Best new TV series fight it out for festival title

3 min

Paris (AFP)

One of the world's top television series festivals -- Series Mania -- opens in Paris Friday with "The Sopranos" creator David Chase chairing a jury that will choose the best of the new small-screen epics from across the globe.

The official competition, the first of its type for a festival aimed at the public as well as the TV industry, has eight new series including US crime writer Harlan Coben's "The Five" competing for the Grand Prix.

The two-week-long festival -- which first brought the Israeli series "Hatufim" on which "Homeland" is based to international attention -- has grown into one of the most popular and influential in the world, attracting 22,000 people last year.

Director Laurence Herszberg she has been taken aback by the public hunger to see high-quality series, and plans a major expansion next year.

"We have become a reference for foreign and French producers and distributors including now the Americans, who are beginning to arrive in numbers," she said.

"We are a bit taken back by our own success and we have had to turn away people who have wanted to come," she admitted.

- Undercover cop -

The Argentinian series "El Marginal" about a cop who goes undercover in a prison effectively run by its inmates is one of the hottest tickets this year, with equally good word-of-mouth for the Belgian series "Beau Sejour", which is also being premiered in the main competition.

More than 60 other series from Japan to Australia and Scandinavia are also being shown with Herszberg saying the festival's global reach is what sets it apart.

"That is one of biggest differences now. Before everyone watched US series and maybe British ones which have always been excellent."

But now, thanks partly to the success of the Danish political series "Borgen", she said, "people are much more willing to watch series from all over the world whether with subtitles or not".

The Israeli series "False Flag" is emblematic of that change, she told AFP.

It won the audience award at Series Mania last year and has since been snapped up by Fox, the first foreign language series that the US distributors intend to roll out globally.

Critic Pierre Langlais of Telerama magazine said another key to the festival's success was the quality of its masterclasses with Chase to be joined on stage by Cuba Gooding Jr., "Dexter" showrunner Clyde Phllips, director Matthew Penn and the acclaimed British writers Stephen Poliakoff and Tony Grisoni of "Southcliffe" fame.

"The quality of the debates and the selection make it a unique forum," he said.

"It is an enormous success, and has an undeniable impact at a European level... and there are more and more people coming."

Langlais said the industry section of the festival, now run over three days, is on also on the up, with 16 series in development being presented to some 300 potential backers.

Herszberg said it was already becoming a "major forum for co-production and work in progress and we would like to continue to develop that."