From Tomohisa Yamashita Starrer ‘Drops of God’ to Titles from Benin and Iran, Series Mania Opens Up to the World

Based in the northern French town of Lille since 2018, Series Mania has emerged as a key showcase for premium series and a spotlight for international creators — though, given the wider forces shaping the TV business, that spotlight has often shone on talent from the same three or four territories. And so, when programming the latest edition, the Series Mania brass looked to widen the field.

“This year, we will introduce our attendees to new narrative modes and visual possibilities,” says general director Laurence Herszberg. “Because we’ve discovered so many series from countries that haven’t often attended the major festivals, with creative outputs that are much lesser-known. We want to celebrate them as well.”

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Running March 17–24, this edition boasts 55 series culled from 396 submissions encompassing more than 60 countries, with titles from Uruguay (“The Universe Conspires”), Benin (“Black Santiago Club”) and an Indo-Pakistani production (“Limboland”) all appearing at Series Mania for the very first time.

Meanwhile, new series from Greece (“Milky Way”) and Iran (“The Actor”) will world-premiere in an international competition judged by “Westworld” showrunner Lisa Joy, “Broadchurch” creator Chris Chibnall and “Gangs of Wasseypur” director Anurag Kashyap, among others.

When building out this diverse program, the selection committee opted for novelty over familiarity, the festival director explains, spotlighting projects that opened new avenues instead of those that reinforced existing trends.

‘The Actor’
‘The Actor’

“You need an open mind,” says Herszberg. “Series from Pakistan or Iran clearly don’t tell their stories in the same way as those from Western countries. But with the war between streamers becoming so intense, forcing them to hook viewers at earlier and earlier points, I think we’ve seen a homogenization in style. That allows us to screen different kinds of visions — and we’ve made an active effort to do so.”

Indeed, even this year’s most high-profile world premieres promise a more global flavor. The festival will open with the Amazon Original “Greek Salad,” co-starring “Yellowstone’s” Kelly Reilly, which follows a polyglot mix of students sharing an Athens apartment, and close with Netflix’s “Transatlantic” — a World War II drama created by German-based producer Anna Winger (“Unorthodox”), shot in France, and led by Gillian Jacobs and Corey Stoll.

In between, the eight scripted dramas of this year’s international competition will usher a number of new entrants onto the global television stage. Among them are brothers Pedro and Agustin Almodóvar, who produced the Paramount + series “Fleeting Lies” through their El Deseo banner, and recent César-winning filmmaker Vincent Maël Cardona, who directed the Arte drugtrafficking drama “Haven of Grace.”

One of the most polyglot offerings is the Apple TV+ drama “Drops of God.” Adapted from a bestselling manga set in the world of luxury wine and haute cuisine, shot in three countries and as many languages and led by Tomohisa Yamashita — among the most famous names in Japan — the competition title reflects the varied international paths crossing through Lille this year.

“We want to take our attendees on a world tour,” adds artistic director Frederic Lavigne, who also oversaw the festival’s International Panorama competition, which showcases projects from Canada, Scandinavia, Israel, Germany, Mexico and Spain. “The series across the selections have to dialogue with one another; they have to open new worlds and take us where we’ve never been.”

A similar impulse animates this year’s local competition, which will world-premiere six Gallic series — including the movie star biopic “Bardot,” the political satire “Under Control” and the stylish police comedy “Polar Park” — before a jury of journalists from outside the French system and that reflect wide-reaching tastes.

“Screening this section before an international jury has become a hallmark,” says Herszberg. “Because we are, fundamentally, an international festival based in France.”

‘Black Santiago Club’
‘Black Santiago Club’

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