MIPCOM: Will 'Acquitted' Be the Next Big Nordic Drama?


Guilt, revenge and murder in rural Norway

The Nordic nations have become a factory of high-end television over the past few years, with series like The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen and Lilyhammer becoming international hits.

There's no shortage of Nordic drama at international TV market MIPCOM, which kicked off Monday in Cannes. Beta has had success hawking its Norwegian political thriller Mammon; ITV Studios Global Entertainment has Swedish mystery thriller Jordskott; Zodiak Rights has the Jo Nesbo-created Occupied; and Red Arrow International is presenting the New York/Swedish cop drama 100 Code.

But Acquitted, a new Norwegian series which FremantleMedia International is pitching to global broadcasters this week, stands out from the pack.

The one-hour drama, which Norway's Miso Film is producing for pubweb TV2 Norway, takes elements of the Nordic Noir tradition and combines them with the much older Scandinavian tradition of existential drama, bearing a resemblance to the works of Ingmar Bergman or Henrik Ibsen.

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The plot of Acquitted follows Aksel Borgen, played by Norwegian actor Nicolai Cleve Broch, a business man who, after spending 20 years as a high-powered corporate executive in Asia, returns to his hometown in rural Norway. Borgen is back to try and rescue the town's main company from bankruptcy. But he is haunted by his past, as he was accused of murdering his high-school sweetheart 20 years ago. Although he was acquitted of the crime, many in his hometown still feel Borgen got away with murder.

“I wanted it to be a character drama and not just a crime drama,” says Siv Rajendram Eliassen, the writer who created Acquitted together with Anne Bache-Wiig. “It wasn't the murder that fascinated me, the who-done-it factor, but the struggle to be acquitted, to be accepted again by society. Anne and I didn't even plot the crime drama; we didn't even figure out who did it until two years into development."

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That FremantleMedia International, one of the world's largest TV sales groups, would pick up a Norwegian-language drama speaks to the seismic shifts in the industry over the past decade.

“I think we couldn't have done this 10 years ago,” says Jonas Allen, who is producing Acquitted for Miso. “What started in Sweden with crime series like Wallander, and then Denmark with The Killing, has gone further now. [Danish political drama] Borgen showed it's not the crime, it's the characters that sell now. The market is more ready to absorb and accept a series like Acquitted, where you don't really need the crime. The crime is just an excuse to tell the story of these characters.”

The first 10-episode season of Acquitted is set to debut on Norway's TV2 in January.

Twitter: @sroxborough