Series Mania has always been about discovery: Of drama series as an art form, in its early days from launch in 2009; then of key players on a burgeoning international premium TV scene.
Series Mania’s International Panorama now catches a new wave of creatives transitioning from film to scripted TV – Israel’s Yaron Shani with “Innermost,” Spain’s Isaki Lacuesta and Isa Campo with episodes of “Apagón”; and highlights notable emerging auteurs: Denmark’s Kasper Møller Rask, Canada’s Alexis Durand-Brault, Spain’s Fran Araujo, Pakistan’s Assim Abassi and Germany’s Jakob and Jonas Weydemann.
But for having already bowed at national festivals, some of the 12 titles below could well have been in the running for a Competition berth.
Below, the Series Mania’s rich 2023 International Panorama:
“Apagón,” (“Offworld,” Spain)
One of Variety’s Best International TV Shows of 2022, a realistic, sophisticated disaster thriller from Movistar+ and Buendía Estudios with five stories conceived collectively by some of Spain’s foremost film and TV writers, orchestrated by Fran Araujo (“Hierro”). Episodes all unspool in a world afflicted by massive power outage, but contrast in tone, genre and setting and yet are laced by common concerns, such as conflict negotiation. Top Spanish movie directors – Rodrigo Sorgoyen, Raúl Arévalo, Isa Campo, Alberto Rodríguez and Isaki Lacuesta – direct with unfettered cinematic flair.
“Barzakh,” (“Limboland,” Pakistan-India)
Starring leading Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed and helmed by critically acclaimed director Asim Abbasi, who also directed Zee5 Global Zindagi’s first Pakistani original “Churails” and the feature film “Cake.” A family drama centred around an elderly man’s quest for love framed within a fantastical world of supernatural beings and otherworldly events. Produced by Waqas Hassan and Shailja Kejriwal for Zindagi.
“A Body That Works” (Israel)
After years of failed pregnancy attempts and painful miscarriages, a couple starts considering another option: Surrogacy. Soon, they invite a complete stranger, a struggling mother of one, into their lives. Created by Shira Hadad, Dror Mishani and Shay Capon, the show dives right into questions of parenthood, love and even attraction, all the while respecting its protagonist’s dilemma: “Do you want to be pregnant, or do you want to have a child?”
The new banner series from Apple Tree Productions producer Piv Bernth – behind iconic Scandinavian series “The Killing,” “The Bridge” and “Borgen” – a double crime mystery and premium public broadcaster drama, here for SVT, set in 1973 and 1991 in deep Sweden, which broadens the focus of Nordic Noir in its powerful atmospherics and bigger picture of a rural community facing individual and collective oblivion. “Slightly off mainstream,” as Bernth comments. ITV Studios, which owns Apple Tree Productions, distributes.
Teased by Variety as a hard-hitting Quebecois limited series casting the build-up to a landmark 1980 abortion ruling in Canada in a legal thriller. Written by Isabelle Pelletier and Daniel Thibault, and directed by Alexis Durand-Brault, co-founder of Also Productions, a fast-rising company on Quebec’s premium drama scene. Also is behind smash hit “The Sketch Artist” and has project “Mégantic” at Series Mania’s Next from Quebec showcase.
“Funny Woman,” (U.K.)
An adaptation of Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel with Gemma Arterton (“The King’s Man”) playing a Blackpool beauty queen who hits London in the Swinging Sixties, revolutioniZing the British sitcom scene. The comedy-drama is adapted by writer-comedian Morwenna Banks (“Slow Horses”), directed by Oliver Parker, and applies, as many TV shows now do, a contemporary gender vision to a recent era: Think “Sisi” or “Carmen Curlers.” The SkyShowtime title dropping on Sky Max and streamer NOW on Feb. 9,
“I Have to Die Every Night,” (Mexico)
A touching love letter to 1980’s Mexico City, framed by a coming-of-age tale, when a whole young generation of Mexicans discovered new freedoms, thanks in part to a glam gay scene, assailed by an autocratic regime and then AIDs. Ernesto Contreras (“El Chapo,” “Falco”) directs; Monica Lozano (“Instructions Not Included,” “Run Coyote Run”) produces at Alebrije for Paramount+.
Yet another debut TV series from a prominent film director, here Israel’s Yaron Shani, behind the Oscar-nominated “Ajami.” In “Innermost,” three lives intersect: a police officer’s, an upcoming writer’s and a young musician’s. Variety dropped a first look teaser-trailer a few days back which suggests a tense drama of innermost emotions raging under the surface of contemporary Tel Aviv, shot, as is Shani’s wont, with non-pros and an at times near documentary edge.
“Little Bird,” (Canada)
Part of Fremantle’s drive into English-language series production in the U.K., Australia and Canada, an indigenous-led drama showrun by Jennifer Podemski, (“The Rez,” “Empire of Dirt”) following the life of Bezhig Little Bird, a victim of the Sixties Scoop in Saskatchewan which saw First Nations children abducted and put up for adoption by white families. An inevitably moving tale as Little Bird, now mid-twenties, part of a well-off Jewish elite and engaged, sets off into the Canadian prairies to encounter the truth of her past. Produced by Montreal-based Rezolution Pictures and Winnipeg-based OP Little Bird for Crave and APTN in Canada. Sold by Fremantle.
“Nordland, ’99” (Denmark)
A makeover of YA U.S. scripted, transferred to small town Denmark 1999, as teens Lukas, Kris and Alex hang out at street parties until Alex vanishes and his friends and sister set out to track him down. Up-and-coming creator Kasper Møller Rask (“Lemon World”) dangles explanations ranging from supernatural intervention to a local pusher’s jealousy. The real reasons, terrible crimes and secrets, are far darker. Heavweight producer Anni Faurbye Fernandez (“The Millennium Trilogy,”“Wallander,” “Atlantic Crossing”) features among producers at Nevis Production. DR Sales reps international.
“La Ruta,” (“The Route,” Spain)
Further proof that innovation, despite an increasingly formulaic global TV output, is alive and well in Spain. A friendship tale set on Spain’s legendary club scene, Valencia’s La Ruta de Bakalao, between 1981 and 1993. But the story is told in reverse chronological order one episode at a time to end when the friends first meet in 1981, as a young generation in Spain found a jubilant post-Franco freedom. It would mark its members, as “La Ruta’s” characters, for life. Co-created by Borja Soler, produced by the Rodrigo Sorogoyen-partnered Caballo Films, and another hit for Atresplayer Premium, behind “Veneno” and “Cardo.”
”A Thin Line,” (Germany)
Anna and Benni, two inseparable twins and cyber activists, hack the transport minister’s email correspondence to denounce his corruption and stop a new highway destroying their local forest. Exposed, Benni goes on the run and joins a pro-environment terrorist org; Anna, imprisoned, is persuaded to help the Federal Police hunt her down. A tense crime and ethical thriller questioning the new morals of a generation brought up on anti-establishment protest. Created by Jakob and Jonas Weydemann, producers of Berlina Silver Bear winner “System Crasher.” Just out on Paramount+.
Marta Balaga, Ben Croll and Naman Ramachandran contributed to this article.