‘Unique and Bold Choices’ Reigned Supreme at Berlinale’s Co-Pro Series: ‘This Should Attract Buyers and Co-producers Now’

Rexa Vella

‘Unique and Bold Choices’ Reigned Supreme at Berlinale’s Co-Pro Series: ‘This Should Attract Buyers and Co-producers Now’

From Namibian western to animated revenge thriller, from Bosnian family saga to a lesbian vampire breakup story, 10 upscale scripted TV projects were spotlighted at the Berlinale Series Market’s Co-Pro Series on Tuesday morning, representing “unique and bold choices with regard to genre and perspective, on top of great storytelling,” Martina Bleis, Head of the Berlinale Co-Production Market, observed before the presentation..

“This should attract buyers and co-producers now, and will surely convince discerning audiences once they have been made,” 

With Oscar winner Simon Beaufoy joining climate change satire “S.O.L.,” created by late Ruth McCance, or Cannes-awarded director Aida Begić now focusing on “Mirrors,” it was a high-profile affair. 

“This female family chronicle serves as a bridge between two centuries, two eras and two societies, shedding light on the hidden lives of Balkan women. Female secrets touch on taboos such as sexuality, violence and mental health. What would happen if all these secrets were not secrets at all?,” Begić told Variety

“Series selections at the Berlinale have always been about highlighting exciting, cinematic series. Those that you would also enjoy watching on the big screen, with company around you. Very often, these are series by filmmakers and producers who have made highly acclaimed films selected in ours, or in other major festivals before,” pointed out Bleis. 

New shows by Katrin Gebbe – “Sissi” and “Pelican Blood” – Elina Psykou, behind “The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas” and “Piggy” director Carlota Pereda, now taking on heartbroken bloodsuckers in “Death to Love,” are intriguing as well. 

“Vampires are my favorite monsters for their wild instincts, forbidden desire, and romanticism,” says Pereda about her new offering “Death to Love,” which is “as visceral as it is romantic.” 

“These characteristics collide with a modern world in which love and desire are no longer viewed as mysterious forces capable of destroying us, but as something to be explained and accounted for, the means to an end.” 

In historical erotic thriller “The Werewolf & Renée,” Gebbe takes on Marquis de Sade and “Bonnie & Clyde” mythos. Psykou returns to the 1970s, and a wave of femicides covered up by the regime, in “The Coroner’s Assistant.” 

“Each of these filmmakers had outstanding and daring feature film projects with us at the Berlinale Co-Production Market before. We are happy to continue supporting them on their path,” underlined Bleis. 

Daniel Burman, who delivered “Yosi, the Regretful Spy,” is another regular. Now dealing with “Witness 36,” co-written with Natacha Caravia, Juan Matías Carballo, in which a writer specializing in creating fictional identities for a witness protection program becomes smitten with a man whose past resembles one of her creations. 

“The premise of his new series project is an instant hit, and the artistic background is of course very strong,” said Bleis. 

Switzerland’s “The Palm Line,” Sina Ataeian Dena’s “Wolves,” Spain’s “Executioners” and “The Man with a Crooked Arm” – from “Under the Hanging Tree” helmer Perivi John Katjavivi – are spotlighted as well.

In the latter, a black cowboy embarks on a trip on horseback across colonial Africa, merging decolonial activism, history and mysticism, promised Katjavivi. 

“Grounded in local oral history and folklore, this series aims to challenge Western textbook ‘facts,’” he added.

Following, a brief break-down of series presented yesterday from what producers let on to Variety

“The Coroner’s Assistant” (“O Voithos tou Iatrodikasti,” Greece)

Elina Psykou is behind the show based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos and produced by Athens-based Blonde (“Tehran”). Diving into 1970s Greece, struggling under a junta regime, she focuses on a femicide and attempted cover-up that follows. “It’s a story that speaks for our country back then, but even more now. And when we say our country, we mean our world,” she notes. Cosmote TV will broadcast locally.

“Death to Love,” (“Que muera el amor,” Spain)

Carlota Pereda dazzled at Sundance with first feature “Piggy,” using “standard genre shocks almost as MacGuffins,” Variety wrote. Now, Pereda’s at Berlinale Co-Pro Series on Feb. 20 with her buzzy debut series, “Death to Love.” A vampire dramedy, its heart looks to lie in a woman vampire’s struggle to end a toxic relationship with her equally vampire female lover, narrated down the centuries to a modern-day climax. “A visceral and romantic proposition,” Pereda says. Morena Films (“Diablero”), behind “Piggy,” produces with Buendía Estudios (“Veneno,” “Las noches de Tefía”). 

“Executioners” (“Verdugos,” Spain)

The Basque Pyrenees, 1996. Four kids in search of adventure find a kidnapped businessman held in an abandoned mine. Things quickly blight. A “Stand By Me” set up, then kidnap thriller then suspense ethical drama where loyalty and friendship are tested over 15 years. Written by the Martín, head writer on “Aida,” and García Rios, writer-executive producer on “Compañeros.” Lead produced by Vertice 360, an energetic European co-producer, the Series Mania Forum’s guest project at Co-Pro Series.

“The Man with a Crooked Arm” (Namibia)

Perivi John Katjavivi and Old Location Films (“Under the Hanging Tree”) take on western mythology, showing a black cowboy on a trip across colonial Africa – with stolen loot and an orphaned boy. “In this thrilling series, characters impose their flawed order on an ungovernable land, delving into their darkest natures,” he says about his “cinematic” project, one that’s bound to bring a “unique perspective and a new model” for filmmaking.

“Mirrors” (“Ogledala,” Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Created by Aida Begić and Amra Bakšić Čamo – and produced by SCCA/pro.ba – over the course of 8 episodes it portrays a family that meets following a beloved matriarch’s passing, unaware that terrible secrets are about to come out. Leaving her daughter wondering if she truly knew her mother. “Today, in a post-truth society, we are losing our sense of context and what came before us. The continuity of women’s stories is fragmenting once again,” state Begić and Čamo.

“The Palm Line” (“La Linea della Palma,” Switzerland)

Hugofilm Features – “Piece of Sky” and Netflix’s “Early Birds” – is on board for the thriller created by Maria Roselli, Thomas Ritter and Mattia Lento, and broadcasted by RSI. A journalist investigates the biggest art theft of the century, trying to find out who killed her father. Soon, the mafia turns its attention to her. “Our series connects a spectacular true crime case with a fictional story centered on a dysfunctional family and their entanglement with a criminal network,” teases Ritter. 

“S.O.L.” (U.K., Sweden)

Produced by Warp Films and Rainy Days, this biting satire about a rich man with good intentions leading straight to hell has tapped “Slumdog Millionaire” alumni Simon Beaufoy as writer. “It’s a thriller about climate change, money and power, but it’s not finger-wagging, worthy or hopelessly depressing,” says producer Peter Carlton. Created by the late Ruth McCance and developed with TV4, the show is eyeing a 2025 shoot.

“Witness 36” (Argentina)

The eventual winner of the coveted Series Mania Award at Co-Pro Series, consisting of an invite to pitch at the French TV festival’s Forum’s Co-Pro Pitching Sessions. Packing a geo-political sweep, but in the final analysis a love story, turning on a female writer, who creates fictional identities for a witness protection program for created by a coalition of intelligence agencies. Against her better judgement, she becomes entangled in a romance with a mysterious man whose past resembles one of her creations. The latest from Argentina’s Daniel Burman, (“Lost Embrace,” “Yosi, the Regretful Spy”), and set up at Oficina Burman, part of The Mediapro Studio. 

“Wolves” (Germany, Czech Republic, Iran)

Ma.ja.de and Czech-based Europe Media Nest join forces on an animated thriller created by Sina Ataeian Dena – known for producing Locarno winner “Critical Zone” – about a man who learns that his lover was executed for being homosexual. Overwhelmed by rage, he arrives in Tehran to seek revenge. “This accessible, universal story explores how oppressed individuals create their parallel realities,” says Dena. “The visual outcome is neither fully realistic, as a filmed image might be, nor fully artificial, like with animation.”

“The Werewolf & Renée” (Germany)

Junafilm backs Katrin Gebbe’s historical erotic thriller, incredibly enough based on true events and selected by SeriesMania for the Series Maker Workshop. Set in Paris in 1780, it sees a young noblewoman Renée discovering she was in fact “sold” to Marquis de Sade. She seeks revenge – but de Sade will actually be her partner in crime. Gebbe already has the Netflix hit “The Empress” under her belt and is currently shooting “A Thousand Blows” for Disney+.

John Hopewell contributed to this article. 

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