Hello, and welcome to International Insider, Jake Kanter here. In the week Disney+ hit 95 million subscribers, scroll on for the biggest film and TV news from the past seven days. Want to get in touch? I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org, or my DMs are open on Twitter. And sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Berlinale Bears Up
Pushing on: The storied Berlin International Film Festival unveiled the program for its 71st edition this week, with top brass Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian putting on a brave face during their live-broadcast presser from a Berlin cinema while the fest continues to navigate pandemic-related challenges. This year’s fest will of course look very different, with an industry-focused virtual event running March 1-5, during which press and buyers will be able to see the full program, followed by a planned audience event in the summer. Yesterday’s Competition lineup, however, was cause for some optimism — new films from Celine Sciamma, Xavier Beauvois, and Radu Jude should get the arthouse tails wagging. See the full Competition line-up here.
International Insider: Covid Clause Controversy; EFM Hot Packages; Paramount+ Powers Up; London Screenings
View from the top: Shortly after the program announcement, our Tom Grater got on the phone with Rissenbeek and Chatrian to discuss how the 2021 selection came together under such strange circumstances. The duo also talked about why there’s a lack of streamer and studio movies in this year’s festival, and outlined hopes for the summer event. “It is meaningful to be in a movie theater,” Chatrian said yesterday during the event. “This is where the films we select are meant to be shown.” Read the full interview.
International Oscar Race Heats Up
Eclectic list: There were few snubs as the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film longlist was published on Tuesday. The expanded list of 15 films allows for voters to choose from a truly global list of films that highlight the power of cinema in all its forms and provenance. Expected contenders include Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round (pictured) and Agnieszka Holland’s Charlatan, while newcomers, such as Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante with La Llorona, also featured. Those that didn’t make the cut included Korea’s The Man Standing Next after the country’s triumph with Parasite last year. Nancy Tartaglione published the full list.
The important bit: Academy members from all branches are invited to opt in to participate and must view all 15 shortlisted films to vote. Nominations will be announced March 15, while the main event takes place Sunday, April 25, live on ABC.
eOne Job Cuts Coming
Slashing costs: We brought you news this week that Hasbro-owned studio Entertainment One is to cut staff across its global film and TV divisions by 10%. The Walking Dead distributor employs around 1,200 people worldwide across all divisions. Film and TV accounts for around 30-50% of this, so by our calculation, the cuts will likely impact around 50-60 staff. In a memo to staff, eOne president of film and TV Steve Bertram, said: “Our reorganization is not a result of poor business performance during the pandemic; the industry has been shifting for a long time with consolidation around the new global platforms. While we prolonged taking this action for as long as we could as a result of the difficult global climate, it is more important than ever that our organizational structure reflects the needs of the business.” Read the full email, obtained by Andreas Wiseman.
The context: There has been a steady flow of job cuts at the traditional film and TV studios over the last couple of years as the market evolves and viewing habits change. The pandemic has only hastened that change and made things harder for the majors and mini-majors, which have seen production decrease and traditional modes of film distribution grind to a halt over the past 12 months. The traditional studios have reacted to the changes by consolidating their businesses around popular franchises and brands, something that is clearly key to Hasbro’s own strategy.
The outlook: In a post-earnings call this week, Hasbro was upbeat about film and TV prospects and said it will invest “between $675 million and $750 million on content across scripted and unscripted live-action, animated TV and film in 2021, up from $439 million last year.” The toy-maker’s treasure chest of franchises includes Dungeons and Dragons, My Little Pony, Power Rangers, G.I. Joe, Action Man, Transformers, and board game Risk. Only this week, we reported that eOne is developing a Fox Entertainment animated series based on murder mystery board game Clue, which is better known as Cluedo in the UK, its country of origin.
UK/China TV Wars
Beijing bans the Beeb: TV wars have suddenly erupted between the UK and China after Beijing announced Thursday that it is pulling the plug on BBC World News, the BBC’s English-language global news service. The state-backed National Radio and Television Administration ruled that the BBC had failed in its duty to be “true and impartial” and “undermined China’s national interests and ethnic solidarity.” Chinese authorities have been particularly grumpy about the BBC’s reporting on the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, with state-affiliated Global Times bristling at a “slew of falsified reporting.”
By pure coincidence (ahem), China’s banning of the BBC followed UK media regulator Ofcom revoking the broadcasting license of Chinese network CGTN last week. Essentially, CGTN was unable to show that it was free from political interference. Ofcom gave it months to put things right, but the network failed to provide the assurances the regulator needed.
What’s the damage? Well, BBC World News is restricted to international hotels in China, so its reach is fairly limited in the Middle Kingdom. But the BBC and the British government have argued that the principle is deeply troubling. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said China’s decision represented an “unacceptable curtailing of media freedom.” Expect more fallout over the coming weeks.
Watch this: If you want to see the BBC’s journalism on China in action, there are few better examples than presenter Andrew Marr forcing UK Ambassador Liu Xiaoming to confront footage allegedly showing Uighur people being herded on to trains. “What is happening here, ambassador?” Marr pressed. He did not get an answer. You can watch the full exchange here.
Dominique Boutonnat Indictment
The French film industry was stunned this week after Dominique Boutonnat, president of France’s CNC (National Cinema Center), was taken into police custody and later indicted on charges of sexual assault and attempted rape following allegations made by his 22-year-old godson. Boutonnat’s godson, who is not a blood relative, filed a complaint last October alleging that an incident occurred during a vacation to Greece in August 2020. Boutonnat denies the allegations and, through his lawyer, said he is “completely serene” about how the matter will be resolved.
Pressure growing: As International Insider hit your inbox, the CNC has remained silent on the allegations, despite pressure from Le Collectif 50/50, an industry equality campaign group set up in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Le Collectif 50/50 wants Boutonnat suspended so justice can run its course and the CNC can continue its work without distraction. Work that has recently included establishing guidelines to stamp out sexual harassment in the French screen business. Here’s our story on the indictment.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Coming off her Emmy-winning turn on Homeland, Claire Danes has signed on to replace Keira Knightley in Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent. The project is from The King’s Speech producer See-Saw Films. Nellie Andreeva had the story.
🍿 International box office: Soul continues to shine overseas, not least in China, where it passed Incredibles 2 to become the market’s second highest-grossing Pixar title ever. Nancy has the details.
🏆 Awards news: Emmanuel Mouret’s Les Choses Qu’On Dit, Les Choses Qu’On Fait, aka Love Affair(s), leads France’s César Award nominations with a total of 13, including each of the top acting categories as well as Best Director and Best Film. Nancy has more.
✍️ International Critics Line: Anna Smith has a couple of reviews of Academy International Feature Film entries that didn’t make the cut. Get her take on Sweden’s Charter and Serbia’s Dara Of Jasenovac.
📅 Diary Date: We’ll learn more about the rollout of entertainment brand Star on Disney+ next Wednesday when the company talks to press about its plans.
🚚 On the move: Tim Richards, CEO and founder of exhibition chain Vue, has been appointed as the next chair of the British Film Institute. Full story.
🎦 Trailer dash: Seems plenty of people are hungry for the next Marvel series after Disney+’s Super Bowl trailer for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier drew 125M views (that’s from its spot and trailer traffic combined) in the 24 hours following the big game. Watch it here.
📺 One to watch: Multi-BAFTA-winning documentary maker Adam Curtis’ latest BBC documentary, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World, has dropped on iPlayer. Teaser here.
Wrunning Wrexham: Regular International Insider readers will know that we’ve been keeping a close eye on Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s takeover of Welsh soccer minnows Wrexham AFC. Well, good news followers, Hollywood has officially arrived in Wales after the pair completed the transaction on Wednesday. As my colleague Tom points out, the question of why still hangs over this bizarre match-up. Reynolds and McElhenney have won over Wrexham fans with well-intentioned promises to honor club traditions and invest in its resources, but it’s notable that their takeover went hand-in-hand with marketing for Reynolds’ Aviation Gin. It wasn’t exactly subtle, with both actors celebrating the takeover by posing with Wrexham-branded special edition bottles of the mother’s ruin. Whatever their reasons, Reynolds and McElhenney have certainly been having fun during this process. In response to the completion news, the pair both added the letter ‘W’ to their names on Twitter, in ode to Wrexham, going by Wrob and Wryan respectively. Fans will be hoping that the gags turn into goals.
Andreas Wiseman and Tom Grater contributed to International Insider
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