‘Witness 36,’ From The Mediapro Studio’s Oficina Burman, Wins Series Mania Award at Berlin’s Co-Pro Series

Argentina’s Daniel Burman’s international spy thriller “Witness 36” has won the coveted Series Mania Award at Co-Pro Series, the Berlinale Series Market’s annual project pitching event.

The prize consists of an invitation to the production’s team to present again at the industry centrepiece at next month’s Lille-based get-together, the Series Mania Forum’s Co-Pro Pitching Sessions.

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“Witness 36” joins 15 other projects at the Pitching Sessions as a sixteenth project presented out of competition in partnership with the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

The Award seems particularly appropriate, given to one of Latin America’s most prominent filmmakers, who broke out internationally with a double Berlin Silver Bear win in 2004 for his fourth feature “Lost Embrace,” but who has embraced premium drama series creation without giving up his cinema career.

Berlin also saw him announce in 2017 that Mediapro had taken a stake in his TV company Oficina Burman, one of its earliest projects, “Yosi, the Regretful Spy,” proving a standout in the 2022 edition of Berlinale Series.

Produced by Buenos Aires-based Oficina Burman, part of The Mediapro Studio – with Burman serving as creator, showrunner, director and producer, “Witness 36” is also written by Natacha Caravia (“Mary & Mike,” “Yosi”) – whose short story, “Protected Identity,” was inspiration for the show – and  Oficina Burman head of content Juan Matías Carballo, who has written TV series “The Roar of the Butterflies” for Star+ and “El Amor Después del Amor” for Netflix.

“Witness 36” picks up on the espionage set-up of “Yosi,” but also echoes reflections on the role of fiction which appear in other Burman tiles. In it, a coalition of intelligence agencies agrees on a secret plan to create an extraterritorial witness protection programme to safeguard – and control – individuals whose revelations could upend global power dynamics. Argentina is chosen given its isolation and neutrality.

Here, a gifted yet unpublished female writer, specialized in creating fictional identities for the programme, becomes entangled in a romance with a mysterious man whose past resembles one of her creations.

“‘Witness 36’ is a visceral, character-driven story that questions the transformative power of storytelling, emphasising truth’s vulnerability in the digital era while exploring themes such as identity, justice and second chances,” Burman said.

“Though immersed in a world of international espionage, this is a story that transcends its genre,” he added. “At its core, it is a story about forbidden love, betrayal and an unlikely chance for a fresh start. ‘Witness 36’ offers a thrilling and thought-provoking viewing experience that will leave audiences pondering the fine line between fact and fiction in our ever-evolving world.”

“Argentina is a country with a very particular past, a country that was able to hide both victims and perpetrators. But ultimately, this is a mother-daughter redemption story, a story about second chances and a character who will have to go through infinite lengths to find those who betrayed her and hopefully catch them,” Carballo said in the onstage presentation on Tuesday.

“Yosi” scored two International Emmy Awards; Burman and Carballo wrote “Eartheater” for MGM Amazon Studios.

“It has been difficult because every year, the quality gets better. But I always love shows that have big international appeal, but at their core are very intimate stories. And this one is brought to us by a region full of great talent,” Francesco Capurro, Series Mania Forum director, told the Co-Pro Series audience at the Berlinale Series Market.

“It’s the 10th anniversary of the Berlinale Series Market and we are really proud to be partners from the very beginning. Back in the days, the room used to be much smaller and one of the first pitches was ‘Babylon Berlin,’” he recalled on stage.

“Our collaboration has been very successful. We are here to serve the industry and give them the best exposure possible to find partners. This is the real goal.”

He added: “I also have to say that being here with you feels like being a part of a community. I was very touched, seeing Ruth’s project and the way you paid tribute to her,” he told the Co-Pro Series industry audience, referring to “S.O.L.” created by the late Ruth McCance. 

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