True crime, sports, and gladiators

Perhaps it’s a by-product of excitement for the upcoming market: our call for submissions for this year’s installment of our annual MIPCOM Picks brought a veritable deluge of clips from international distributors who are obviously keen to get back to the Croisette. As you’ll see from our selections throughout this week, there’s a dazzling array of content from a wide range of genres to attract buyers: from engrossing true crime, to inspiring sports documentary, to the myriad specialist factual genres and formats that fill catalogs each year. stay tuned for the rest of our picks, appearing here over the course of this week.

Partners: Top Hat Productions for Paramount+ UK; distributed by All3Media International
Length: 3 x 60 minutes
Premiered: August 2022 (Paramount+ UK)
Rights available: All rights excluding the UK

For one of the first unscripted commissions for Paramount+ in the UK, Top Hat Productions delves into a murder case that had gone unsolved for more than 45 years. Sixteen-year-old Pamela Maurer of Woodridge, Illinois was found dead on the side of a road in 1976, but substantial leads at the time remained elusive. Years later, detective Chris Loudon decides to revisit the case, and in the course of investigation finds a box of evidence that was discovered years ago, but had been unopened up to that point. Within that box are dozens of photos of young women, leading Loudon and his team further along a trail that will ultimately lead to the killer’s identity. Barry Walsh

Partners: Broadcasters — DR, NRK, SVT, YLE, HBO Max in Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, and Holland; distributed in the rest of the world by Bomanbridge Media
Length: 1 x 90 minutes
Premiered: September 2022, DR
Rights available: Contact Bomanbridge Media

A Game of Secrets promises a deep dive into the fascinating story of Rui Pinto, a young Portuguese hacker whose anonymously authored Football Leaks site disclosed a whole network of dirty business dealings involving some of the biggest names in international soccer, and whose subsequent arrest and trial brought those aspects of the game that fans profess they “don’t like to think about” to the forefront of their attention. The high-end production values, coupled with the country-hopping narrative, gives a seductive, espionage-thriller sheen to what is already an incredibly captivating story. Andrew Tracy

Partners: October Films and Motion for History; distributed by A+E Networks International
Length: 16 x 60 minutes
Aired: July 2022 (History)
Rights available: Worldwide

A+E Networks’ History has had a fair amount of success with projects that take a cinematic, hybrid approach to documentary storytelling — see such series as Abraham Lincoln and The Story of Us. This time around, the network and its production partners have crafted an immersive look at the Roman Empire via one of its hallmarks, the Colosseum. Each episode of Colosseum (pictured, above) highlights a unique character pulled from the annals of history, combining riveting live-action sequences and special effects with expert commentary from historians. BW

Partners: I say Gold Television, Motion Content Group Production for Sky Arts; distributed by ITV Studios
Length: 7 x 60 minutes
Aired: May 2022 (Sky Arts)
Rights available: All rights worldwide excluding UK

The title’s out of date, of course, but then so, in a more intriguing way, is the subject: such traditional English crafts as basket weaving, blacksmithing, clockmaking, glassblowing and glove-making, which the newly crowned His Majesty has always been keen on preserving in the face of an industrialized (and now digitized) world. This series adds an aspect of competition to the heritage-mongering by putting six craft-thusiastic amateurs through a crash course taught by some of the nation’s still-existing master crafters, with a shot at designing and creating a custom-made piece for the monarch himself. It all makes for a pleasing combination of the elevated and the artisanal. AT

Partners: Tara Films, Mhacha Productions; distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution
Length: 1 x 100 minutes
Premiered: January 2022 (Sundance)
Rights available: Worldwide

Irish singer/songwriter Sinéad O’Connor burst onto the global music scene like a supernova in the late 1980s, with a penchant for punchy pop melodicism and a ferocious dedication to social justice. But while the music industry was initially smitten with the blast of fresh air that O’Connor brought, the love affair soured in the wake of various controversies that threatened to overshadow her accomplishments. This doc, helmed by Irish filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson, hones in on the period from 1987 to 1993 when O’Connor’s star shone its brightest, with a treasure trove of archive from the period. It also features interviews with various musical colleagues and a new interview with O’Connor, in which she offers her take on the events that shaped her stratospheric rise. BW

Partners: Produced by Zed for Arte; distributed by Zed
Length: 1 x 52 minutes; 1 x 90 minutes
Airing: Fall 2023
Rights available: All rights worldwide

Recounting medieval scholar Emanuele Arioli’s attempt to piece together a lost classic of Arthurian literature, Chasing Dragons endows bibliophilia with the intrigue of a detective story and the drama of a classic quest narrative. Striking aerial shots of medieval castles, swooping surveys of architecturally stunning libraries and loving closeups of beautifully illustrated manuscripts give a sense of sweep and scale to Arioli’s journeys through European archives. Meanwhile, that present-day narrative is intertwined with the piece-by-piece restoration of the medieval text, which is brought to life through vivid animations. AT

Partners: Grammar Productions; distributed by eOne
Length: 4 x 60 minutes
Airing: October 2022 (All4)
Rights available: All rights worldwide excluding UK

This four-parter chronicles the 2019 attempt to recreate the incredible 1955 voyage (captured in a contemporary BBC series, copious footage of which is featured here) in which six young men drove a truck 13,000 miles overland from Singapore to the UK. When one of the original participants has to bow out of the new expedition at the last minute due to health reasons, his inexperienced teenage grandson assumes his place for a journey that takes these modern adventurers across two continents, 23 countries, and some of the most precarious roads in the world in a beat-up vintage Land Rover. History, adventure, travel, two-hankie intergenerational family bonding, a David Attenborough cameo — what’s not to like? AT