Jack Thorne, Ron Leshem, Pedro Almodovar Feature in Talent-Studded Series Mania Main Competition

With an International Panorama spangled by gems  – think Spain’s “Apagón,” Sweden’s “Blackwater,” and Canada’s “Disobey” and “Little Bird” – Series Mania also weighs in this year with one, if not the, strongest and most mouthwatering of international competitions in its history.

Including the opening and closing series, Amazon’s “Greek Salad” and Netflix’s “Transatlantic,” many of the global streamers have titles in the lineup, taking in Apple TV+’s “Drops of God” and Paramount+’s “A Thin Line” and “I Have to Die Every Night” in Panorama.

More from Variety

The lineup also features some A-List international writing talents, such as the U.K.’s Jack Thorne and Israel’s Ron Leshem and Amit Cohen, whose “The Virtues” and “No Man’s Land” rank among the most memorable of recent Series Mania competition titles, and closing the festival, out of competition, “Unorthodox’s” Anna Wenger.”

Produced with Paramount, “Fleeting Lies” also represents one of the first series from Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar’s El Deseo label in Madrid; opening series “Greek Salad” is Cedric Klapisch’s first work as a TV series creator.


Opening Series

“Greek Salad,” (France)

A serial sequel to Cédric Klapisch’s career defining “The Spanish Apartment” movie trilogy, picking up the story one generation on as Wendy and Xavier’s kids, Tom and Mia, move to Athens having inherited a family apartment. But he’s a New York educated company start-upper, while she has become an anti-capitalist activist. Romain Duris and Kelly Reilly return as Xavier and Wendy. “I thought it would be interesting to compare these two generations of Europeans,” says Klapisch, bringing a darker tone yet keeping up the faith.

International Competition:

“The Actor,” (Iran)

A playful suspense drama created by filmmaker Navid Javidi, best known for “Melbourne” (2014) and the well-reviewed “The Warden” (2019), both movies. In this series, Ali and Morteza, talented actors, perform at social events until a mysterious agency picks up on their skills. Multi-prized Navid Mohammadzadeh, star of “The Warden,” re-teams with Javidi.

“Best Interests,” (U.K.)

Welcome European recognition for the great Jack Thorne, creator of “Best Interests,” writer of “Enola Holmes,” “The Virtues” and “This is England.” Doctors recommend Marnie, who has a life threatening condition, be allowed to die. Her loving parents, (Sharon Hogan, “Bad Sisters”; Michael Sheen “Bad Omens”) fight every legal battle possible to stop that.  “‘Best Interests’ broke me when I first read the script,” says Hogan. Expect similar reactions in Lille. Chapter One Pictures, run by Sophie Gardiner (“Howards End”), produces with Fifth Season which also sells.

“Drops of God,” (France, Japan, U.S.)

One of the most polyglot offerings at this year’s Series Mania, an Apple TV+ drama adapted from a bestselling manga set in the world of luxury wine and haute cuisine, shot between Tokyo and French vineyards, and created by Quoc Dang Tran with a cast led by singer-composer-actor Tomohisa Yamashita (“The Head”). It is directed by Oded Ruskin, who did a great job on “No Man’s Land” and “False Flag.”

“Haven of Tears,” (France)

From Arte France, a Series Mania stalwart, and César and Cannes Directors’ Fortnight winning filmmaker Vincent Maël Cardona (“Magnetic Beats”), the tale of an environmental activist (Olivier Gourmet) trapped by a drug trafficking gang and his own family secrets. Produced by Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin and Vincent Mouluquet for Ego Productions, part of Mediawan, which handles international sales. Belgium’s Savage Film co-produces.

“Fleeting Lies,” (Spain)

Produced by Paramount and El Deseo, Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar Madrid-based label,  and described as “a contemporary comedy about appearance.” On the cusp of promotion at her cosmetic surgery firm which will distance her forever from her humble origins, Lucía is accused of industrial espionage and sacked. El Deseo brings to the table a top-class leading lady, Elena Anaya (“The Skin I Live In”), delightfully toned Almodóvar-style pop-out aesthetics and a sense of social issues which, despite the mad-cap comedy, still shine through.

“The Fortress,” (Norway)

A chic isolationist cautionary tale-thriller and a flagship for Viaplay Originals and Nordic storytelling as the SVOD player expands to the U.S. and Canada. Norway constructs a wall to keep out undesirables. Cut to an idyllic 2037 Bergen where, as a deadly virus spreads, the wall becomes a prison keeping Norwegians in. Produced by Maipo Film, behind Canneseries winner “State of Happiness.” John Kåre Raake (“The Quake”) lead writes.

“Milky Way,” (Greece)

Created by Vasilis Kekatos, winner of a Cannes short film Palme d’Or in 2019 for “The Distance Between the Sky and Us.” A coming of age dramedy in which Maria, a high school senior, dreams of leaving her mountain small town and its rude macho menfolk. But her dreams to forge her own life as a dancer in a big city are brought down to earth after an unwanted pregnancy. Produced by Greece’s Foss Productions.

“The Power,” (U.K., U.S.)

One of the most awaited titles in Competition, given the pedigree of producer Sisters Pictures, behind “Chernobyl,” “The Baby” – a best actress winner for Michelle De Swarte last year at Series Mania – and “This Is Going To Hurt” and “Landscapers.” Adapted for screen by creator and executive producer Naomi Alderman, working from her award-winning novel, a gender issue fantasy title set in a world where women discover their ability to electrocute, tipping the physical gender balance in their favor.

“Red Skies,” (Israel)

Hailed as the first series from Israel co-written by an Israeli-Palestinian team, which includes Ron Leshem (“Euphoria”) and Amit Cohen (“False Flag”)  who together co-created “No Man’s Land” and “Traitor”; Daniel Amsel, a writer on “Traitor”; and “Shtisel” director Alon Zingman, adapting Daniel Shinar’s original same name bestseller. A character-driven war action drama and  series of reportedly large emotional sweep about the Second Intifada, a conflict which has traumatized two peoples. Yoav Gross produces for Reshet 13.

Closing Series

“Transatlantic,” (Germany, U.S.)

An anticipated Netflix Original, and the latest from Anna Winger, creator of “Unorthodox.” Set in occupied France Marseilles over 1940-41, it is inspired by the true story of Varian Fry, Mary Jayne Gold and the Emergency Rescue Committee. A “cheering and touching saga,” Series Mania announces, with a cast headed by Gillian Jacobs (“Community”), Cory Michael Smith (“Gotham”), and Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”).

Marta Balaga contributed to this article.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.