This year’s edition of our MIPTV Picks is truly an eclectic one. Our call for submissions yielded a veritable slew of noteworthy and diverse projects, and on the following pages are the ones that the realscreen editorial panel deemed as ‘must see’ programs. Congrats to our Best in Show, which earns a pass to the Realscreen Summit in 2011. And now, for your viewing pleasure…
On March 16, 1968, American soldiers from the Bravo and Charlie companies entered the tiny hamlets of My Lai and My Khe in South Vietnam and embarked upon a mission that would come to symbolize for many worldwide the atrocity and senselessness of war. On that day, hundreds of civilians – most of them women, children and elderly – were slaughtered, under order from each company’s commanding officer. The My Lai massacre prompted a cover-up, a subsequent inquiry, and one court martial conviction for murder. In this riveting doc created for PBS’ ‘American Experience,’ Barak Goodman (Scottsboro: An American Tragedy) revisits My Lai, framing eyewitness accounts from soldiers and survivors with archive video and recently discovered audio from the Peers Inquiry.
Partners: Ark Media (Brooklyn) for PBS, distributed through PBS International
Length: 1 x 83 minutes
Airing: April 22, 2010 (PBS)
Rights available: Worldwide
AMERICA: THE STORY OF US
The first major project from factual veteran Jane Root’s new production company, Nutopia, is suitably epic: a 10-part series for History billed as ‘an exuberant, unprecedented look at America.’ In an early press release for America, History president and GM Nancy Dubuc said the series will give its audience the opportunity to ‘watch America literally grow before our eyes’ – a feat accomplished through state-of-the-art CGI, dramatic recreations of key events in the American story, and of course, interviews with noted historians. The combination of elements results in a modern documentary hybrid that will attract a new generation as well as those who may have watched Alistair Cooke’s America: A Personal History back in the day.
Partners: Nutopia (London/Chevy Chase) for History, distributed through AETN International
Length: 10 x 60 minutes
Airing: April, 2010
Rights available: All rights available outside U.S.
As an American who had lived in Moscow, producing the Russian version of Sesame Street, Robin Hessman returned to the country as a filmmaker with an aim to tell the stories of several Russians of the Perestroika generation – those who had lived behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ only to see it torn down with the collapse of the USSR, replaced with new freedoms and uncertainties. With My Perestroika, Hessman weaves together the stories of five classmates whose lives have bridged the gap between pre- and post-Soviet Russia. The film, part of the U.S. documentary competition at Sundance this past January, is due to air on POV in the U.S. in 2011, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Partners: A coproduction of Red Square Productions, Bungalow Town Productions, ITVS International in association with American Documentary|POV and YLE. Distributed by ro*co films international for all rights except U.S. and Finland broadcast.
Length: 1 x 87 minutes and 1 x 52 minutes
Wrapped: January, 2010. Premiered at Sundance 2010. U.S. broadcast premiere – mid 2011; Finland Broadcast – TBD
Rights available: World excluding U.S. broadcast & Finland broadcast
ESCAPE IN TIME
Early in 2009, BBC2 aired the Lion Television-produced Victorian Farm, a series that put three people on location at a Shropshire estate, where they lived as if they were tending a mid-19th century farm. The series proved to be a smash, bringing in an average audience of 3.6 million and with the final episode attracting over four million viewers. This time around, new families will come to the Shropshire estate weekly, competing in challenges while also being given the opportunity to work together and learn new skills, such as plowing fields and making beer. And while it may not look like the sexiest thing to hit the tube on paper, perhaps there’s something to be said for learning more about how people lived before the onslaught of the BlackBerry, Facebook and yes, television.
Partners: Lion Television for BBC2 Daytime. Distributed by All3Media (London)
Length: 20 x 45 minutes
Airing: May, 2010
Rights available: All rights excluding UK
INSIDE THE FIRESTORM
On February 7, 2009, bushfires ravaged lands across Victoria, Australia, resulting in the loss of 173 lives and destroying close to 500,000 hectares of Victorian bushland. In this special produced for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, writer/director Jacob Hickey and Renegade Films combine eyewitness accounts from survivors and firefighters with footage from assorted sources, including amateur video, and CGI recreations to provide a real-time, first hand look at Australia’s worst peacetime disaster.
Partners: Renegade Films for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Screen Australia; distributed by TVF International
Length: 2 x 60 minutes; 1 x 120 minutes
Aired: February, 2010 (ABC)
Rights available: All media rights available worldwide excluding Australia and New Zealand
This captivating program from Brighton-based Wild Dream Films tells us the stories of three men – Russian mystic/former traffic cop Vissarion, Filipino pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, and former British M15 agent David Shayler – who each claim to be the Son of God. Each self-proclaimed Messiah has achieved varying levels of success and notoriety – Quiboloy’s church, The Kingdom of Jesus Christ, claims to have as many as six million adherents, while Shayler also made headlines in the UK for his whistleblowing against M15 and then, some years later, for living in a squat. The program features interviews not only with each man, but with several of their followers.
Partners: Wild Dream Films (Brighton) for National Geographic U.S., distributed through Electric Sky (Brighton)
Length: 1 x 50 mins
Wrapped: Jan. 2010
Rights available: Worldwide excluding North America
With new security measures and increased restrictions added to the air travel experience seemingly on a weekly basis, the concept of ‘flying the friendly skies’ is fading further and further away from reality. Still, if the hullabaloo surrounding flying is a series of inconveniences for the passenger, it stands to reason that dealing with disgruntled travelers is no Sunday in the park either. This series from Australia’s Seven Network chronicles the launch of the budget airline Tiger Airways, capturing customer meltdowns, stressed staff and the odd bit of airborne unpredictability, such as an in-flight wedding. You’ve heard of ‘fly on the wall’ entertainment – consider this ‘fly on the wing’ factual.
Partners: Produced by Seven Network (Australia), distributed by Cineflix International
Length: 16 x 30 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide, excluding Australia and New Zealand
‘I WANT TO LIVE, DON’T I?’ A CANCER DIARY
German actress Kathrin Spielvogel was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, at the age of 34. The treatment called for the removal of her right breast and intensive chemotherapy. As someone who has made her living in front of the camera, Spielvogel decided to document the process of fighting the cancer and began to film a video diary. In 2008, friend and filmmaker Nicholas Feustel edited the material into a cohesive whole, which captures Spielvogel’s pain, doubt and ultimately, her triumph in refusing to give in.
Partners: Produced by Georgetown Media (Germany)
Length: 1 x 42 minutes
Aired: Dec. 2009 (Germany)
Rights available: Worldwide exclusive rights available (except Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Russian Federation, Georgia, CIS); Worldwide non-exclusive rights available (except Belgium)
THREE HUNGRY BOYS
Channel 4 food presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (River Cottage) knows a little something about creative cuisine, given his past hosting experience for A Cook on the Wild Side, which saw him quaff back roadkill and squirrel and earn the nickname ‘Hugh Fearlessly Eats it All.’ Thus, when three young marine biology students (conveniently named Trevor, Thom and Tim) contact him to try to earn a free holiday by offering to live off the land for a month, Hugh decides to give them a shot at the foraging life. He sends them to the West Coast of Scotland with a few rations, a camper van and a camera team to capture the goings-on. While the boys may not possess the survivalist know-how of a Les Stroud or a Bear Grylls, their enthusiasm and chemistry makes for captivating viewing.
Partners: KEO Films (London), distributed by Outright Distribution (London)
Length: 9 x 30 minutes
Aired: January – March 2010 (UK)
Rights available: Worldwide
BATTLE OF THE BLADES
You may think that Battle of the Blades, which pairs hockey stars with figure skaters in an ice dancing competition, is a quintessentially Canadian concept. Well, the show did originate in Canada – a country that takes both sports extremely seriously – and it did rack up serious numbers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. But as we know, there are lots of countries around the world that love their ice sports, and for whom this format could be a winner.
Partners: Insight Productions for the CBC, distributed by Sparks Network (world, except Canada & U.S.) and Insight Production Company Ltd. (Canada, U.S.)
Lengths: 6 x 60 mins, 6 x 30, 1 x 90
Aired: Oct/Nov. ’09 (CAN)
Rights available: All media
In Tanzania, and increasingly in neighboring countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Burundi, being an albino can make you a marked person. Over 40 albinos were murdered in Tanzania over the past year; in some cases, their body parts are used by witch doctors in potions and remedies. Against this backdrop, a Tanzanian businessman named Oscar Haule has devised a way to show his country that albinos are indeed human beings – by forming a soccer team comprised of more than 20 albino males. This film, produced by award-winning doc-maker Nick Broomfield and directed by frequent collaborator and protégé Marc Hoeferlin, follows the team in its first league season and shines a light on the shadowy practices that still endanger albinos.
Produced by: Nick Broomfield for National Geographic Television; A National Geographic Channel & More 4 coproduction
Length: 1 x 52 minutes
Currently in post-production
Rights available: Worldwide excluding U.S. & UK
In our last edition of MIPTV Picks, you’ll recall being introduced to Undercover Princes, a four-part series featuring three bachelor princes from various international locales. Looking for love in all the wrong places, the three princes picked up and moved to England, where they went incognito in an effort to find someone who would love them, and not their riches. In this sequel series, three princesses from around the globe (Aaliya, Sheillah and Xenia) come to the UK in search of Mr. Right. If this series does as well as its predecessor, the producers may want to take a hint from Undercover Boss and move up the royalty chain for its next installment – Undercover Queen, anyone?
Partners: Objective Productions (UK) for BBC3, distributed by All3Media
Length: 4 x 60 minutes
Premiered: March, 2010 (BBC3)
Rights available: all TV excluding UK
Crime may not pay, but it sure does make for good television every so often. This new docudrama series brings to light some of the most heart-stopping tales of fugitive takedowns ever to grace a law enforcement file. Re-enactments, news footage, material from actual interrogation tapes and exclusive interviews with law enforcers working the cases combine to depict the efforts that some have undertaken to evade the long arm of the law.
Partners: Raw TV/RDF USA for A&E Network, distributed by AETN International
Airing: April, 2010
Length: 9 x 60 mins
Rights: All rights available except for the U.S. and English-speaking Canada
LICENCE TO DRILL
The ‘dangerous job’ subgenre of non-fiction programming doesn’t show any signs of slowing down or losing popularity. Many of us find it extremely captivating to catch glimpses of hardy men and women toiling away at some onerous task – even better if the toiling takes place in an inhospitable environment. Well, now TV viewers can add natural gas drilling in the harsh Canadian north to their viewing schedules. This series, originally produced for Discovery Channel Canada, captures the gritty reality faced by teams of drillers as they risk life and limb for what can be a substantial reward. Makes that paper cut you got in the office last week seem a little bit inconsequential, doesn’t it?
Partners: Produced by Pixcom (Montreal) for Discovery Channel Canada
Aired: January/February, 2010 (Canada)
Length: 6 x 45 mins
Rights available: Worldwide, excluding Canada
TRISHNA & KRISHNA: SEPARATE LIVES
Trishna & Krishna are two Bangladeshi twins, who captured headlines and hearts in Australia with their moving story. Conjoined at the head, they were abandoned by their birth mother and left at a Bangladesh orphanage, where there was little hope for their survival. Brought to Australia by Moira Kelly, executive director of the Children First Foundation, their journey towards separation via surgery became a national concern. This documentary follows the twins as they live in their conjoined state, highlighting the efforts of those who were fighting on their behalf, including the medical staff behind the successful 32-hour operation that liberated them.
Partners: Produced by WTFN Entertainment for Seven Network (Australia). Distributed internationally by Electric Sky (Brighton) excluding Australia
Length: 1 x 60 mins
Aired: Feb. 2010 (AUS)
Rights: Worldwide excluding Australia
THE DOWNSIDE OF HIGH
Several of the world’s top schizophrenia experts have, through their research, concluded that teens that start smoking marijuana before the age of 16 are four times more likely to become schizophrenic. And for all young adults, smoking today’s THC-rich pot almost doubles the risk of developing recurring symptoms of schizophrenia, including psychosis, paranoia and hallucinations. Downside of High presents this material as the backdrop to the stories of three young adults who believe, as do their doctors, that their mental issues stemmed from marijuana use. Marijuana has the distinction of being the most widely used illegal drug in the world. This new documentary, which premiered on the CBC’s Nature of Things with David Suzuki, shows that while it may be a popular high, it’s not necessarily a harmless one.
Partners: Dreamfilm Productions (Vancouver) in association with the CBC and Canadian Television Fund, distributed by Beyond Distribution (Australia) Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Aired: January, 2010 (CBC)
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Canada
In May, 2008, a huge earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck Sichuan province in China, killing 80,000 people. This hour-long program, coproduced by New Zealand-based NHNZ, Chinese prodco Yuanchun Media and National Geographic Channels International, follows a team of international geologists, seismologists and engineers as they study the aftermath and origins of the quake. Marrying footage from the disaster with knowledge gleaned by the scientists, China Quake reveals conclusions and truths that can potentially save lives if and when the unthinkable occurs again.
Partners: NHNZ (Dunedin) and Yuanchun Media (Beijing) for National Geographic Channels International; distributed by Off the Fence (Amsterdam)
Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Aired: February, 2010
Rights: Contact Off the Fence with inquiries
This is a decidedly different animal (pun intended) than the other Russia-centric project in this list (My Perestroika). Wild Russia takes a comprehensive look at the majestic forms of wildlife that traverse the vast expanse of the biggest wilderness area in the world. Home to three species of large bears (grizzlies, brown bears and Asiatic black bears), rare big cat species and a host of other amazing animals, the Russian wild also creates a beautiful backdrop for the action in this series.
Partners: NDR Naturfilm/ Studio Hamburg, distributed by Parthenon Entertainment
Length: 6 x 60 minutes (HD)
Aired: Oct. ’09 (U.S.)
Rights: Standard TV worldwide, DVD, VOD
CRIME SCENE: INSECTS
Those of us who get creeped out by crawlers such as cockroaches, flies or (shudder) maggots are overlooking an important contribution bugs make to society: they can actually help solve crimes. Recent advances in forensic entomology make it possible for insects found near or on corpses at crime scenes to reveal when victims died, whether a body has been moved, or whether a victim has taken drugs. This program tells us how bugs are used in the crime solving process with expert testimonials from such forensic experts as Dr. Mark Benecke, aka ‘The Lord of the Flies,’ who prefers bugs to humans when it comes to solving crimes. After all, flies can’t lie.
Partners: Crocodile Media (Manchester/Glasgow) for the Crime and Investigation Network, distributed by Electric Sky (Brighton)
Length: 1 x 47 minutes
Aired: Feb. 2010
Rights: Worldwide except UK, Ireland
In the Norwegian region of Svalbard, deep inside a sandstone mountain near the town of Longyearbyen, there is an underground facility that was created to help preserve life as we know it. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, or ‘Doomsday Vault,’ opened officially in February, 2008 and has the capacity to store up to 4.5 million of the world’s seeds, with some seeds having the capacity to be stored in the area’s permafrost environment for thousands of years. But if, as predicted, global temperatures rise by two degrees by 2050, there may be as much as a 30% reduction in food crops, while the demand for food might be twice as much as today’s. Seed Warriors provides a fascinating glimpse at the science and the social importance behind this amazing exercise in biodiversity preservation.
Partners: iCan Films GmbH for ZDF/ARTE, SF (Swiss Television), SRG SSR Idee Suisse; distributed by Looking Glass International, worldwide
Length: 1 x 60 minutes and 1 x 90 minutes, HD
Rights available: Worldwide
WILD WIVES OF SAVANNAH LANE
This isn’t a typical blue-chip natural history doc. Sure, it’s directed by acclaimed wildlife doc director/editor Laurent Frapat, and contains more than its fair share of breathtaking cinematography and interesting animal behaviors. But with a sly nod to such modern TV staples as the Real Housewives franchise, Wildwives tells its tales with a wink, ‘casting’ a female hippo, lioness, cheetah, elephant and baboon as the lead ‘characters’ in this look at life in the wilds of the African Savannah.
Partners: One Planet for Animal Planet International and France 5 with the participation of Planete / Canal + España / HD Suisse / RTBF / TSR / Canal Futura / EBS; distributed by ZED
Wrapped: September, 2009
Length: 6 x 52 minutes, HD
Rights Available: Worldwide
THIS WAY OF LIFE
Peter Karena and his wife Colleen have six young children, 50 wild horses and not much in the way of material things. But the Maori family has a resilience and unabashed spirit that is impossible to tame and enchanting to behold. This documentary, four years in the making, follows the Karenas as they conduct their lives against the rugged backdrop of New Zealand’s Ruahine Mountains, rejecting the trappings of modernity and embracing the unpredictability of the natural world. While there are images that may shock (such as the young children riding the wild horses bareback, and on occasion being thrown from them), This Way of Life beautifully presents its subjects and its theme: there is another way to live, if you’re brave enough to follow it.
Partners: Produced by Cloud South Films, distributed by ZED (Paris)
Length: 1 x 52 minutes or 1 x 85 minutes, HD
Wrapped: November, 2009
Rights available: Worldwide
SURVIVING THE FUTURE
It’s a confounding paradox – humanity as a species is for the most part living longer, healthier lives, yet its home, planet Earth, is facing potential catastrophe, possibly as soon as by the end of this century. How, if we decide to pay attention, can we alter or influence the future of our species and our planet? This cleverly crafted film illuminates the perils and possibilities within our future through expert interviews, eye-grabbing CGI and simple to digest science, pointing towards both the inescapable questions facing us, and their possible answers.
Partners: Produced by Frantic Films (Winnipeg, Toronto); distributed by Cineflix International
Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Canada
LOVE IN NUMBERS
We like to think that affairs of the heart are unexplainable, subject to the whims of arrow-firing cherubim, or pre-ordained by fate. But when it comes to love, some questions can be answered with facts, figures and (gasp!) statistics. This special, originally produced for TLC to air this past Valentine’s Day, takes a light-hearted yet factually packed look at the answers behind such important inquiries as: does Internet dating really work? Can you actually die of a broken heart? Does the seven year itch really exist? And just how many women can one man check out per second? The answer to that last one will floor you.
Partners: Touch Productions (Bath) for TLC; distributed by Outright Distribution (London)
Aired: February, 2010 (TLC)
Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide, excluding U.S.
LIVING IN EMERGENCY
In countries rent asunder by the bloody ravages of war, organizations such as Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) are incredibly vital lifelines; healers attempting to coax miracles out of chaos. This film documents the travails and triumphs of four MSF volunteers stationed in the war zones of Liberia and Congo. The team of doctors includes new recruits and weary veterans, and each one is doing his or her best to come to terms with the brutal realities of a world gone mad. The film doesn’t intend to deify these doctors – they are presented as everyday people, living in an environment that is, sadly, everyday life for far too many.
Partners: Produced by Red Floor Pictures; distributed by APT Worldwide
Length: 1 x 60 mins, 1 x 90 mins
Premiered: Venice, 2008
Rights: All worldwide excluding DVD
OUR SUMMER IN TEHRAN
Producer/director Justine Shapiro (Promises) is something of a traveler, having hosted the travel show Globe Trekker for 10 years. This film documents an excursion with her six-year-old son to Tehran, in which she comes face to face with a multifaceted culture. She meets a modern, secular family; a conservative family with connections to the Iranian government and an actress who is also a single mother.
Partners: Promises Films with the ITVS, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, distributed by ro*co films international Length: 1 x 59 mins
Wrapped: March, 2010
Rights available: All rights outside of the U.S.