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Programming Profile

Terranoa heads to Sunny Side with slate of fresh factual


Isabelle Graziadey, VP of international coproductions and distribution at French distributor Terranoa, walks us through a slate of historical and political documentaries ahead of Sunny Side of the Doc – including a timely production about Brazil’s controversial president Jair Bolsonaro ahead of October’s elections.


As buyers, sellers and producers return to the physical event circuit, French distributor Terranoa is looking forward to sharing with buyers a host of documentaries that were delayed by the Covid-19 production shutdown and are now coming to fruition with plenty of pre-sales already secured.


Isabelle Graziadey, VP of international coproductions and distribution, says: “It’s really exciting to be back at Sunny Side because we’re now at a momentum in terms of fresh content recently delivered with over 15 hours ready for acquisition.”


Among the recently delivered project that Terranoa successfully pre-sold, Peru: Sacrifices in the Kingdom of Chimor (1×90’/1×52’) was originally commissioned by public broadcaster France 5 for its primetime science slot on Thursdays. US-based international factual streamer Curiosity Stream, SVT and Viasat are among the pre-buyers.


Isabelle Graziadey, Terranoa

The feature doc looks into the archaeological digs that have taken place to uncover the secrets of the Chimor people and culture over the past decade. Exclusive access has been secured to the most recent dig in northern Peru which showed the scale of ritual sacrifices involving young children and llamas. Told as a cold case, the film uses forensic science to shed light on this ancient civilisation and renews the narrative approach to such films dealing with archaeological finds.”


Graziadey says: “We pitched this early on at Sunny Side last year and we’ve been following up with Curiosity because as well as the original series they commissioned they cherry picked some big one-offs that stand out, like this one, with new finds and a new story.”


Terranoa is also coming to the market with another completed film that has been two years in the making. Children of Chaos: What Became of WW2’s Orphans (1×86’/2×43’) is a France 2 commission for its primetime history slot. The programme was a coproduction between Elephant Adventures in France, Kwassa Films in Belgium and Vertigo in Poland, with co-financing from the Polish Film Institute and pay TV broadcaster Canal+ in Poland. European broadcasters ORF, VRT and RTP have pre-bought the project and Graziadey is now seeking a German broadcaster as a matter of priority.


“As a primetime commission, the pre-requisite was to make the story appeal to a broad audience using colourised archive and drama re-enactment. Colourised archive is a must for these primetime historical shows now,” she says.


Sacrifices in the Kingdom of Chimor
Sacrifices in the Kingdom of Chimor

The doc follows the story of eight children across Europe orphaned by the war who lost their identities due to state secrecy and took a lifetime to discover their true origins. It’s a little-known page of immediate post-war history with an emotional link using declassified archive material.


“That generation is still alive to tell first-hand what they went through and how they were used as tributes of war and displaced. It’s important we bond the younger audience with history by telling relatable stories of individuals caught up in the torment of the bigger history.”


Another historical series, After Chaos (4×52’), was successfully pre-sold to RTL in Germany. The project was commissioned by Planete+ in France and looks at how four major European capitals – Berlin, London, Paris and Warsaw – emerged from the rubble of war and had to reinvent themselves. Each city went through massive urban transformations.


Children Of Chaos, What Became Of WW2 Orphans
Children Of Chaos, What Became Of WW2 Orphans

Merging archive with CGI and modern filming, the docs chart the stories of these cities since the war and documents some of the most incredible post-war engineering feats. “I think even people living in these cities would be surprised to see how much their city landscape has changed in 70 years,” Graziadey says.


“It’s been done with fantastic CGI and very clever production that blurs photographs of well-known places just after the bombardment with how modern developments have shaped those areas. It carries an important message about post-war resilience and reconstruction efforts.”


Terranoa is also active in large-scale projects open for coproduction, such as Vasa: The Ghost Warship, an Arte/SVT copro with Seppia and Factory Production that will be delivered in summer 2023. The doc looks at new underwater excavations searching for artefacts and human remains off Sweden. The latest DNA tests are allowing scientists to reveal the faces to some of the crew members of raised 17th century ship the Vasa.


After Chaos
After Chaos

“In the field of international affairs and politics, time is of the essence,” points out Graziadey. Bolsonaro: Brazil Under Pressure (1×52’/1×70’), from Babel Doc, has just been delivered and comes in time for the elections in Brazil this October. The documentary looks at Brazil’s controversial right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro in the run-up to the vote.


Such political stories, ostensibly local but reflecting issues and movements in dozens of countries around the world, are hot properties for buyers at the moment and RTL in Germany, RSI in Switzerland, VRT in Belgium and SVT in Sweden are among seven broadcasters to have already pre-bought the film.


“The doc looks at a divided country, giving clues to what Bolsonaro stands for and who his closest advisors are among the conservative forces in Brazil and what these authoritarian regimes look like in practice, because there are others looming here and there around the world,” Graziadey says.


Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil Under Pressure
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil Under Pressure

On a lighter subject but with the same level of access, Jurassic Cash, commissioned by Planete+, looks into the secretive world of auctioneers betting on the current so-called ‘bone rush.’ A generation that grew up with the film Jurassic Park is now leading the charge to buy dinosaur skeletons at auction, often for eye-watering amounts. It is a race against time with a certain degree of gambling involved about which digs will uncover the best fossils. Nicolas Cage and Leonardo DiCaprio are among the celebrities getting their cheque books out for such purchases.


“The film takes a closer look at the collectors who pay these exorbitant sums, the excavators who are making the money, and the auctioneers who have spotted this market and create big event sales,” Graziadey says.


“We’re following specifically one auction that took place in Paris last October, where the biggest triceratops skeleton ever found was put on sale and reached a record sales price. How did they find the skeleton? What are the logistics to turning boxes of bones into a full-scale skeleton and transport it to Paris for a sale? It’s a secretive world you don’t often get access to. Some of the richest collectors from the US, Europe and Asia have agreed to appear on screen and tell their stories. The film also questions what happens to science if museums don’t have the same spending power as private collectors and all these skeletons go into private hands?”


Jurassic Cash
Jurassic Cash

There is a lot of talk about the industry being a seller’s market at the moment with a lot of new streamers, both international and local, and AVoD coming to the fore. Graziadey is slightly more cautious, describing it a little bit like a mirage in the desert that’s dry when you reach it.


“It’s great to see AVoD blooming and it tells you that’s how the market is shaping up, but that’s not where we’re going to make the serious money. It’s just a useful third market to build expertise on consumer appetite for documentary.” she says.


“Maybe when the market matures AVoDs will start to commission original content, and those are conversations I’m aiming to initiate now so we’re ready when that time comes. In the meantime, building relationships, selling back-catalogue to learn and see what works is a good way to build expertise and test the business model.”

More programming profiles

  • 15-06-2023

    Isabelle Graziadey of France’s Terranoa discusses the importance of diverse slates and reliable partners and outlines the company’s plans to expand into sport and true crime.


    French distributor Terranoa heads to Sunny Side of the Doc this month with a carefully curated slate of science, history and cultural documentary programming.


    The Paris-based factual specialist will shop its content to international buyers at the event in La Rochelle, France, confident that broadcasters and streamers will be attracted to its diverse array of content blending ambition with high-end production values.

  • 10-06-2021

    French distributor Terranoa has stocked up on high-end factual programming, including history, wildlife and current affairs content, as well as the firm’s first foray into true crime. Here we explore the company’s playlist on C21’s Digital Screenings this week.


    Paris-based distributor Terranoa was founded in 2000 by three French documentary production houses, all well-established on the international market: Gédéon Programmes, 95° West and Boréales. Three years ago, it became part of the Gedeon Media Group.


    Over the past 20 years, the company has remained close to its roots and specialised in factual programming sales. Furthermore, it has developed into a meaningful co-financing partner, getting involved early on to secure content that addresses the taste and issues of our time. Executive director of international coproductions, sales and acquisitions Isabelle Graziadey says the company pays close attention to the slate, “focusing on quality rather than quantity.”


    Terranoa’s aim is to have a line-up that meets the needs of a broad range of buyers. This includes content covering escapism, travel, science and history, in addition to high-end features and “edgy” factual primetime programming, according to Graziadey.