MIPCOM Picks 2010

Once again, it's time to reveal the realscreen editorial staff's choices of what will be the 'must see' projects coming to Cannes this October.
October 1, 2010

Once again, it’s time to reveal the realscreen editorial staff’s choices of what will be the ‘must see’ projects coming to Cannes this October.

Every year, we issue a call for submissions and every year we’re flooded with a wide range of clips from around the world. And despite some issues with a temperamental upload server, this year was no exception. From natural history to, uh, naked folks, we really saw it all this time around. (However, the naked folks didn’t make the cut.) Each clip was judged in terms of watchability, originality and execution – we like to call the system our patented WOE Index (tongue firmly in cheek, of course).

As with previous years, our choice for Best in Show receives a pass to the 2011 Realscreen Summit. Without further ado, here be the Picks… To view clips from these projects, please visit our screening room.


Mohammad Abu Mustafa, a four-month-old Palestinian boy, is fighting for his life, born without an immune system and in dire need of a bone marrow transplant. Israeli pediatrician Dr. Raz Somech calls upon the film’s director and Channel 10 war correspondent, Shlomi Eldar, to document the story and bring attention to the child’s plight. The story puts into sharp relief the complexity of the turmoil in the Middle East, as the mother deals with challenges to her perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the life and death gravity of Mohammad’s situation brings together those who were previously on opposing sides. There are dramatic twists and turns of events; at one point, Eldar chooses to stop filming after Mohammad’s mother proclaims that she hopes her son will become a suicide bomber. Precious Life is a gripping, controversial tale that once seen, won’t easily be forgotten. Look for it on HBO in 2011.

Partners: Origami Entertainment, Bleiberg Entertainment; distributed through Cinephil (Israel), Bleiberg Entertainment

Length: 86 minutes
Premiered: Jerusalem Film Festival, 2010
Rights available: Worldwide excluding U.S.


Hayley Okines is a young girl suffering from progeria, which causes symptoms of old age in children. It’s an extremely rare condition, affecting one in eight million, and until recently there was little hope for those afflicted to live past the age of 13.
Filmmaker James Routh has followed her story for close to ten years, and this latest installment of her saga finds her at 13, about to start secondary school and finding hope in a series of drug trials that are showing encouraging results. This film, the third in Routh’s series, follows Hayley and her family for a three-year period, starting in 2007 when she began the treatment, and charting her resilience in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds.

Partners: Rabbit Productions (UK), distributed by All3Media (London)
Length: 60 minutes
Aired: June 2010 (Five, UK)
Rights available: Home entertainment, interactive, licensing, mobile, non-theatrical


On first glance, the trio of bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart may seem like the least likely band to inspire slavish devotion from millions of fans worldwide. Rush deals primarily in progressive rock, a sub-genre that has been known to feature songs that can last for 12 minutes (or the length of four Black Eyed Peas tunes). It’s a form of music that calls for excellent musicianship and flights of lyrical fancy; hence, it doesn’t trouble radio playlists very often. Despite all of that, this legendary Canadian band is third for most consecutive gold and platinum albums behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and has lasted for a mind-boggling 40 years. This doc, lovingly crafted by Scot McFayden and Sam Dunn (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Iron Maiden: Flight 666) features candid interviews with the band and some of its famous fans (among them, Kiss’ Gene Simmons) and archival footage that obsessive fans will swoon over. But fear not – you won’t need to know who ‘By-Tor and the Snow Dog’ are to appreciate this story of the world’s biggest cult band.

Partners: Banger Films, distributed by Tricon Films & Television (Toronto)
Length: 106 minutes
Premiered: Tribeca, 2010
Rights available: Worldwide TV broadcast rights, excluding N.A.


Everyone loves a penguin. And while they had their share of the limelight courtesy of Bonne Pioche’s March of the Penguins, a good penguin story still carries a fair amount of weight (and waddle) around these parts. This docu-series focuses on the aptly-named ‘little penguins’ of Phillip Island in Australia, following them as they endure one of the hottest summers on record in the midst of their breeding season. Shot by some of the continent’s premier natural history filmmakers, including series producer Sally Ingleton and director Simon Target, the series takes a light yet factually-packed look at some of nature’s most lovable creatures. And did we mention it’s narrated by Rolf Harris?

Partners: A 360 Degree Films production for ABC, BBC and ARTE, made with the assistance of Screen Australia & Film Victoria; distributed by NGTI

Length: 6 X 26-minutes or 3 X 52-minutes
Aired: July 2010 (UK)

Rights available: World excluding Australia, UK and France


Most of us think of Christy Turlington (now Turlington-Burns) as the photogenic face that’s graced scores of fashion magazines over the past couple of decades. But a personal experience – a complication that occurred shortly after childbirth – prompted the model to find out more about at-risk pregnant women. She was shocked to learn that more than 500,000 women die from childbirth each year and that an overwhelming majority of those deaths are preventable. This film, her directorial debut, sees Turlington-Burns span the globe to arrive at some answers; she visits a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a slum of Bangladesh, a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States. The message of the film is also her new philanthropic rallying cry: ‘Every mother counts.’

Partners: Turly Films; distributed through Cargo Film & Releasing
Length: 60 minutes
Premiered: Tribeca, 2010
Rights available: Worldwide


Deep in North India, the Mussoorie school hosts over two thousand Tibetan children, rescued from their homeland to be taught in the ways of their people. This documentary follows the story of children who have left behind their families to endure a treacherous journey over the Himalayas for a chance at a new life. Orphans of Tibet introduces us to nine-year-old Sonam and his friend Dholma, the new girl at the school that he vows to protect. Beyond those two children, the film also introduces us to the bravery of all of the school’s children, ‘orphans’ that are being entrusted with an endangered culture.
Partners: ZED / ARTE
Length: 45 minutes
Aired: May 2010 (ARTE)
Rights available: Worldwide


Presidential photographers have often captured some of the most poignant moments in a presidency, gaining a front row seat to history in the process. Documenting what may be one of the U.S.’ most historic presidencies – that of Barack Obama – is the responsibility of presidential photog Pete Souza. This National Geographic Television/ProSieben copro provides a candid snapshot of Obama, as its cameras follow the president and his photographer for a six-month period. We see Obama in numerous circumstances; dealing with heads of state, former presidents and his own staff. Through it all, the innate charisma that enthralled millions in November of 2008 is still visible. This special is a rare glimpse into the White House and one of its most historic inhabitants.
Partners: A National Geographic Television production for PBS, coproduced with ProSieben; distributed by NGTI
Length: 52 minutes
Airing: November 2010
Rights available: World, excluding U.S.


Yet another political portrait makes its way into this year’s MIPCOM Picks, with this French ‘fly on the wall’ doc focusing on Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, first lady of France. Whether he’s following her through the halls of the Palais de l’Élysée or accompanying her on official business, director Marc Berdugo captures many shades of the former model and singer as she’s thrust into a new level of limelight. While she’s racked up a fair amount of living in front of a camera, Bruni-Sarkozy makes for a riveting subject, as she learns to negotiate the terms of her new role and public persona.
Production partners: Boréales, Magnéto Presse, MAS in partnership with France 3; distributed through Terranoa
Rights available: Worldwide
Length: 43, 52 and 80 minutes
Airing: September 2010


Telling the story of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Secret Iraq aims to uncover real stories from those embroiled in the complexities of the current conflict. It’s a situation that has spawned more questions than answers and seemingly more strife than resolution.
Series producer Sam Collyns has taken cameras to the hotspots of the region and documented for the first time startling testimony from Iraqi insurgents as well as from others in the midst of the melee – from soldiers on the ground to politicians behind the scenes.
Partners: Quicksilver Media (Oxford) for BBC2; distributed through Electric Sky (Brighton)
Length: 2 x 60-minutes
Aired: September/October 2010
Rights available: Worldwide rights available excluding UK, Ireland and Iraq

LIFE 2.0

Although Facebook may’ve replaced Second Life as the online social hub du jour, SL is still a virtual home for hundreds of thousands of users, represented through avatars. Director Jason Spingarn-Koff joins the community by creating his own avatar and meets scores of individuals whose real lives have been greatly affected by their indulgence in this virtual world. Whether it’s a couple that falls in love via Second Life and decides to take their relationship into their first lives, or a man who chooses to roam the virtual landscape as an 11-year-old girl, the stories shed light on our relationships with reality and fantasy and our temptation to blur the line between.
Partners: Andrew Lauren Films and PalmStar Entertainment, distributed through ro*co films international
Length: 57 and 99 minute versions
Airing: 2011 (OWN in the U.S.)
Rights available: All territories except U.S., Canada, Japan


Sadly, the tendency to judge others by the color of their skin still runs rampant around the world. This documentary bridges the scientific with the social, presenting new research conducted by leading scientists that illustrates how and why variations in skin pigmentation occur. While in the past, science may’ve unwittingly contributed to issues of race by classifying individuals according to skin color, new findings, as seen in Skin Deep, are pointing towards information that will not only be critical for our survival as a species, but for our understanding of each other and our environments.
Partners: Electric Pictures, DocLab Srl, Screen Australia, ScreenWest, Lottery West, ARTE France; distributed through ABC Commercial

Length: 52 minutes
Aired: 2010
Rights available: Worldwide excluding France, German-speaking territories, Italy, Sweden


This show’s star has eight arms, nine brains, three hearts and can change color and shape. Now available in an English version, this international natural history copro follows teams of marine biologists as they study one of the world’s most baffling creatures, the octopus. Directed by Jerome Julienne and John Jackson, Aliens provides stunning glimpses of the octopus in its natural habitat as well as under the microscope as it undergoes assorted scientific tests to determine intelligence. With eight arms at its disposal, this ‘alien’ can’t help but grab you and reel you in (sorry, we couldn’t resist).
Partners: MC4, France 3 , CBC, Canal D, TFO, Science Channel, RTBF, Fonds Canadien de Télévision, Sodec, GA&A; distributed through ZED
Length: 52 minutes
Aired: April, 2010 (France 3
Rights available: Worldwide


Ty Pennington is a household name when it comes to home improvement programming (pun definitely intended). From Trading Spaces to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Ty has become the chiseled face of home shows. Here, he teams up with Canadian design and lifestyle guru Janette Ewen to pit two teams of ‘armchair designers’ against each other in a race to artfully decorate a space with rather random ingredients from a box. And when we say ‘random’ we mean it – everything except, perhaps, a kitchen sink is fair game for Ty and Janette to toss into the mix.
Partners: Cineflix Productions in association with W Network (Canada); distributed through Cineflix Intl
Length: 13 x 30-minutes
Aired: 2010
Rights available: Worldwide excluding UK, Ireland and Canada


This doc celebrates the life and work of Australian-born rock journalist Lillian Roxon, who, upon arriving in New York City in the late Fifties, immersed herself in the Big Apple’s underground music scene and was front row center for the eruption onto the world stage of such explosive artists as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Velvet Underground and scores of other legends. She also feuded publicly with Germaine Greer, who’s interviewed for the film. Other candid interviews with such luminaries as Iggy Pop and Danny Fields, coupled with rare photos culled from late nights at rock haunt Max’s Kansas City, provide a tantalizing glimpse of Roxon’s life (she passed away in 1973) and passion.
Partners: Lowlands Media; distributed through SBS Content Sales
Length: 52 and 74 minutes
Aired: Melbourne Intl. Film Festival, 2010
Rights available: All rights worldwide


Dr. Jack Kevorkian gained the ghoulish nickname of ‘Dr. Death’ after going public with the news that he’d assisted over 100 suicides in the 1990s. But while he’d been brought to trial several times, after videotaping himself administering a lethal injection to a patient and allowing the footage to be aired on 60 Minutes, he was found guilty of second degree murder. Directed by Matthew Galkin (loudQUIETloud), this feature doc delves into the life of ‘Dr. Death’ as he emerged from jail after serving eight years of his sentence. We see Kevorkian running for Congress, and learn more about the man himself (including his other life as a composer of classical music) and also his motives.
Partners: Directed by Matthew Galkin, distributed through ro*co films international
Length: 90 minutes
Rights available: All territories except U.S.


You might think that you’ve lived in some dumps in your time, but odds are you have nothing on these critters. ‘Extremophiles’ are, essentially, living creatures that have adapted to hazardous – and in some cases, outright deadly -living conditions. This series mixes scintillating science with state-of-the-art optical and electronic photography (patented by Mona Lisa Productions) to document the lives of micro-organisms that thrive in incredibly inhospitable environments, be they the icebergs of Antarctica or the boiling hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Extremophiles provides fascinating food for thought with its glimpses into the microscopic world.
Partners: Mona Lisa Productions, ARTE; distributed through Zodiak Entertainment
Wrapping: June 2011
Volume/length: 4 X 52-minutes
Rights available: World excluding France and Germany


This series informs us that some of the world’s greatest cities -including Rome, Cairo, New York, Paris and London – were built upon foundations of fetid refuse. Each episode looks at the role that garbage played in developing some of civilization’s greatest urban advances. We also see how these cities are coping with, and still learning from, garbage today. While you get to see all of the gloriously trashy moments of Trashopolis in HD, perhaps we can be somewhat thankful that television hasn’t yet embraced ‘Smellovision.’
Partners: Pixcom Productions (Montreal) and Taxi-Brousse (Paris) for History Television, Canada and ARTE, France and TFO
Airing: September 2010 (History Television, Canada)
Length: 5 x 45-minutes
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Canada, France


Co-directed by Michael Pertnoy and Michael Kleiman and already the recipient of several audience awards from assorted film festivals, this documentary shines its spotlight on survivors of four different genocides and mass atrocities: the Holocaust, Darfur, Rwanda and Congo. In all cases, the individuals have risen above their past horrors to become educators and inspirational agents of change. Each presents a story of hope that has emerged from the most dire of circumstances and the most abhorrent element of the human psyche. While we may never understand how humanity can teeter so close to the abyss through genocide, this film aims to share the wisdom of those who looked into that abyss and triumphed over it.
Partners: Righteous Pictures, distributed through Cinephil (Israel)
Premiered: Oxford Film Festival, 2010
Length: 56 minutes; 88 minutes
Rights available: All worldwide


Winner of the 2010 Sterling Award for best U.S. feature at Silverdocs, this touching and thought-provoking film documents the adoption of young Fang Sui Yong from Guangzhou, China by Jeff and Donna Sadowsky of Long Island, New York. The first meeting between the eight-year-old and her new mother, captured on camera, is painful to watch – the longing of the mother and the confusion of the child obvious in their exchange. But as time goes on, Sui Yong becomes more comfortable in her new reality, and a family relationship is forged.
Partners: Eye Wang Pictures, American Documentary/P.O.V. and the Diverse Voices Project presented in association with Center for Asian American Media (CAAM); distributed through PBS International
Aired: August 31, 2010 (P.O.V.)
Length: 53, 75-minute versions
Rights available: Worldwide excluding U.S.


At the age of 22, Mark Pollock’s life changed forever with the sudden loss of his sight. After a decade of depression and darkness, the former athlete embarked on a new path as a motivational speaker, and continued with his athletic endeavors. Upon the 10th anniversary of his sight loss, Pollock decided to undergo the ultimate test and enter the South Pole Race, requiring its participants to ski over 16 hours a day for close to a month, in temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius. This film follows his pursuit of that goal, and powerfully illustrates that loss of sight doesn’t equal loss of vision.
Partners: A True Films production for RTÉ; distributed through RTÉ Commercial Enterprises
Aired: Fall, 2010 (RTÉ One)
Length: 52 minutes
Rights available: All media, worldwide


In the process of drumming up support for an invasion of Iraq, both the U.S. and the UK governments pulled out evidence from a supposedly trusted source that Iraq had been cultivating mobile biological weapons labs. Within these labs, said the source, were the building blocks for some of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
It was a frightening story indeed, but as time bore out, it was just that – a story, devised by Rafid Ahmed Alwan, or ‘Curveball,’ as he was known to the CIA. This documentary provides candid interviews with officials that were duped by Curveball’s ‘intelligence’ and sheds light on what happened to the man who lied the world into war.
Partners: TV2/Denmark, ZDF/ARTE, CBC, NRK, SVT, YLE, MBC, VPRO, VRT; distributed through DR International Sales, att.: Kim Christiansen
Airing: May 2011 (international premiere)
Length: Feature and one-hour versions
Rights available: All worldwide except above territories

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.