MIPCOM Picks 2016, part one: “Saddam Goes To Hollywood,” “60 Days In”

This year’s crop of MIPCOM Picks, selected by realscreen‘s editorial team as our pick of “must see” projects heading to the market, dives deeply into some of the big issues ...
October 14, 2016

This year’s crop of MIPCOM Picks, selected by realscreen‘s editorial team as our pick of “must see” projects heading to the market, dives deeply into some of the big issues of the day – from the global refugee crisis to race relations in the U.S. But there’s also lighter factual entertainment in the mix, some scintillating science, and, as always, the true stories that seem stranger than fiction (see our Best in Show, which receives a complimentary pass to the 2017 Realscreen Summit). Part one of this year’s MIPCOM Picks are below and part two will run on Oct. 16.

BEST IN SHOW: Saddam Goes to Hollywood
Partners: Mentorn Media for Channel 4; distributed by Passion Distribution
Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Aired: July 2016 (Channel 4)
Rights available: Worldwide, excluding the UK

While it may seem like an idea from a Mel Brooks script, the story of Saddam Hussein’s attempt to create a major historical film epic with notoriously mischievous British actor Oliver Reed in the cast is not a work of fi ction. In 1981, Hussein brought Reed and several other British actors and crew to the Arabian desert to film Clash of Loyalties, a tale of the Iraqi revolt against British colonialists and the birth of modern Iraq. But Reed’s penchant for chaos wasn’t the only issue dogging the production – there was also the matter of the Iran-Iraq war, which had just begun. Somehow, the film did get made and even screened internationally, but was consigned to a garage in Surrey shortly after its debut. This doc brings together some of the cast behind the project and offers a remarkable glimpse into one of film’s stranger footnotes.

Continent 7: Antarctica

Partners: A National Geographic Studios Production for National Geographic Channel; distributed by Fox Networks Group Content Distribution
Length: 6 x 60 minutes
Airing: November 2016
Rights available: All rights worldwide excluding DVD, EST and TVOD

Even for the hardiest explorers, Antarctica is no picnic. Here, temperatures dip to more than 100 degrees below zero, winds howl at gusts of 200 miles per hour, snowstorms can cover entire buildings and the dryness of the air can rival that of the Sahara in some areas. But, for a period of time, it’s home for a group of scientists studying the harsh terrain. Produced by National Geographic Studios, Continent 7 is the first long-form doc series to be filmed in the region, and provides a gripping look at life on the world’s frozen edge.

60 Days In
Partners: Lucky 8 TV for A&E; distributed by A+E Networks
Length: 12 x 60 minutes, 3 x 60-minute specials, 1 x 90-minute reunion special (season 1) now available
Aired: March 2016 (A&E, U.S.)
Rights available: Worldwide, finished programming and format rights available

When one is asked how they’d like to spend a couple of months away from the confines of work or home life, jail time is not often on the top of the list. But in this controversial A&E series, seven volunteers entered an Indiana jail “undercover,” without the real inmates or even correctional officers being aware of their stories, in an effort to expose any illegal activity amongst the incarcerated, or corruption amongst the staff. While each participant has his or her own reasons for “going in,” it’s safe to say it’s a life-changing experience for them when they come out. The series is onto season two in the U.S., and a local version of the format is being prepped for the UK.

The Crowd & The Cloud
Partners: Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions for American Public Television; distributed by APT Worldwide
Length/volume: 4 x 60 minutes
Airing: March 2017
Rights available: All rights available worldwide, excluding U.S. broadcast

Our Wi-Fi’ed world may, on one hand, be responsible for myriad distractions that pull us away from the real, natural world around us. But the advent of mobile, user-friendly technology has also provided tools to democratize that which was once off-limits to the average individual. Along with the rise of citizen journalism, where, in the heat of the moment, an iPhone can capture what a news crew isn’t on hand for, there’s the citizen science movement, in which those who are interested in a subject – be it fracking, asteroids, or Alzheimer’s – can actually be part of the discoveries shaping science today. This four-part series, hosted by NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati, shows how citizen scientists are using data, technology and good old-fashioned curiosity to contribute to what we know of the world around us.

Command and Control
Partners: An ‘American Experience’ production with Robert Kenner Films; distributed by PBS International
Length: 1 x 92 minutes
Premiered: April 2016 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Rights Available: Worldwide

From Robert Kenner, director of Food Inc., comes an incisive look at an incident of “human error” that could have had grave ramifications for humanity itself. Based on Eric Schlosser’s best-selling book, the film takes us back to September 1980, when a worker at a Titan II missile complex in Arkansas accidentally dropped a socket in a silo. That socket then punctured the fuel tank of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of producing a blast 600 times that of Hiroshima. Eyewitness accounts and footage shot within a decommissioned Titan II missile silo bring the story to life.

Killer Hornets
Partners: Earth Touch; Smithsonian Networks; National Geographic Channels; distributed by Earth Touch
Length: 1 x 50 minutes
Aired: September 2016 (Smithsonian Network)
Rights available: Free TV only, worldwide (subject to Earth Touch approval) excluding Canada, U.S. and its possessions, Caribbean Basin, North Africa and Middle East. Available after Jan. 1, 2018

While anyone who has inadvertently bumped a hornet’s nest and incurred the wrath of these “winged warriors” might bristle at the idea of watching a doc about them, this look at killer hornets taking on other nasty pests in the forests of Japan is a fascinating study of insect life. High-tech camera work takes us closer to these hordes of hornets, yellow jackets and honey bees than we would ever want to be, depicting their battles for territorial supremacy with practically a bug’s eye view.

American High School
Partners: Swan Films for BBC3; distributed by All3Media International
Length/volume: 6 x 60 minutes
Aired: October 2016
Rights available: Worldwide excluding the UK

Filmed over the course of a year in a high school in Southern California, this six-part documentary series from Swan Films captures the triumphs and challenges facing various African-American students completing their graduating year. Not only do viewers see how the students and staff at the school contend with everyday life and the roller-coaster ride that is the journey from adolescent to adult, but they also gain a glimpse of young America at a time of political and sociological tumult and transition.

Years of Living Dangerously
Partners: A Years Project production for National Geographic Channel; distributed by Fox Networks Group Content Distribution
Length: 8 x 60 minutes
Airing: November 2016
Rights available: All rights worldwide in perpetuity excluding footage

Following its acclaimed debut on Showtime, which resulted in an Emmy win for outstanding non-fiction series, this docuseries investigating the issues surrounding climate change returns via National Geographic Channel. As with the first season, celebrity correspondents take viewers to locales that have been seriously impacted by the situation, while examining key concerns such as extreme weather and wildlife conservation in the face of an environmental crisis. Celebs adding their starpower and viewpoints to the proceedings include David Letterman, Jack Black, Ty Burrell, Olivia Munn and exec producer Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Photo: National Geographic Channels/Michele Short)

Partners: Renowned Films for BBC3; distributed by DCD Rights
Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Aired: July 2016 (BBC3)
Rights available: Worldwide

Airing via the BBC’s online channel this summer as NYPD: The Biggest Gang in New York?, this program follows the Cop Watchers, who use their smartphones and cameras to document potential examples of police brutality in the Big Apple. Following incidents in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the issue has galvanized protest, debate and in some cases, more violence. In this doc, we get the perspectives of both those who are watching the police, and the cops contending with the scrutiny.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.