The theme of “discovery” is one that runs through a large swath of factual genres, and content with this exploratory backbone has been in high demand as of late, according to Florence Sala, head of ARTE Distribution.
“The leading programs are ones that have never been seen before; that go into never-shown places and highlight new experiences,” she says. “Natural history and animal documentaries are also attractive for the audience, with a new shift toward drama-style storytelling. This narrative shift can also be noticed among history and social-history factual.”
ARTE Distribution has also seen a growing interest in health and wellbeing documentaries. In terms of social themes, there is a worldwide appetite for documentaries about female empowerment and minorities’ issues and stories.
“As a result of the pandemic, film deliveries have been delayed and broadcasters are looking for fresh finished content,” Sala says. “A few trends are rising due to the world’s situation. Escapism is the keyword for factual during the pandemic. People want to leave behind 2020 and go for uplifting, aspirational, escapist and outlandish programs.”
Archives, in particular, have proven to be key for factual producers. “Authors and directors have risen to the challenge of finding innovative storytelling to tell gripping narratives, to be as immersive as scripted dramas,” says Sala.
To meet these needs and trends, ARTE Distribution has gathered a strong lineup of premium factual, she adds. This includes The Fire Under the Mediterranean Sea, which Sala calls a “breathtaking, never-seen-before documentary that mixes discovery, nature and science.” It features the team of underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta, who dove to discover the volcanoes hidden beneath the water’s surface and encountered a rare and secret ecosystem previously inaccessible.
On the social-history side, Hacking Democracy is investigating the populist movements that have been recently mobilizing public opinion and are gaining traction thanks to information technology. Examples include those around Donald Trump in the U.S., Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, told with “captivating storytelling using fabulous archive materials,” Sala says.
The documentary Gluten, Public Enemy? reflects the health issues social trend, gathering scientists, activists and committed farmers to uncover the truth on the real qualities of industrial foods.
As the Tokyo Olympic Games approach in 2021, Inside Champions’ Mindgoes into the minds of international athletes, together with trainers, researchers and scientists. Sala calls the doc a “fascinating scientific journey.”
Exploring female empowerment, Toni Morrison: Black Matter(s) shows that America’s racial turmoil is ever-present in today’s global media. “Morrison’s work has never been more relevant,” says Sala.
“ARTE Distribution is a worldwide distributor, acting as a curator of the best of the premium high-hand factual programs that could suit an international audience on broadcasters and platforms,” she adds. “ARTE Distribution is the international flagship of ARTE’s quality label.
“During the production phase, factual should be thought of for the international market, not only for domestics, if they want to have a chance to travel the world. It is also ARTE Distribution’s role to help producers position their films for the international market.”