CanneSeries Unveils Lineup, Stephen Fry to Serve on Jury

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Stephen Fry

Amazon's 'The Feed' is the only English-language show in the competition lineup, while Emma Thompson's 'Years & Years' and Zachary Quinto's 'NOS4A2' get out-of-competition spots at the TV festival in Cannes.

Stephen Fry and Sex Education star Emma Mackey will serve on the jury of the second annual CanneSeries festival in France this year.

Dark creator Baran Bo Odar will serve as president, and Vikings star Katheryn Winnick and The Bureau composer Rob will round out the panel.

BBC One, HBO and CanalPlus' highly anticipated futuristic family drama Years & Years, from A Very English Scandal writer Russell T. Davies and starring Emma Thompson, will premiere in an out-of-competition slot where English-language series have their strongest showing.

Among them are AMC's vampire series NOS4A2 with Zachary Quinto and two Starz dramas, namely Gregg Araki's Now Apocalypse and The Rook, starring Joely Richardson and Olivia Munn.

Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha's Beecham House will have its world premiere out of competition in cooperation with MIPTV.

StudioCanal's French-language Vernon Subutex, starring Romain Duris and Celine Sallette, will also have its world premiere out of competition and serve as the festival's gala opener.

In the competition program, Netflix original How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) will screen alongside Beta Film's Bauhaus, which follows the famous school of art post-World War I.

Kansai TV's Junichi, created by Palme d'Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda, is also set for the competition with NRK's dark, supernatural cop comedy Magnus from Lillyhammer actor Vidar Magnussen.

The Arbitrator director Reshef Regev Levi's Nehama and Perfect Life, from Goya-nominated Spanish director Leticia Dolera, come from Israel and Spain, respectively.

Two Belgian-Flemish entries are also part of the competition lineup. They are Tim Van Aelst's 1990s-set drama Studio Tarara and Bert Van Dael's murder trial jury drama The Twelve.

Amazon's The Feed, from former White Collar and The Walking Dead writer Channing Powell, and Russian drama The Outbreak, from Gogol creators Valeriy Fedorovich and Evgeniy Nikishov, round out the competition.

Festival creative director Albin Lewi said submissions for this year's event ticked up slightly from last year, resulting in a “very dense and diverse” selection, including a comedy, a costume drama and a show that “can't be defined.”

“We don't want to be a dramatic festival in terms of content, we want to have great diversity,” he said about the different genres represented.

Notably, The Feed is the only English-language show in the competition lineup. “It's not a French festival, it's not an English-speaking festival, it's an international festival,” Lewi said. It is also platform neutral, with one Netflix original and one Amazon acquisition in competition.

The selection committee paid special attention to gender this year. “One thing that is really important to us is the gender topic. We briefed everyone on the selection committee to be aware of the Bechdel Test [that is a measure of the representation of women in works of fiction] and that the presentation of women and gender is important,” he said, adding that the gender-balanced dialogue and character test was not a criteria but a guideline.

CanneSeries is working towards gender balance, Lewi said. “The director role is a bit different in series, so we do look at the creative and the script-writing side where generally you have a creator for the global arc. Having an important female lead in front and behind the camera is something we pay a lot of attention to,” he said.

The festival will also work to integrate its program more seamlessly with MIPTV, where last year the appearance of a pink carpet baffled some international execs. “We need to build our brand, and everything we did last year had the impact of making people learn about the festival,” he said.

The Beecham House premiere as a MIPTV event is part of this, and conference attendees will be able to access CanneSeries screenings with their badge instead of enduring the complex ticketing process of last year. “The idea is, step by step, to encourage people at the market to experience a CanneSeries screening, which includes the presentation of the talent, with the carpet, and the atmosphere.” Buyers will also have access to the CanneSeries shows the day after the premieres on FestivalScope, which is the first time the platform has partnered with a TV festival.

Lewi says that the festival's attachment to a major market helps the selection to be exposed to buyers and cited last year's big winner When Heroes Fly. The Israeli drama was picked up by Netflix after its world premiere in Cannes. He also characterized 2019 as an “in between year” as the TV business is about to undergo another big upheaval with additional players, saying that next year he expects shows from such companies as Disney, Facebook and YouTube in the festival.

The CanneSeries is continuing its partnership with Vivendi-owned French pay TV giant CanalPlus, and the closing ceremony hosted by French comedian Monsieur Poulpe will be broadcast on the network.