize the future.
There’s an explosion of series set in 1980s or 1990s,” Herszberg and Lavigne write in an introduction to this year’s selection.
They added: “What we’ve done wrong and where that can lead us: Two sides of the same coin are shown, however, via a palette of languages from realism noir to burlesque comedy.”
Of Channel 4 series, Shane Meadows wrote and directed “The Virtues,” a humor-laced revenge drama produced by Warp Films and sold by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. It stars Stephen Graham (“Boardwalk Empire”) as a man adrift confronting the demons from a childhood in care.
Lucy Kirkwood’s “Chimerica,” another Channel 4 series, questions the divisiveness of current geopolitics as an American photographer seeks out nearly 30 years later the subject of a photo he took during the massacre of Tian’anmen Square.
Immigration-themed dramas mark one trend in this year’s selection, said Herszberg.
Backed by Arte and Germany’s SWR/ARD and sold by France’s Lagardère Studios, Berger’s “Eden” is set in a context of mass diaspora, a refugee camp on a Greek beach.
Produced by Yes TV (“Fauda”) screening in International Panorama, and co-created and directed by Eitan Tzur, a director on “In Therapy,” Israel’s “Asylum City” is set in the underworld of south Tel Aviv where a young detective investigates a intrigue-packed murder case in which the main suspect is an asylum seeker from Africa.
Other dramas picture the world, and families with it, falling apart. Created by Stephen Butchard (“House of Sadam”), the second series from Euston Films, and sold by Fremantle, Official Competition entry “Baghdad Cafe,” also to be broadcast on Channel 4, weighs in as a crime thriller set in 2003 as a post-Sadam Hussein Baghdad implodes.
Playing International Panorama, Sky Deutschland’s family survival thriller “8 Days,” a catastrophe event series produced by Germany’s Neuesuper and co-directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (“The Counterfeiters”), pictures law and order and any notion of serving the common good rapidly disappear in modern-day Berlin as a meteor hurtles towards earth in collision course with western Europe.
Starring “Game of Thrones’” Kristofer Hivju, Norwegian broadcaster NRK’s “Twin” is another kind of social-issue family survival thriller of a different strain as a man accidentally kills his identical twin and takes his place, with the complicity of his sister-in-law, as part of the dead brother’s family. Just how long the subterfuge will work is another question.
In Competition, backed by Federation Entertainment and Netflix and starring Marina Hands and Mathieu Demy, “Mythos” chronicles how a family unravels after the devoted wife and mother tells just one white lie.
Of other Official Competition titles, produced by Endemol Shine Israel (“Harem”) and sold by Yes Studios, Bergman’s “Just for Today” is set at a transit station for ex-cons’ social reinsertion.
“Year on year the quality of series from countries we are not used to having is getting higher and higher,” said Herszberg, citing as one example, Valery Federovich and Evgeny Nikishov’s “Identification,” a drama set in an illegal immigrant community originating from Kirghizistan, which marks the second time a Russian drama has made Official Competition.
A second Russian title, the buzzed-up “Blackout,” plays in Intl. Panorama.
Series Mania’s Official Competition also features “Lambs of God,” produced by Endemol Shine Australia and sold by Sky Vision and described by Foxtel, which produces with Lingo Pictures, as a “dark, gothic tale” about three nuns, each a generation apart, whose isolated convent life is interrupted by a young priest. Ann Dowd (“The Handmaids Tale,” “The Leftovers”), Essie Davis (“Game of Thrones”) and Jessica Barden (“The End Of The F*****World”) co-star.
Written by Sarah Lambert, “Lambs of God” marks one of multiple dramas at this year’s Series Mania either penned or directed by women, making up 29 – or 41% – of selected series, said Herszberg.
48% of series projects at Series Mania Forum, to be announced next week, are also written or to be directed from women. The only sector where women still have to make up large ground is when it comes to producers of selected festival series, Herszberg added.
Three of the six titles in French Competition, all world premieres, are fantasy/genre series: “Osmosis,” set in a dystopia where an algorithm guides peoples love lives; public broadcaster channel France 2’s “The Last Wave,” sold by Fremantle, about how a peaceful French surfing resort is afflicted by climate change; and “Une Ile,” a mermaid drama-thriller starring Laetitia Casta and Noe Abita sold by Lagardere Studios.
“It’s a departure for French series to venture into fantasy and genre,” said Lavigne. “French series are normally more intimate family comedies or psychological dramas.”
Described by Series Mania president Rodolph Belmer and Laurence Herzeberg as an “mini audiovisual Davos,” the 2nd Lille Trans-Atlantic Dialogs take place on March 27, the Series Mania Forum on March 25.
SERIES MANIA 2019
“Baghdad Central,” (Stephen Butchard, U.K.)
“Chambers,” (Leah Rachel , U.S.)
“Chimerica,” (Lucy Kirkwood, U.K.)
“Eden,” (Edward Berger, Nele Mueller Stöfen, Marianne Wendt, France, Germany)
“Identification,” (Valery Fedorovich, Evgeny Nikishov, Russia)
“Just for Today,” (Nir Bergman, Ram Nehari, Israel)
“Lambs of God,” (Sarah Lambert, Australia)
“Mytho,” (Anne Berest, France)
“Twin,” (Kristoffer Metcalfe, Norway)
“The Virtues,” (Shane Meadows, U.K.)
“The Last Wave,” (Raphaëlle Roudaut, Alexis Le Sec, France)
“Super Jimmy,” (Camille Pouzol, Stéphane Drouet, Lionel Olenga, France)
“Family Shake,” (Baya Kasmi, France)
“Osmosis,” (Audrey Fouché , France)
“Soupçons,” (Lionel Bailliu, Yann Le Gal, France)
“Une île,” (Gaia Guasti, Aurélien Molas, France)
“8 Days,” (Peter Kocyla, Rafael Parente, Germany)
“Asylum City,” (Eitan Tzur, Uzi Weil, Liad Shoham, Israel)
“Blackout,” (Sergei Ursuliak, Russia)
“The Cry,” (Jacquelin Perske, U.K., Australia)
“Curfew,” (Matthew Read, U.K.)
“Exit,” (Petter Testmann-Koch, Øystein Karlsen, Norway)
“Flack,” (Oliver Lansley, U.K.)
“Folklore,” (Eric Khoo, Indonesia, Singapore, Japon)
“The Guest,” (Seo Jae-won, Gwon So-ra, South Korea)
“Hierro,” (Pepe Coira, Spain, France)
“Les misérables,” (Andrew Davies, U.K.)
“Monzón,” (Francisco Varone, Leandro Custo, Gabriel Nicoli, Gabriela Larralde, Jesus Braceras, Agustin Bossi, Pol Bossi, Argentina)
“Motherfatherson,” (Tom Rob Smith, U.K.)
“Pros and Cons,” (Thor Bjørn Krebs, Mikkel Serup, Denmark)
“Success,” (Marjan Alčevski, Croatia)