EXCLUSIVE: Brian Knappenberger’s Truth And Power screened last week as part of the Berlin Film Festival’s budding Drama Series Days section. Its slot came as non-fiction was included for the first time. Filmbuff began selling the timely series at the EFM, closing an important offshore deal with Israeli broadcaster YES. Participant Media’s Pivot network is currently airing the 10-part investigative docuseries in the U.S. with Maggie Gyllenhaal narrating. The main premise: “What happens when private institutions and governments abuse their power and break the public trust?” Such issues were top of mind in Berlin where Alex Gibney’s Zero Days cyber warfare doc was part of the main competition. The upcoming Truth And Power episode, Data Vampires (see exclusive clip above), looks at privacy and encryption. It’s especially on point given headlines about Apple’s resistance to providing the FBI with a way into the iPhone of one of the attackers from the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Discussing data in general, and not related to the Apple case, Knappenberger told me last week that data is “the new oil” as companies and agencies gather information about users which they can then monetize. It’s important to look at “what to do to protect people,” said Knappenberger, who hopes to “rattle some cages” with Truth And Power.
In another piece of news following Berlin’s EFM, international finance, production and VFX group uMedia says it is expanding in both reach and scope following a record year of turnover. The company, which now has offices in London, Brussels, Paris and LA, plans to grow its UK/U.S. production pipeline by increasing the amount of equity it brings to projects it produces. Best known internationally for its involvement in Oscar winner The Artist, uMedia has invested some $500M+ in 300 movies since its inception in 2004 and has a series of new projects in the works. Among those in development are Dark Dawn, a horror franchise to be written by Final Destination creator Jeffrey Riddick; Where the Streets Have No Names, an inspirational drama produced with Tucker Tooley; Man Of Tomorrow, an action superhero feature written by Jeremy Slater (Fantastic Four, Lazarus Effect); and Art Of Crime, a heist film helmed by Dennis Gansel and produced with George Parra. Group CEO Adrian Politowski says, “We’re clearly making a move towards English-speaking films.” With more than $100M in turnover in fiscal 2015, the firm was involved in 50 different films via its various divisions, which include VFX houses in Belgium and France. Last year’s portfolio included The Kaiser’s Last Kiss, What Happened To Monday, Overdrive, and Netflix series, Marseilles. Politowski says, “We’re focusing on working with producers in the U.S. or Europe and getting more aggressively into the space where we co-produce a lot of films. We have started lead producing and generating our own content which we’ll emphasize more. The aim is to ramp up the production slate to do 4-6 films a year as lead or co lead, generating content. We’re transitioning from providing a service to providing content.”