International Insider: Banijay Interview Exclusive; Apple Acquisitions; Berlinale; BBC Diana Dilemma; Oscar Hopefuls
20th November 2020

Welcome to International Insider, I’m Jake Kanter. Here’s your weekly recap on all the global TV and film news you need to know this week. Any tips or stories can be sent to [email protected], or my DMs are open.

Banijay Exclusive

The great integration: It’s a little over a year since Banijay signed a $2.2B deal to acquire Endemol Shine Group and, thanks to a global pandemic and protracted regulatory process, the new super-producer is still knitting itself together. Combining 120 production labels in 22 territories has not been straightforward and questions linger over whether the deal was a good one for French millionaire Stéphane Courbit, but Banijay CEO Marco Bassetti was in a bullish mood when he sat down with Deadline for an exclusive interview. You can read the full piece here, but below are some big takeaways:

Je ne regrette rien: Bassetti scoffed at rumors that Banijay wanted to pull the plug on the takeover at the height of the pandemic. “We never regret the deal that we made and we never had the mind to change it,” he said, adding that industry changes mean that the acquisition makes even more sense now than it did 12 months ago.

Hey big spender: In a mark of the confidence Banijay has from its backers, Bassetti said he has secured board sign-off to invest €25M ($30M) into development and IP creation over the coming months.

Shuffling the pack: Country by country, Banijay is going about the business of reorganization. Banijay Nordics chief Jacob Houlind has completed his integration, which has involved shuttering two labels in Sweden and refocusing Lilyhammer producer Rubicon purely on drama. In the UK, thought is being given to breaking up Peaky Blinders co-producer Tiger Aspect by reducing the number of genres it covers.

The boutique beast: Bassetti referred to Banijay as a “boutique” operation, which is a curious word for a multi-billion dollar empire. Really, it’s just a way of reassuring creatives that they won’t get lost in a giant machine. Houlind put it this way: “Creatives are afraid that everything will become one big Burger King chain, where you would do the same burger, with the same recipe. That is not the case here. We want to make sure that every burger tastes completely different.”

Apple Spending Spree

Splashing the cash: Make no bones about it, Apple is serious about movies. The world’s most valuable company continues to make glossy deals for its steaming platform Apple TV+, with multiple starry and high quality-sounding features now in the pipeline. My colleague Tom Grater had the exclusive on its latest addition: Tetris: The Movie, which will star Taron Egerton (pictured) in a re-team with his Rocketman producer Matthew Vaughn. Stan & Ollie’s Jon S. Baird is onboard to direct.

The background: Don’t worry, this isn’t some cheap cash-in based on a well-known video game property, rather it is shaping up to be an intriguing drama about the complicated early days of Tetris. Set during the Cold War, Egerton is playing Henk Rogers, a Dutch video game designer who was at the center of a legal battle that arose around the franchise’s copyright, encompassing a Russian software engineer, two American businessmen, and others.

Packed slate: Apple is on a roll, with buzzy upcoming originals including Will Smith-Antoine Fuqua‘s Emancipation, Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon, Jake Gyllenhaal movie Snow Blind, and Justin Timberlake’s Palmer.

Berlinale Battles On

Berlin bear still growling: The Berlin Film Festival has said it is “too early to consider cancellation” and so is still preparing for a physical event between February 11-21. It won’t be Berlin as we know it, however. Tickets for screenings will have to be pre-booked and capacity in cinemas will be reduced by up to half in order to abide by social distancing rules. The festival confirmed to us today that the Competition and Encounters sections will not be impacted by the planned streamlining, but larger sections such as Generation and Panorama will slim down their programs. Andreas Wiseman has the story.

The context: Germany is currently in the third week of a four-week partial lockdown. As with many European countries, the number of new Covid cases in Germany has been rising steadily over the past six weeks. There were more than 23,000 new cases yesterday and 296 deaths. A number of festival and market regulars have told Andreas that they are unlikely to attend, but things can change quickly. Here’s hoping that the nightmare that is coronavirus begins to ease soon and the famous old festival is able to go ahead safely with something resembling its usual character. We know a number of international films have already been invited.

BBC Princess Diana Dilemma

What happened: It’s the media story that is dominating the pages of British newspapers, casting a shadow over the BBC’s role in securing an iconic interview with Princess Diana in 1995. The late royal sat down with flagship current affairs show Panorama and uttered the famous words “there were three of us in this marriage,” but decades-old questions have resurfaced over whether she was coerced into the interview by the BBC and reporter Martin Bahir through a heady mix of forged documents and malicious rumor.

The inquiry: Now, after pressure from Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, the BBC has ordered a full bells and whistles independent investigation into the matter led by former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson. He will likely want to interview all the major players involved in the documentary, not least former BBC director general Tony Hall, who was head of news at the time the Panorama broadcast. Whether Bashir, who made his name on the back of the Lady Di scoop, will be questioned remains to be seen — he has been seriously ill with coronavirus in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Diana’s son — and heir to the throne — Prince William has welcomed the inquiry, calling it a “step in the right direction.”

Davie’s been here before: It’s something of an irony that this is all kicking off in the week that Diana made her bow on The Crown, but director general Tim Davie knows from hardbitten experience that decisiveness is essential when a historic crisis slaps the BBC. The last time ugly questions of this magnitude haunted the broadcaster was when the full horror of pedophile Jimmy Savile’s atrocities became apparent in 2012. Former DG George Entwistle dithered and lost his job after just 54 days. Davie was the man who stepped up on an interim basis to steady the ship. It’s clear he does not want to repeat past missteps.

Oscar Hopefuls Emerge

France enters the running: Another week, another swathe of global Oscar hopefuls have come forward as the competition for the International Feature Film category hots up. Notable among the submissions this week was France, which has chosen Filippo Meneghetti drama Two Of Us (pictured) as its entry. It tells the story of two retirees, played by Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier, who have hidden their deep and passionate love for many decades. France is among the most nominated countries in this category but has not had a win since 1992’s Indochine. Nancy Tartaglione had the full story.

But lookout for this: Smart money might well be on the Danish entry, however. Mads Mikkelsen-starrer Another Round is the country’s hot pick after it generated decent buzz at film festivals this year. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, it follows a group of high school teachers who test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood. Susanne Bier’s In a Better World was Denmark’s last Academy triumph in 2011.

Full runners: Other submissions this week include Chile, South Africa, Portugal, and debutant Sudan. Maite Alberdi’s documentary The Mole Agent will represent Chile, while Rene van Rooyen’s Afrikaans-language movie Toorbos will fly the flag for South Africa. Portugal has submitted Listen from actress and director Ana Rocha de Sousa, and Sudan is entering the Oscar race for the first time with You Will Die At 20. We have a handy table with all the entries so far here.

The Essentials

🌶️ Hot one of the week: Killing Eve star Jodie Comer and The Irishman actor Stephen Graham have signed up for a Jack Thorne-penned Channel 4 drama that will be set in a UK care home during the coronavirus crisis. Full story.

🍿 International box office: Universal/Blumhouse’s body-swap movie Freaky (pictured) secured $1.91M from 20 offshore markets, led by a strong performance in Australia. Nancy has the details.

🏆 Awards news: Chernobyl is still winning prizes — this time from the Edinburgh TV Festival. The Sky/HBO nuclear disaster series won best drama and helped producer Sister scoop the production company of the year gong. Full winners.

🚚 On the move: John Stanley is leaving WarnerMedia in 2021 after 14 years at the helm of Warner Bros’ home entertainment operation in the UK. His exit came as UK country manager Polly Cochrane set her top team. Andreas had the story.

📅 Diary date: French TV festival Series Mania has been shunted back from its usual March home because of coronavirus. It will now take place between May 28-June 5, 2021.

🎦 Trailer dash: Netflix has offered a first look at its BBC Studios-produced documentary series, The Surgeon’s Cut, which profiles the work of four pioneering surgeons plying their trade around the world. Watch the trailer.

📺 Ones to watch: Sticking with Netflix, the streamer drops its Shawn Mendes film In Wonder on November 23. Produced by Fulwell 73, it’s sure to thrill teenage fans around the world. Also worth your time is Luca Guadagnino’s We Are Who We Are, which launches on BBC Three on Sunday.

And Finally…

Dream team? So Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney did actually buy the lower league Welsh soccer club Wrexham. Quite what drew two Hollywood stars to an obscure little sports team in the Valleys is still unclear, but they have promised to invest £2M ($2.5M) in the venture and provided a hearty endorsement for club sponsor Ifor Williams Trailers in a social media video announcing their arrival. There are reports that Wrexham could now become the subject of a big-budget documentary (think Sunderland ‘Til I Die with some Tinseltown sparkle), so it was notable that Amazon was among those to congratulate Reynolds and McElhenney. Could an All Or Nothing series be on the cards? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: the reality of being a soccer club proprietor has suddenly sunk in for Reynolds, who proclaimed: “Oh f**k, this is really happening.”

Tom Grater and Andreas Wiseman contributed to this week’s International Insider newsletter

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