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Series Mania Melbourne

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For ACMI at Home, we're sharing our curatorial insight into different films, artworks, TV series, or videogames each fortnight, as well as where you can find them online.   

In 2017, ACMI began partnering with Film Victoria and Series Mania France, the world's premier festival for television and web series, to create Series Mania Melbourne. The 4-day program showcased some of the best new drama, narrative comedy, and web-based series, alongside live presentations from key creatives including Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan

At the time of the festival, all episodes were either Australian or worldwide premieres. Three years later, during all this downtime we find ourselves in, there's no better time to revisit the inaugural festival and take a deeper dive into the series that premiered.

Sunshine (2017)

Jacob (Wally Elnour) is a young South Sudanese-Australian living in Sunshine who is aspiring to be a College League basketball recruit. The night after a joyride in a stolen car, he finds himself caught up in a police investigation involving a young teenage girl who has been violently assaulted and is now in a coma fighting for her life.  

Following Sunshine's world premiere at Series Mania Melbourne, the miniseries went on to win the AACTA Award for best miniseries in 2018.

All four episodes were directed by Daina Reid, who had already carved out an impressive and varied career as a regular cast member of sketch comedy show Full Frontal and director on some of Australia's best-known series (OffspringThe Secret Life of Us). Since then, Reid has gone on to an illustrious international career directing some of the most striking episodes of The Handmaid's Tale and, most recently, The Outsider.

Stream on SBS on Demand

 

Tabula Rasa (2017) 

Mie, a young woman in a psychiatric hospital, is gently questioned by Detective Inspector Wolkers. He's aware that she has a form of amnesia where her memories are erased by undue stress; however, he believes she was the last person to see a young man before he went missing. As a witness and prime suspect, she appears to be the key to solving the mystery.

Part psychological drama, part haunted house horror, Tabula Rasa is a complex and compelling mish-mash of genres. Where some series feel a bit threadbare in drawing out a horror narrative over a full season arc, Tabula Rasa has plenty for viewers to sink their teeth into. 

First pitched at Series Mania in 2014, Tabula Rasa made its world premiere at ACMI in 2017. Three months later, it was broadcast on German channel ZGF and has since become available to stream in full on Netflix.

Stream on Netflix

 

The White Princess (2017) 

In the wake of the War of the Roses, Princess Elizabeth of York is pledged to wed the newly anointed King Henry Tudor. However, their marriage is in jeopardy when rumours circulate that her long-lost brother Prince Richard is alive and planning to take the throne. Now she must choose between Tudor wife and York princess, between her new husband and the boy who claims to be her blood and the true heir to the crown. 

A standalone sequel of sorts to American television network Starz previous hit The White Queen, this miniseries outing is also based on novels by Philippa Gregory, perhaps best known for writing The Other Boleyn Girl. It's soapy, at times, but it has a stellar cast comprising of Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones' Caitlyn Stark), Essie Davis, and a pre-Killing Eve Jodie Comer in the title role. 

The Australian premiere at ACMI was co-presented with Stan, where the miniseries is currently available to stream in full. 

Stream on Stan

 

Ozark (2017–2020) 

Jason Bateman stars as Marty Byrde, a Chicago financial advisor, who has been quietly laundering money for a drug cartel. When a Mexican cartel leader catches his partner cheating the business, Marty – with a moment’s notice – must uproot his family and move the operation to the Ozarks.

Among the directing pool of talent with a collective resume spanning shows like Veronica MarsThe OutsiderTrue Detective, and Catch-22, it’s Jason Bateman who has directed the lion’s share of Ozark's episodes. In 2019 Bateman won the best directing Emmy against an intimidatingly strong field. 

The third season of Ozark premiered in March.

Stream on Netflix

4 Blocks (2017–2019) 

Set in central Berlin (Neukölln), 4 Blocks revolves around Ali “Toni“ Hamady, who has made a promise to his wife Kalila to leave behind his life of crime and to escape his turf; his 4 Blocks. However, when his brother-in-law gets arrested in a police sting, Toni feels obliged to step up as the leader of the clan once more.

Set to a soundtrack of German Arabic hip hop, 4 Blocks depicts the brutal and unforgiving underworld of drugs, prostitution and money laundering, and the deadly stakes at play.

Among the series directors are Oliver Hirschbiegel, who already had Academy Award-nominated Downfall under his belt, and Marvin Kren, who has gone on to direct the recently released and very spooky German series, Freud

Since premiering, three seasons of 4 Blocks have been produced, with the first two available to view on Amazon Prime. We recommend the far-superior undubbed version. 

Stream on Amazon Prime

Vince Gilligan on Breaking Bad 

During Series Mania Melbourne, writer and critic Stephanie Van Schilt spoke with showrunner extraordinaire, writer, director and creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan.

In this in-conversation event, Vince talks about his writing process and shares on-set anecdotes, touching on the genius of Aaron Paul, casting Bryan Cranston, and his time working on The X-Files. Watch to hear him recount how Breaking Bad and its prequel spinoff Better Call Saul started as jokes.

Stream Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul on Stan

Stream The X-Files on SBS on Demand