Realscreen’s 2021 MIPTV Picks, pt. 1

Yes, we all wish it could have been different. We would all rather see Cannes’ Palais des Festivals once again bustling and buzzing with buyers and sellers frantically flocking to ...
April 8, 2021

Yes, we all wish it could have been different. We would all rather see Cannes’ Palais des Festivals once again bustling and buzzing with buyers and sellers frantically flocking to their next meetings as the promise of a lunch along the Croisette beckoned. But for all of that, we will have to wait.

Thankfully, while the mode of conducting business has temporarily shifted, there is still a wealth of great content being shopped in time for the virtual edition of MIPTV. True, many distributors featured here have established their own showcases to feature their wares, but judging from the submissions for our annual MIPTV Picks feature, there is a wide range of projects worth investigating — from sumptuous natural history to provocative current affairs and science titles, to family-friendly, light entertainment. Here, over two parts, you’ll see a sampling of what the Realscreen editorial team considers the “can’t miss” content coming to the market this spring, with the clip rated highest by the team named as “Best in Show”. And of course, we’ll hope to hit the hallways of the Palais again in October. – Barry Walsh, editor

Best in Show (pictured)
Captains of Zaatari
Partners: An Ambient Light production, directed and produced by Ali El Arabi; distributed by Dogwoof
Length: 1 x 73 minutes
Premiered: Sundance, 2021
Rights available: Worldwide
Director Ali El Arabi follows Mahmoud and Fawzi, two best friends living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, as they pursue their dreams of careers as professional soccer players. The dream becomes closer to reality as their camp receives a visit from one of the leading sports academies, looking for players for an international tournament in Doha.

Attenborough’s Global Adventure
Partners: Atlantic Films for Sky One (UK) and ABC (Australia); distributed by ITV Studios
Length: 1 x 60 minutes
Premiered: December, 2020
Rights available: ITV controls world excluding Australia, Republic of Ireland and UK all media excluding theatrical and non-theatrical exclusively until December 9th, 2030 (WW excluding AUS, ROI and UK).
UK-based Atlantic Productions has frequently partnered with world-renowned broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, on project that married the TV icon’s expertise and boundless knowledge of the natural world with incredible CGI. Here, several highlights from that association are presented, ranging from explorations of the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforests of Borneo, to many points between.

I Got Lucky
Partners: Cream Productions for Discovery International; distributed by Cineflix Rights
Length/volume: 14 x 30 minutes
Premiered: March 2021 (Discovery+)
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Canada, the UK, Germany, Iberia, the Nordics, Italy, Benelux, Poland, and Latin America
This series combines first-person testimony, expert commentary and analysis and riveting footage to explore the science behind close calls. From freak accidents to extreme stunts gone wrong and myriad other near-death situations, I Got Lucky gives science and survivors the last word on how they were able to escape an untimely end.

Aggie: A Life of Art and Justice
Partners: Aubin Pictures; distributed by Strand Releasing (U.S. and Canada); Scorpion TV (UK)
Length: 1 x 91 minutes
Premiered: Sundance, 2020
Rights available: Worldwide excluding North America
Art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund made headlines when she sold pop art master Roy Lichtenstein’s “Masterpiece” for US$165 million to start the Art for Justice Fund, designed to advance racial justice and end mass incarceration. Directed by daughter and Emmy-nominated director Catherine Gund, this film provides an intimate look at the 80-year-old art world icon and her lifetime of advocacy and philanthropy.

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
Partners: McGee Media and Inkwell Media for PBS; distributed by PBS International
Length: 4 x 60 minutes
Premiered: February 2021 (PBS)
Rights available: Worldwide, all media

Hosted and executive produced by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and featuring contributions from Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, BeBe Winans, Jennifer Hudson and Reverend Al Sharpton among many others, this two-part special traces the 400-year history of the Black church in America, and its role as a source of power, comfort and resilience throughout that time span. The program also explores the church’s evolution in the present day, in the midst of current challenges and trials.

Cruising: The Biggest Storm
Partners: CJZ for Channel 7; distributed by Bossanova
Length: 1 x 90 minutes
Premiered: October 2020
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Australia and New Zealand
The global cruise line industry brought in approximately $34.2 billion in revenue in 2018. But the high seas became much choppier with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, more than 300 cruise ships remain docked around the world. This special examines the devastating impact the current situation is having on the cruise industry, and also uncovers other controversies from before the pandemic that pointed towards trouble for this sector.

Locked In: Breaking the Silence
Partners: Marble Films for BBC; distributed by Orange Smarty
Length: 1 x 75 minutes and 1 x 52 minutes
Premiered: November 2020
Rights available: Worldwide rights available, excluding UK
Originally produced as part of the BBC’s acclaimed ‘Storyville’ strand, this documentary from filmmaker Xavier Alford (Drugsland, Olympic Dreams, Stacey Dooley in the USA) chronicles the challenges facing those contending with the effects of Guillain-Barré syndrome from a first-person perspective. Diagnosed with the rare condition 10 years ago, he has endured its attack on his nervous system to the point where it has rendered him paralyzed. But after a decade of living with the syndrome, he chose to break his silence via a documentary that would shine light upon both the condition itself, and the strength and resilience of those who, like himself, are fighting this most mysterious of enemies.

Glorious Bustards
Partners: Altayfilm for MDR, ARTE; distributed by Albatross World Sales
Length: 1 x 52 minutes
Premiering: May 2021 (ARTE)
Rights available: Worldwide
Called “the Dodo of our time”, the great bustard is the heaviest of flying birds, and has hovered on the edge of extinction for decades. Concerted efforts from scientists and bustard enthusiasts, however, have produced tangible results. While in some regions of Asia and Eastern Europe, the species’ original homeland, the bustard is practically extinct, in select rural areas around Berlin, the birds are being given a fighting chance, with endangered clutches being hatched in incubators, raised by hand and then released into a wider population that is now numbering above 350, compared to 50 three decades ago. Here, we follow the efforts of those dedicated to bringing the bustard back from the brink.

Surviving Sinaga
Partners: The Wednesday Society; Written, directed & edited by George Attwood and Callum Roe; distributed by Cargo Films & Releasing.
Length: 1 x 50 minutes
Rights available: World excluding Norway, Sweden, Poland
It was a case that shocked the UK and indeed, much of the world. Reynhard Sinaga, now known as the UK’s “most prolific” serial rapist, was convicted of 159 sex offences, including 136 rapes and sentenced to life in prison. Based in Manchester, Sinaga would prey upon young men out for a night on the town who would be approached at various stages of inebriation, with Sinaga presenting himself as a “good Samaritan” who would offer them a place to stay, or to call a cab or friend, and then subsequently drug and assault them. Here, we learn more about the case through a journalist who covered it in detail, and one of Sinaga’s victims, and the lead prosecutor who helped bring Sinaga to justice.

Secrets of the Supercars
Partners: Twofour for UKTV; distributed by ITV Studios
Length: 10 x 60 minutes
Premiered: March 2021 on UKTV for Dave
Rights: Worldwide, all media
From the Pagani Huayra Roadster to the Bugatti Divo, the multi-million dollar machines dubbed “supercars” are anything but your typical auto. This series takes modern day supercars through their paces while also exploring their origins and the production processes involved in crafting these automotive works of art.

Restaurants On The Edge
Partners: marblemedia for Blue Ant, Netflix; distributed by Distribution360
Length: 13 x 60 minutes
Premiered: January 2020 (Canada)
Rights: Worldwide TV (excluding SVOD & Canada)
While one of the rules of thumb for creating a successful restaurant might be “location, location, location,” there’s no denying the importance of inviting decor and, of course, great food. And if word gets out that your establishment only boasts one out of three, then your restaurant may indeed be teetering “on the edge” of closure. Here, a team comprised of a chef, a designer and a restaurateur take on the challenge to revitalize restaurants in assorted, idyllic locations while viewers also get a sense of what makes the surroundings so spectacular.

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