Marseille will be an eight-part drama of “power, corruption and redemption” for the internet TV service set against the French port town of the same name.
It will focus on a long-serving city major, who faces a young and ambitious rival in upcoming elections whom he has already chosen as his heir. The pair will stage a merciless fight that brings in drug lords, politicians, unions and other political players from the city.
Franck (La Separation, Carlos) has written and created the show, which will go into production in France in the spring of 2015 ahead of launch on Netflix platforms globally later that year.
“Netflix has given us a blank page to create a House of Cards in French that breaks through unspoken hypocrisy,” he said. “This is a writer’s dream and a great opportunity for French producers and creators to enter a new world.”
Pascal Breton’s Paris-based Federation Entertainment, which is behind TF1 soap Sous le Soleil and miniseries Dolmen, is producing the show. Florent-Emilio Siri (Cloclo) will direct episodes, as will the Sundance award-winning Samuel Benchetrit (J’ai Toujours Reve d’etre un Gangster).
“Marseille will take the audience right into the political arena where the old regime of traditional politicians are getting ready to face the younger generation of predators, thugs, and sometimes their own heirs,” said Breton.
“Netflix is giving us the perfect opportunity to tell this story from a uniquely French viewpoint, in association with some of France’s best writers and directors. Produced entirely in France, Marseille has the potential to become one of the most gripping television events of the coming years.”
“The movie business in France today confines itself to comedy or what is called ‘author cinema,’” added director Siri. “TV series give movie directors the potential of a new opportunity to be able to explore and express their talents within the full extent of their art. This is why I’m really eager to work on Marseille.”
The news comes after a rocky entry to the French market for Netflix. France has notoriously stringent on-demand windowing laws, and its regulators have demanded Netflix make contributions to the country’s local programming market. The US-based firm has also come into criticism for anchoring its European base in the Netherlands, meaning it is exempt from the French content creation regime.
However, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has pledged his service would support the local market, and has now made good on that promise.
Filmmaker Benchetrit today threw his support behind the SVOD player, saying: “Working with Netflix is a great opportunity for artists and creators, it democratises movies and series in France and globally.”
“Marseille is an ambitious, diabolically smart fictitious exploration of local politics in one of the world’s most vibrant and fascinating cities.” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “We are delighted to be working with some of the best storytellers in France to deliver a series that erases the line between film and television.”
Internationally, Netflix is still to confirm the much-rumoured UK drama original based on the life of the British Queen, though well-placed sources have confirmed this is moving ahead.
In the US, it has been creating originals since 2011, finding success with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. This week, it launched adult-skewed animated series BoJack Horseman.