LILLE, France — “Unspoken,” a war drama series wrapping in a thriller format one of ordinary people’s most relatable nightmares and the urgent relevance of a real-life game-changing conflict, walked off Tuesday night with the Series Mania Forum Best Project Award, the highest-profile industry prize at the biggest TV festival in Europe.
Given to one of 15 drama series projects pitched Tuesday on the first day of proceedings at the Series Mania Forum in its centerpiece Co-Pro Pitching Sessions, the Award carries a €50,000 ($53,500) cash prize, enough to boost seriously continued development on the TV show.
Produced by Match & Spark (Poland), Toy Cinema and 2Brave Productions (Ukraine), the six-episode series is created by Filip Syczyński, who is co-writing with Zhanna Ozirna.
“Unspoken” unfolds during the very first days of full-scale war in Ukraine. It follows Evgeniy, who travels from Poland to Ukraine, hell-bent on saving his wife and kids from Russian invasion.
His time is limited, however, as are his tools: The only connection he has with his family is his mobile phone. He’s a normal guy, a retired veteran of the conflict that begun in 2014, 2Brave producer Natalia Libet told Variety. “He wants his family to survive. But he is not Superman or Bruce Willis’ John McClane.”
Inspired by a true story, episodes run just 30 minutes. “Otherwise this tension would be hard to sustain,” Anna Różalska, at Match & Spark, told Variety.
The prize was announced Tuesday evening by Laurence Herszberg, founder and general director of Series Mania, and jury president Caroline Hollick, head of drama, at the U.K. broadcaster Channel 4. Toy Cinema’s Dmytro Sukhanov, Libet and Rożalska accepted the Award onstage at Series Mania.
“The winning project united the judges unanimously with the raw, emotional intensity of the storytelling. The powerful, relatable tale of a father prepared to go to any lengths to save his family was a bold and original take on the most urgent subject matter of our time,” said Hollick.
Added Herszberg: “We are extremely pleased that our illustrious jury chose to give the award to a Ukrainian project which is very much connected with what is going on in Ukraine today. And despite this war, Ukraine, its creators, and its culture, is still very much alive and another reason to admire the courage of the Ukrainian people.”
The Co-Pro Pitching Sessions jury took in other key executives powering Europe’s drama series industry: Michele Zatta, a commissioning editor at Italy’s RAI; France’s Françoise Guyonnet, executive managing director, TV Series, at top European production-distribution company Studiocanal; Jarmo Lampela, head of drama, at Finnish public broadcaster YLE, a notable co-production partner on shows in and outside Scandinavia; and U.K.-based Lindsey Martin, VP, development & co-productions, CBS Studios International.
The Series Mania Forum Award continues a winning run for producer Libet, who picked up two awards at the IFFR’s CineMart for Marina Stepanska’s “Consider Vera.”
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