The BFI London Film Festival closed with a bang Sunday night as Brad Pitt, Shia Lebeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal hit town for the European premiere of David Ayer’s WW2 drama Fury. Speaking to reporters, Pitt paid tribute to the sacrifices so many soldiers had made. “We all walked away absolutely enriched and for me, specifically, it was a real study in leadership, earning one’s respect and being responsible for others. I walk away knowing I’m a better father because of the experience.” Festival organizers proclaimed the 58th edition the best attended yet, with 163,300 people turning out across the 12 days — up 8.1% on 2013. The end of the fest also saw Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev take home the best film prize for Leviathan, Russia’s entry for the Foreign Language Oscar. The Sutherland Award for best director went to Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy for The Tribe, a drama set in a school for young deaf people and performed entirely in sign language which earlier won prizes in Cannes’ Critics’ Week. Other LFF award winners included Syrian filmmakers Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan’s for their devastating Silvered Water: Syria Self-Portrait, and Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, who was named Best British Newcomer for her role as a young girl on the run from her conservative family in Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy. – Ali Jaafar
Sony Pictures Television Networks is moving into Israel and Indonesia for the first time. The group has announced plans to acquire 50% of Dori Media’s VIVA and VIVA Plus channels, as well as the VIVA Walla online VOD service in Israel and 50% of Dori’s Baby TV operations in Indonesia. Dori is a major player in Israel whose VIVA telenovela channels are carried by all multi-channel platforms locally. Baby TV is Indonesia’s first channel for toddlers. As part of the same transaction, SPT Networks will also acquire a 50% stake in Dori’s Electronic Program Guide operations and a 50% stake in its majority holding of Dori Media Ot, which provides technical services like dubbing, subtitling and closed captions. Completion of the transaction is subject to certain closing conditions including Israeli regulatory approvals.
BBC One has ordered The Passing Bells, a five-part half-hour series which sees the conflict of World War I unfold through the eyes of two very ordinary young men. Written by Tony Jordan (Life On Mars), the drama stars Paddy Gibson (What Richard Did) and Jack Lowden (The Tunnel, Wolf Hall) as two young men for whom the war has little mercy, no matter on which side they might be fighting. Over five chronological years The Passing Bells follows their lives, as they grow up, lose friends and find love amid the horrors of the war. Back home, their families and loved ones anxiously await news from the front. Jordan’s Red Planet Pictures is producing with Apple Film Production through BBC Cymru Wales Drama. Executive producers are Jordan and Belinda Campbell for Red Planet, Dariusz Jablonski for Apple and Bethan Jones for the BBC. Producer is Nick Pitt and Brendan Maher will direct.
Speed Sisters, a documentary about the Middle East’s first all-female motor racing team, will open the second annual Ajyal Youth Film Festival. Presented by the Doha Film Institute, the Ajyal festival kicks into gear on December 1 with the world premiere of Speed Sisters which is the feature debut of Lebanese-Canadian helmer Amber Fares. The film was developed with the support of the Sundance Institute and Doha Film Institute’s grants program, along with a variety of international film funds and hundreds of crowdfunding backers around the world. Previously announced titles for the festival include the closing night Middle East premiere of Kahlil Gibran’s the Prophet, the animated adaptation of Gibran’s book which world premiered in Toronto and is produced by Salma Hayek.
BBC America has boarded five-part miniseries London Spy, created by author Tom Rob Smith (Child 44) and co-produced with BBC Two. The Working Title Television contemporary thriller stars Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, and newcomer Edward Holcroft. When Whishaw’s Danny falls for the anti-social but enigmatic Alex (Holcroft), they soon realize they’re perfect for each other. But when Alex suddenly disappears, Danny is utterly ill-equipped to take on his complex and codified world. London Spy is directed by Jakob Verbruggen, whose credits include The Fall and the U.S. version of The Bridge. Filming on the miniseries started in London last week.
Scripps Networks UK & EMEA has entered a multi-territory, multi-year distribution deal with Liberty Global for Food Network, Travel Channel and Fine Living. Liberty Global has cable operations in 14 countries, 12 of which are in Europe and this deal gives lifestyle producer Scripps potential access to markets where its channels are not currently carried. The pact also sees the renewal of existing Scripps Networks channels across Liberty Global’s territories. The access to Food Network and Fine Living begins in 2015. Travel Channel will continue in its current markets. The deal covers Scripps’ content on Liberty Global’s platforms including cable, catch-up, SVOD and mobile.
Sony Pictures Television has secured key rights deals on original series Señorita Pólvora, the first co-production between Sony Pictures TV and Televisa in Latin America. Turner Broadcasting System Latin America has acquired exclusive, first-run subscription TV rights with DLA taking SVOD rights for Claro video. Inspired by the real life story of a beauty queen whose alleged connections to the underworld and a romantic affair with an assassin ultimately led to her untimely demise, the series premieres on TNT in early 2015.
Keshet International’s children’s singing format Master Class has closed a new sale in Slovenia, along with a 3rd season order in Hungary and a strong launch in Greece. The talent show, in which children sing all-time popular songs with only positive reviews and no eliminations, will be produced locally in Slovenia by Paprika Latino for Planet TV and will also be available on a dedicated channel on Telekom Slovenia. It recently kicked off on MegaTV Channel in Greece where it scored a 33.5% share in the target 15-44 demo. Hungary’s TV2 has also ordered a 3rd series after ratings exceeded a 250% increase on the average for its timeslot. Master Class soon launches on Beijing Satellite TV in China following a co-development deal with 3C Media for 12 episodes.