Good afternoon Insiders, Max Goldbart here. World Cup fever has gripped MovieSlay Towers and while our U.S. colleagues gobble up their turkey with all the trimmings, we’ve got plenty to round up in the world of international TV and film.
Shifting The Goalposts
Controversy keeps on coming: Those who thought the Qatar World Cup controversy would melt away when the real action started were sadly mistaken. It is hard to keep track of happenings off the pitch during a fast and furious first week of the world’s biggest sporting tournament but the tone was set by a helplessly bizarre tirade from FIFA boss Gianni Infantino Saturday, in which his robust defense of the Gulf state led with a much-mocked “Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay” before he went on to equate serious human rights plights with him being bullied as a child for having red hair. Gianni’s peculiar outburst preceded an opening ceremony featuring Morgan Freeman and BTS’ Jung Kook but some weren’t interested. In a controversial move, the BBC chose to only show the ceremony on an online live stream, while the main channel program featured an extended critique of Qatar and FIFA by host Gary Lineker and a trio of pundits. Speaking on a podcast yesterday, Lineker said he was in part driven by the BBC’s failure to speak up more about human rights issues during the previous World Cup, which was held in Russia, addressing critics that have blasted the BBC for coverage “tinged with orientalism,” per our analysis earlier this month.
Protests & non-protests: Following an opening game that went almost without incident (Qatar was downed 2-0 by an impressive Ecuador side), all eyes turned to England’s opener with Iran, and anthems and armbands were on the mind. On the day that two prominent Iranian actresses were arrested for colluding and acting against Iran’s authorities, the Iranian footballers resolutely refused to sing the national anthem in protest at the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in custody in September. England, meanwhile, volte-faced on captain Harry Kane’s wearing of a One Love armband after FIFA said he would receive a yellow card if he did so. It appeared an on-the-pitch punishment was too much for England or the eight other One Love nations to bear, having previously said they would happily take a fine for wearing the armband.
On the pitch: Millions have been tuning in across the week for some of the big games. France’s clash with Australia scored a 2022 record for local network TF1, 12M tuned in for the U.S.’ debut draw with Wales (pictured) on Fox and Telemundo and England’s Iran game on Monday lunchtime managed a peak of 8M as soccer-mad city types snuck off to the pub. Interestingly, 4M more watched the U.S. game than the England game in the UK. And the tournament has already been replete with on-the-pitch surprises, as Japan overcame Germany and Saudi Arabia put in an incredible performance to defeat one of the tournament’s favorites, Argentina, on Tuesday. Eyes now turn to the ‘soccerball derby’ with England taking on the U.S. tonight at 7 p.m. GMT (11 a.m. PT). Plenty more to come from MovieSlay both on and off the pitch.
La Casa De Netflix
Opening doors: Netflix opened the doors to its production hub in Tres Cantos, Madrid earlier this week as it unveiled five new studio spaces on the lot, including the streamer’s first in-house post-production facility. Our very own Zac Ntim headed to the Spanish capital with journalists and Spanish industry professionals, and was given a tour of the expansive site. The event ended with an onstage Q&A event. During the session, Verónica Fernández, Director of Series for Spain and Portugal, said the new facilities “guarantee” that creatives in Spain will have the “means to continue to tell their stories.” Fernández also confirmed that the streamer is set to reach more than 30 Spanish-language projects across film, series, and non-fiction documentaries by the year’s end.
“Factory of Dreams”: None other than world-famed director Steven Spielberg will receive the Honorary Golden Bear at next year’s 73rd Berlin International Film Festival, it was revealed Tuesday. Introducing the news, Berlinale director duo Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian hailed a man who has “given a new meaning to the ‘cinema’ as the factory of dreams,” and it was hard to think of greater praise for the 19-time Oscar nominated auteur. Spielberg will be handed his award at the long-awaited not-at-all-virtual Berlinale in mid February, coming just a few weeks before the launch of one of his most autobiographical works to date, The Fabelmans, which will be released by Universal Pictures Germany in German theaters in March.
Wake Me Up Before You Goa Goa
A bit IFFI: To India next, where our Asia expert Liz Shackleton has been navigating the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) with aplomb. One of Asia’s largest festivals featured a hugely insightful talk from beloved Kung Fu Panda and The Little Prince director Mark Osborne, who discussed Miyazaki, his creative processes and the impact Netflix has had on global animation audiences. One of many nuggets included the revelation that Osborne tried to show Japanese animation master Miyazaki The Little Prince but “he famously doesn’t see other people’s movies,” although Miyazaki is rumored to have “taken a trip in the Sahara Desert to experience something that happens in the book.” More here. Meanwhile, Liz found time to sit down with Drishyam 2 star Ajay Devgn to discuss the movie that was partly filmed in the Indian beachside state, his thoughts on the current state of Hindi-language (a.k.a. Bollywood) cinema and some of his upcoming projects. And Liz even had time to break this agenda setter on Mumbai’s Impact Films planning theatrical releases for some of the biggest movies of the past 12 months, including Brendan Fraser starrer The Whale, Cannes Palme d’Or winner Triangle Of Sadness and A24’s global breakout Everything, Everywhere All At Once.
Public Service Announcement
Collaborate to compete: Public broadcasting has never been more threatened than it is today: whether that’s due to audiences migrating to global streamers, fake news and disinformation undermining its values of openness and truth or the economy stretching budgets paper-thin. No wonder then, that every year many of the world’s top PSBs get together at the Public Broadcasters International conference to extoll the virtues of their existence and give each other a pat on the back. Constantly being kicked and judged can be a tiring business but when Jesse caught up with three top dogs of the PSB world – CBC/Radio-Canada’s Catherine Tait, the ABC’s David Anderson and RNZ’s Paul Thompson – he found them full of fighting spirit and hope for the future. In a wide ranging interview, Tait addressed CBC’s spiky license renewal talks, Anderson was quizzed on how he’s changing his commissioning structure and Thompson talked about the merger between his radio broadcaster RNZ and television network TVNZ. If, like us on the MovieSlay International TV desk, you enjoy all things broadcast policy, you’ll want to read the Q&A in full.
‘The Voice’ Heads Underground
“Light in their souls in the darkest night”: There have been many stories of sheer positivity, goodwill and innovation in the face of adversity since the Ukraine war started nine months ago and The Voice finale taking place 75 metres underground in a station doubling up as a bomb shelter was certainly one of them. With the finale delayed for months due to the February invasion by Russia, producers at 1+1 Media organized a sendoff worthy of a gong for every member of the production team, as the format’s final episode beamed from Maidan Nezalezhnosti under Kyiv Square. With generator-powered lights in operation due to the constant Kyiv blackouts, folk singer Maria Kvitka (pictured) came away victorious against a group of performers including a Ukrainian paramedic recently freed from Russian captivity. It looked a beautiful evening, summed up by 1+1’s Head of Big Shows Volodymyr Zavadyuk proclaiming: “We tried so that Ukrainians had light in their souls in the darkest night.” Meanwhile in the embattled European nation, Ukrainian producers will collectively receive the 2022 Eurimages Co-Production Award in a show of solidarity.
Hot One: Baz Bamigboye’s banger of the week was this mega casting update on Sam Mendes’ play based on Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and John Gielgud’s Broadway Hamlet.
Another One: House of the Dragon star Emma D’Arcy has dropped out of Anna Politkovskaya biopic Anna, replaced by Naomi Battrick.
Getting hotter: Per Jesse, British author C.J. Tudor’s debut The Drift is set for a TV adaptation.
Box office: China has given a theatrical release to James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water per Nancy’s analysis.
Book deal: Death in Paradise indie Red Planet is adapting two more novels by Our House author Louise Candlish.
More M&A: Fremantle was at it again, taking a majority stake in Israeli Shadow of Truth producer Silvio Productions.
Awards latest: BBC One’s Vigil and Netflix’s Sex Education won big at the International Emmys.
Festivals: Palestinian director Firas Khoury’s politically-charged Alam triumphed at Cairo Film Festival.
In the balance: French streamer Salto, with partners reportedly holding talks over a potential sell off.
Chief Twit latest: Twitter’s Brussels office, which played a key role in relations with the European Union, has shuttered.
Signed up: Aleksey Ageyev, multi-hyphenate producer, joined Artist International Group as Partner. Matt Grobar with this one.
Trail: Nicholas Winding Refn’s Copenhagen Cowboy has unveiled full trailer and set a January 5 release date.
First look: At My Crime, French auteur François Ozon’s latest movie.
Zac Ntim and Jesse Whittock contributed to this week’s International Insider.
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