Docs

Realscreen’s Spring Picks 2020: Part 2

Spring brings May flowers, but before that, it usually brings scores of content buyers and sellers from around the world to Cannes for the annual MIPTV market. But as we ...
March 31, 2020

Spring brings May flowers, but before that, it usually brings scores of content buyers and sellers from around the world to Cannes for the annual MIPTV market. But as we know, this year is different.
Prior to the cancellation of the market, the editorial team at Realscreen combed through a veritable slew of clips from assorted projects to offer our picks of programming worth investigating. These projects are still being shopped, so we want to shine the spotlight on what we will call, for this year, our Spring Picks for 2020. here is the second batch of picks for this year… for the first part of this feature, and a look at our Best in Show (Sing Me A Song) click here. (Pictured above: Black in Space – Breaking the Color Barrier)

GORILLAS UNDER STRESS (W/T)
Partners: In One Media for MDR, ARTE; distributed by Albatross World Sales
Length: 1 x 52 minutes
Airing: 2020
Rights available: All rights, worldwide
With heightened attention being paid to the plight of animal species hovering near extinction, good news stories are hard to come by. One such story involves the mountain gorilla, whose numbers have grown to more than 1,000 following conservation efforts in their two Eastern African habitats. But the news isn’t all good, as the habitats — two small, green islands — are surrounded by an area containing the highest population density in Africa, making expansion prohibitive. Also, as the gorilla population grows, so too does inter-group conflict. This program examines the issue as well as the delicate balance that allows the creatures to coexist with each other, and with human beings.

AMAZON EMPIRE: THE RISE AND REIGN OF JEFF BEZOS
Partners: A ‘Frontline’ Production with Left/Right Docs for WGBH; distributed by PBS International
Length: 2 x 60 minutes; 1 x 120 minutes
Aired: February 2020 (PBS)
Rights available: All rights, worldwide
The story of how Jeff Bezos’ online book-selling shop became a trillion dollar retail and tech behemoth, making Bezos one of the world’s richest people in the process, is a fascinating one, as seen in this documentary for WGBH investigative strand ‘Frontline.’ While Bezos doesn’t sit down for a new on-camera interview for this program, we do see plenty of archive material that documents his course, and that of the company, to the global commercial juggernaut it is today. Current and former employees provide varying perspectives on working within the Amazon empire, while commentary and up to date analysis of current controversies around the company and its ever expanding mission make for riveting viewing.
Trailer here.

BLACK IN SPACE: BREAKING THE COLOR BARRIER
Partners: Brook Lapping Productions for Smithsonian Networks; distributed by Off the Fence
Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Aired: February 2020 (Smithsonian Channel, U.S.)
Rights available: Worldwide excluding North America, South America, UK
Like the arms race, the “space race” was a significant component of the Cold War, as the U.S. and the Soviet Union battled each other for supremacy in the exploration of the outer reaches. And one little known aspect of that competition was the race to put the first black astronaut into the Earth’s orbit. This special features interviews with the astronauts vying for that honor, their families, and incredible footage that ties together three notable pillars of recent history: the Civil Rights Movement. the space race and the Cold War.

LIVING ON THE VEG
Partners: Rock Oyster Media for ITV; distributed by Cineflix Rights
Length: 10 x 60 minutes
Aired: January 2020 (ITV)
Rights available: Worldwide excluding UK
Whether it’s a choice made due to personal health, ethics or environmental concerns, the good news is that many of us are choosing to eat healthier these days, and in many cases that involves embracing a vegan diet. But preparing tasty, vibrant vegan fare is still a relative mystery for those making the leap. Enter chefs Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, two folks who know their way around a kitchen and have a flair for fine vegan and vegetarian fare. From stir fries to luscious layer cakes, to “Camembert hedgehog bread”, Henry and Ian, along with their guest chefs, will open up new healthy horizons for those interested in “living on the veg.”

KING OF THE CRUISE
Partners: Halal for BNNVARA (The Netherlands); distributed by Dogwoof, Cinema Delicatessen
Length: 1 x 74 minutes; 1 x 55 minutes
Premiered: November 2019 (IDFA)
Rights available: World excluding Benelux, Norway
Upon first glance, Ronald Reisinger may appear to be somewhat unassuming — one of
scores of people of a certain age who embark on pleasure cruises to various tourist havens. But once he dons his trusty red cape, Reisinger — or Baron Ronald Busch Reisinger from Inneryne as he is also known — assumes a more regal air. This feature from Amsterdam-based director Sophie Dros follows the Baron as he regales fellow cruise passengers with incredible tales from his life, but also accompanies him in quieter moments, away from his captive audience, where he reveals more of what’s behind the fantastical façade.
Trailer here.

OCEAN AUTOPSY
Partners: Pioneer Productions for BBC Four; distributed by Passion Distribution
Length: 1 x 90 minutes
Airing: TBD (BBC4)
Rights available: Worldwide
As with MIPCOM, a sizeable amount of projects that came our way for review for our
annual MIPTV Picks deal with environmental issues and the damage humanity is doing to the Earth’s ecosystems. But as commissioning editors are quick to point out, even if audiences want to support change, they don’t want to be lectured to. This program brings together leading oceanographer Dr. Helen Czerski and zoologist Dr. George McGavin who conduct an “autopsy” on the ocean itself — analyzing water toxicity and the impact that pollutants are having on both marine life and human beings. Importantly, the project also spotlights ways in which we are working to correct the course.

BUILDING HISTORIC HOMES
Partners: Windfall Films for Channel 4 (UK) & Seven Network (Australia); distributed by Cineflix Rights
Length: 8 x 60 minutes
Airing: Autumn, TBD
Rights available: Worldwide excluding UK and Ireland
One of the biggest selling points for real estate-based factual entertainment is the
transformational element — watching a property evolve from ghastly to gorgeous. Here, UK prodco Windfall Films follows the progress as contractors and architects work to transform historical, heritage buildings and structures into unique homes. From dilapidated barns to cavernous churches and weathered windmills, you’ll see how craftspeople combine modern techniques with respect for the work of bygone eras to create something truly timeless.

ABBA: SECRETS OF THEIR GREATEST HITS
Partners: Produced and distributed by Viacom International Studios
Length: 1 x 90 minutes
Aired: October 2019 (Channel 5, UK)
Rights available: Worldwide
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Swedish supergroup Abba was more than a global pop sensation… it was practically a force of nature. Consisting of two married couples — Agnetha Fältskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Anna-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson — the group garnered hit after hit in territories around the world, selling tens of millions of albums in the process. But like another massively popular group that peaked commercially in the same era while also featuring romantically linked members, Fleetwood Mac, Abba’s fortunes would change when the relationships within the band did. This special looks at the group through the prism of three of its biggest hits — the effervescent Mamma Mia, club anthem Dancing Queen and the melancholy Winner Takes It All — with rare footage and insider interviews helping to tell the stories behind the music.

DYING ALONE
Partners: Directed by Artyom Somov, produced by RTD for RT; distributed by Ruptly
Length: 1 x 25 minutes
Aired: March 2019 (RT)
Rights available: All rights, worldwide
Japan’s elderly population is on the rise, and with it, the number of people dying alone
in their apartments, often undiscovered for substantial lengths of time after they pass away. The phenomenon of kodokushi, or “lonely deaths”, has created a grisly yet lucrative business opportunity for cleaners who take on the task of cleaning the apartments where the bodies have been found. This documentary examines the story through the perspectives of those who are, through the simple act of cleaning house, dignifying the existence of those who had to die alone.
Trailer here.

MALAWI WILDLIFE RESCUE
Partners: Icon Films for Love Nature; distributed by Blue Ant International
Length/volume: 6 x 60 minutes
Aired: February 2020 (Love Nature)
Rights available: Worldwide, excluding UK and North America
This docuseries from natural history/wildlife specialists Icon Films follows the team at the only wildlife rescue center in Malawi, Africa. Cameras capture the action as the animal rescuers, including American veterinarian Amanda Salb, Dutch-born head of animal care Alma van Dorenmalen and visiting British vet Sophie Widdowson, contend with the challenges that crop up during the rainy season — power cuts, and increase in orphaned animals among them — in order to bring their patients back to health, and back into the wild.
Trailer here.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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