Berlinale 2015 showcases international crime dramas and thrillers from Germany, Israel, Denmark, Sweden and Italy

The 2015 Berlinale – one of the world’s top international film festivals – closes today in Berlin. As ever, a host of wonderful films have been shown during the packed ten-day programme, with the Iranian film Taxi, directed by dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi, awarded the coveted Golden Bear.

While reading coverage of the festival, I was interested to see that some international TV dramas were premiered as part of the programme, and that a number of these had a pronounced crime/thriller/spying dimension. Alessandra Stanley’s excellent article in the New York Times provides a good overview, and also discusses how such series are beginning to be picked up in the States (and not always to be remade in English either), which is a very good sign.

Here are a few of the series in question:

Deutschland 83. There’s quite a lot of buzz about this spying drama in Germany and beyond, and it has now also been picked up by an American network (in the original German!). The central protagonist is East German border guard Martin Rauch, who is sent across the border as an undercover agent by the Stasi (the East German secret police); his task is to pose as an aid to a West German general working with NATO. Stanley describes the series as ‘an ingenious, counter-intuitive look at the Cold War’ and a recent Guardian article sees it as indicative of rising interest in the divided Germany of 1949 to 1990.

Deutschland 83

Shkufim (False Flag). According to Stanley, this Israeli political drama was inspired by the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai in 2010. That scenario has been reworked for the series, which shows five Israeli citizens waking up one day to find they are prime suspects in the kidnapping of a Iranian official in Moscow. The drama is produced by Tender Productions, which also has links with Homeland (which was itself based on the Israeli series Hatufim).

The five suspects in False Flag

Follow the Money is a Danish crime thriller series by DR Drama (the makers of The Killing and Borgen) due to air later this year. It focuses on corruption in big business, with a lovely twist: the business in question is a wind-power company called Energreen, with supposedly impeccable ecological and moral credentials. Insider dealings and dodgy deaths indicate that all is not as it should be.

Follow the Money. Photo credit Christian Geisnæs

1992 is an Italian drama that was picked up in Berlin by the UK, according to Stanley (though no specific channel is named). This time, the corruption of political life by big business is the focus: the drama explores the Italian bribery scandals of the 1990s, and the attempts of Milan magistrate Antonio Di Pietro to clean up politics through Operation Clean Hands (Mani Pulite).

Italian crime series 1992

Last but not least, Blå ögon (Blue Eyes) is a Swedish-German crime series that explores racism, discrimination and immigration issues. Stanley describes it as having an anti-racist message, but also wanting to ‘upend expectations’ by giving characters on all sides of the debate a voice. One of the murder victims is a female, right-wing politician, who is assassinated while out in public.

STV’s Blue Eyes

Stanley ends her piece by noting that none of these series feature the disappearance or death of a child, as seen in earlier crime series such as The Killing and Broadchurch. Or to put this another way: these dramas are moving from highly personal cases whose investigations focus on the family and small communities, to cases that address larger historical, political and social issues. Interesting times. As ever, I’m hoping that a good number will make it on to our UK and US screens.

14 thoughts on “Berlinale 2015 showcases international crime dramas and thrillers from Germany, Israel, Denmark, Sweden and Italy

  1. Hope so too, they all sound interesting. When mentioning ‘DR, ‘Legacy’ needs to be added to the list! Really interesting drama, not crime, & far better than Borgen. Excellent review by Rachel Cook in the New Statsmen, her reviews are always interesting.

    • Thanks, Brian. I’ve heard only good things about Legacy. Quite a few of my friends have seen it and they have all recommended watching. Will check out the review – ta!

  2. Oh, these do sound great, Mrs. P! Thanks for sharing. And I truly hope some of those great series will find their way to the UK/US market as well.

    • Fingers crossed, Margot. I think we may have to wait awhile, as some are still in the final phase of production / have not yet been aired in their home countries – but hopefully those UK and US commissioning editors are on the case!

  3. Some of these shows are really tempting, Mrs P! And glad that it sounds like Americans are happier to watch subtitled shows than they were. If US channels are prepared to buy shows, it means extra money for European TV. I started recording Legacy, on Sky Arts, but missed a couple of episodes so gave up – I like to see every minute! Hopefully they may repeat it. I’ve been hoping series 3 of The Americans, which has just started in the US, soon makes an appearance here. I think The Guardian website is pretty good for updates and discussions on the shows of the moment – but I’ll investigate the New Statesman too; thanks for the tip Brian! I’m really looking forward to series 3 of House Of Cards, on Netflix, at the end of the month. This time I’m going to try not to binge watch it though!

  4. Thanks for the updates on these new shows Mrs P, they sound very interesting, and should be well worth a look. Lets hope they’re picked up by channels that everyone can get, and not Sky or other obscure ones.

    • Agreed, Kathy. I’m also Skyless and don’t think that will change in the near future. Am looking hopefully in the direction of BBC4 – please keep working your magic!

  5. 1992 originates from Sky Italia, and it will be broadcast in the UK on Sky Altantic, as well as Sky Germany. It seems we’ll all get the series simultaneously starting on the 24th March. So not long to wait at all:

    (PS From YouTube, it looks like BBC One Wales is getting the Hinterland/Y Gwyll that was shown on S4C over Christmas sometime soon:

    • Thanks for the extra information and links, Adam. Good to see more detail on 1992 – very useful – at least for those who have Sky!

      And yes, it’s in a different language, but I recognise the content of that Hinterland trailer!

      • I’m glad we’ll get Hinterland, as I never got to see that one. We have Sky *guilty face* but that’s so the other half can watch football – and Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts, etc is a sop to me, to make for all the footie! I don’t pay for it (I wouldn’t!)

  6. Thanks for the update. I am impatiently waiting for these series to come over to the States, as well as Happy Valley. Have enjoyed every British TV detective series that has come across the Pond.

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