EXCLUSIVE: The Berlin Film Festival and accompanying European Film Market may be all about the big screen but, over the past few years, the Berlinale Series has been growing in stature. Series Head Julia Fidel has watched as the barriers between film and TV have broken down and more and more stars, writers and execs behind the biggest movies have chosen to helm TV projects.
There are seven shows in the Berlinale Series this year and many more Series Market Selects, ranging from a world premier for Amazon Prime’s Argentinian Yosi, the Regretful Spy to Sky UK’s supernatural crime thriller The Rising to Czech Republic/French co-pro Podezření (Suspicion). We caught up with Julia about this year’s crop and got her thoughts on the much-evolving TV landscape.
DEADLINE: Talk us through this year’s Series list?
JULIA FIDEL: We are so excited about these seven titles, starting with Argentina’s Yosi from Daniel Burman. He’s one of four former Berlinale winners (along with Lone Scherfig, Philippe Falardeau and Ella Lemhagen) to have come back with a series this year and this is one of the main reasons we started presenting series at the fest, as we realised people we’ve been welcoming on the film side are now leaning towards TV. Then we have shows like Canada’s Le temps des Framboises (Last Summers of the Raspberries), which is so hilariously and sensitively put together, and Denmark’s The Shift, a hospital series like no other. You can tell these creators are masters of storytelling. They have very consciously decided to make something episodic to tell a different kind of story, and the shows have been very carefully developed.
DEADLINE: You doubled the number of entries this year to 200. How on earth did you whittle them down to seven?
FIDEL: I’ve been asking myself the same question! We had a panel of eight and discussing the shows remotely (due to Coronavirus) was a challenge. But seeing so many shows we started to see themes develop through what we were watching. You want to go for a balance but are not afraid to go with what stays with you. For example, we picked three Scandi shows.
DEADLINE: Yes I was going to come on to this. Almost half the shows (The Shift, Sweden’ Lust and Iceland’s Svörtu sandar (Black Sands)) are from Scandinavia. How has Scandinavian TV evolved since the days of The Bridge and The Killing?
FIDEL: Scandi TV has been strong for a long time and we have even more in the Series Market Selects. They have a certain fearlessness about telling stories. In amongst all these big themes about dark entities, we have Lust, a Swedish comedy about women in their late 40s who just want to have amazing sex lives. It’s very original, very Swedish and very honest.
DEADLINE: Lust is of course an HBO Max show. Do you think we’re going to be seeing more from this new generation of streamers in the years to come?
FIDEL: Yes it feels a bit like this is still to come and will be interesting to see the 2023 and 2024 lineups. Another interesting development is that talented producers who worked for larger drama indies are setting up their own companies, and they are talking to all the new streamers. Lots of these projects will soon be realized. We have a small German showcase in the Series Market and for that we had a big choice because there is so much more on an international scale. The European streamer originals quota could also have an impact.
DEADLINE: What about the Series Market Selects. Which ones stand out?
FIDEL: Yes we have series from all over the world in the Selects and all these countries are very strong in TV. We also have two German shows (Oh Hell and ZERV (Divided We Stand)) and I noticed in these shows there are Eastern European characters who are portrayed as very cool – they are the heroes. That is definitely a progression from 10 years ago when they were characterized in a different way. It’s as if TV writers have discovered that Eastern Europeans are pretty cool.
DEADLINE: What other trends are we seeing from the global TV market?
Fidel: I think there is a bit less experimentation but a lot of really strong, classic storytelling. Creators are setting themselves a certain framework, say within detective or hospital shows, and then pushing those boundaries. And of course non-English language content is on the rise. Portugal may not be on the map of every big sales company but maybe it should be. We had our first LatAm shows last year and lots of entries this year, and it’s also been a strong year for Eastern Europe.
DEADLINE: TV is becoming an ever-more important part of the wider festival, do you think this trend will keep ramping up?
FIDEL: I feel like we have had a particularly strong position within the festival for a while and are playing a bigger part on the market side, which is interesting because, for TV, even more than film, the business and art are connected. It would be great if there was more talk or cultural discussion over series as they are worth this intense discussion. A function of our program is to create a certain number of series that people can then discuss and dissect. And some of the creators from the festival side are in talks on the market side to stimulate these exchanges.