In Lille, France, the heart of the television avant-garde will beat from today and for about a week. Series Mania, the international festival dedicated to the series shown on the small screen raises the curtain today, aspiring for the sixth year to highlight the new trends that will dominate television in the coming seasons.
From 2018, when it was organized for the first time until today, Series Mania has managed to become the favorite festival of premium series but also a point of reference for international creators, each time seeking to break the barriers of the primacy of the established three-four markets which supply all the television networks with new content.
The most characteristic proof of this effort is this year the choice of the General Director of the festival Laurence Herzberg and the Artistic Director Fredrik Lavigne to turn their attention to different narratives from countries that until now have not been represented in such events.
At the heart of this initiative is Greece, which will give its own color with the official world premiere of the series “Milky Way” by Vassilis Kekatos coming in the new season on Mega. The production of the Cannes Palme d’Or award-winning director is the first Greek work ever presented at Series Mania, and indeed in its Official Competition section, where only 8 series are selected from around the world.
As Herzberg and Lavin state in their note “In 2023, we pay particular attention to series originating from regions outside the more established Anglo-Saxon/European countries.
Out of 396 series sent from 63 countries, we kept 54 of them, representing 24 different nationalities. Some come from areas we don’t hear very often, such as Greece, Pakistan, Benin, Uruguay and Iran.
The success of these works based on different narrative and aesthetic conventions lead us to question our own “western” means of telling and understanding stories. How we must change our criteria and bring about, occasionally, a kind of “transfer” when we face these creations that partly do not fall under our established conventions. Although creativity is now a global phenomenon, we must also recognize a certain uniformity in storytelling due to the influence of streaming platforms, which exacerbate competition and tensions in the market.
Within this context, the differentiation of narratives and their visibility are appearing in increasingly important festivals like ours, but also in the press, as they have a vital role to play.”
This year’s Series Mania, which will run until March 23, has added 54 new series and 396 series that have aired in 76 countries. A total of 32 world premieres of new projects will take place in Lille along with 10 international premieres, bringing the air from 24 countries of the world, among them Greece where along with five others it appears at the festival for the first time.
The 11 rooms in total where the screenings of the festival will be hosted, in the coming days will be filled with images, narratives and moments from a different world, that of fiction which of course also hides several messages.
“Television series cannot escape the “vintage” trend seen in fashion and interior design. This period is sometimes seen as a golden age, sometimes as the root of all evil (liberalization of the economy, nuclear fears, epidemics…) but it goes hand in hand with the childhood of many modern screenwriters, which we all know plays an important role role in the work of each creator.
And so many current issues are examined from the perspective of those times as a means of highlighting a return of certain conservative strands of thought, showing that social progress cannot be achieved in any definitive way. The Quebec production “Désobéir: le choix de Chatale Daigle” recalls the difficulty of abortion in the 1980s. While “Little Bird”, an English-language Canadian series, refers to the abduction of indigenous children as a possible continuation of the forced separations of immigrant children from Mexico in Trump’s recent order.
Then a Mexican series returns to the AIDS epidemic and the discrimination against homosexuals that, unfortunately, still occurs in some countries”, emphasize Herzberg and Lavigne, who do not forget to refer to Vassili’s “Milky Way” Kekatu.
“Important social questions, mostly of an ethical and environmental nature, dominate the overtly political issues touched on by the series that aired in previous years. “Milky Way” tackles teenage pregnancy against the backdrop of the conservative, snowy mountains of Greece, and the Israeli series “Bodies at Work” paints a subtle portrait of surrogate mothers and their sponsors.
The main theme of this year’s event continues to be the environment, and here we see some of the craziest scenarios. In “Fortress”, Norway lives self-sufficiently behind a wall as it processes Western refugees, while in “The Swarm” the polluted seabed disturbs the birth of creatures, causing widespread water poisoning”, continue the two heads of the organization.
“This year is also characterized by female power, with emancipated, often radical characters who occasionally flirt with revenge. “The Power” depicts a world that is literally in the hands of women, with the power that allows them to wipe out anyone who stands in their way.
In Mentiras pasajeras, produced by the Almodóvar brothers, the heroine sets up an illegal plastic surgery business, a not-so-subtle wink at the unbearable pressures women’s bodies are subjected to. We should also mention “Funny Woman” and “Nolly” (led by Helena Bonham Carter) which depict two women (re)conquering their roles in English soap operas. In “Sous contrôle”, a female NGO director is catapulted into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and must face the male chauvinism of the diplomatic world. While another French series, “Les Randonneuses”, depicts six women suffering from cancer hiking together in the mountains as an outlet for the physical battles they face,” Herzberg and Lavigne emphasize.
The festival officially opens today with the screening of the “Greek salad” series, which makes its world premiere here. This Amazon Prime production has a close relationship with Greece since not only was it filmed last year in Athens, with the protagonists living their own adventure in our country based on the script. “Greek Salad” is the television continuation of the film trilogy of the multi-awarded French director Cedric Klapisch.
In the International Competition section, “Milky Way” by Vassilis Kekatos stands out for us. Along with him, productions from international TV giants such as the series “Grace of heaven”, “Drops of God” from Apple TV, “Mentiras Pasajeras” from Paramount, “Red Skies” from Israel, “The Actor” from Iran, ‘The fortress’ from Norway and ‘The Power’ from Amazon Prime.
The fate of the nominations will be decided by the jury chaired by the American screenwriter, director and producer Lisa Joy (Westworld), the French actress Emmanuelle Bear, the British screenwriter-presenter Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), the French-British singer, songwriter and actor Lou Lou Dwayon, Indian director Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur) and Israeli actor Yehuda Levi (Series Mania 2022 Best Actor Award for Fire Dance). The jury will award the Grand Prize for Best Series, the Best Screenplay Award, the Best Actress Award and the Best Actor Award.