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Gaumont Germany’s Sabine de Mardt Discusses Timely New Series

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Since its establishment in 2018, Gaumont Germany has produced a wide range of series and TV movies, among them such timely shows as the critically acclaimed “Deutsches Haus” (“The Interpreter of Silence”), which was nominated for the Critics Choice Awards, and the Ukrainian series “In Her Car.”

A subsidiary of the French entertainment powerhouse, the Cologne and Berlin-based company also created such ambitious shows as Netflix’s historical epic “Barbarians” – the first season of which was one of the streamer’s most successful non-English-language series worldwide – and the award-winning Sky Original comedy “The Wasp,” about a professional dart player seeking to return to his former glory.

Discussing the company’s latest productions, Gaumont Germany President Sabine de Mardt says it’s important to combine broader entertainment with relevance, something both “The Interpreter of Silence” and “In Her Car” offer.

“’The Interpreter of Silence,’ in particular, even though it’s a period story, is sadly topical, in times of rising antisemitism and a political shift to the right that we can feel all over the world.”

Produced for Disney+ and based on the novel by Annette Hess, who also created and wrote the series, “The Interpreter of Silence” is the story of a young woman in 1963 whose life changes when she is hired as a translator for the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials.

“While we show the court case itself, the focus lies on the psychological trauma that influenced generations also after the war. Only the conscious confrontation with this trauma is the basis of change and understanding. Of course, this relevance is something that is driving us.”

“It’s a great challenge to combine both, broad entertainment with relevance and something that is really touching”, de Mardt adds.

Gaumont Germany is re-teaming with Hess on the recently announced series “Herr Gröning,” the fact-based tale of Bruno Gröning, a cult-like figure who became postwar Germany’s most famous miracle healer between 1949 and 1955, attracting hundreds of thousands of eager believers to his mass healing events.

“It was Annette’s idea; she was really fascinated by this story. And of course, this has a link to nowadays as well” de Mardt notes, pointing out the fact that there are currently some 15,000 spiritual healers in Germany and that number is increasing.

The need for people to have hope is as relevant today as it was in Gröning’s time, when traumatized people in the wake of World War II were looking for healing, to believe in something, to feel empowered, she adds. “This was very seductive and Gröning had a huge community that followed him as a spiritual leader,” like a powerful sect.

Similarly, the relevancy of the pan-European co-production “In Her Car,” a road drama set during the early days of the Ukraine war that shot in and around Kyiv, is evident.

“In Her Car”
Starlight/Gaumont/Roman Lisovsky

Gaumont produced the series with Ukrainian media group Starlight Media in cooperation with ZDFneo in Germany and pubcasters in France, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway Iceland and Finland. Handled internationally by Beta Film, the series has already sold to NHK Japan, Czech Republic, Latvia and Slovakia.

Following a special premiere in Berlin on Feb. 19, the series bows in seven countries on Feb. 21. to mark in unison the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Interest in the project was very high from the outset of the Ukraine war as there was great interest in “learning more about stories that actually take place between the front lines,” de Mardt says.

“’In Her Car’ was not an international project that was invented to be shot in Ukraine. It comes from the people there who are in this very situation on the ground and that was something, together with these very personal stories, that took us immediately. The response was also very positive.

“It was very complex to finance but the partners were not hard to convince. Without them, the realization of this pan-European series would not have been possible, especially not in such a short space of time.”

While Gaumont Germany focuses on German-language productions, it also benefits from being part of a large international company.

“Primarily we are a truly German production company. The people working here are German, we do German productions, films and series, but of course we have this very international parent and colleagues in the U.K., Italy, the U.S., South America and of course France, and we have a great exchange.”

Gaumont Germany is tapping this strong network and the group’s vast rights catalogue to develop international co-productions as well as remakes of its own brands, she adds.

The company also works closely with Germany’s leading broadcasters and major streamers. “The goal is kind of 50-50,” de Mardt says. “At the moment we are working a little more with the streamers but it’s in flux.”

Partnering with Disney+ on “The Interpreter of Silence,” for example, was a logical move in view of the success of Hess’ novel, which became an international bestseller. The global reach of Disney+ ensured international fans of the book would have the opportunity to see the series.

Gaumont is also working with Paramount+ on the forthcoming fantasy series “Anywhere” from creator Jana Burbach. Currently in prep, the dramedy follows a young woman who is given the opportunity to experience different versions of her life.

The company is likewise developing the feature film “Next Life” with Berlin-based Two Moons Pictures. Soleen Yusef (“Deutschland 86,” “Sam – A Saxon”) is set to direct the time travel adventure with German-Turkish elements.

Coming up next is “Reset – How Far Can You Go,” based on the Canadian series “Plan B” written by Jean-François Asselin and Jacques Drolet, which premieres on ZDF in March. The German adaptation, which stars Katja Riemann und Hannah Schiller, focuses on a family that is plunged into despair by the suicide of their daughter. When the grieving mother is offered the chance to travel back in time, she accepts.

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