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Monte Carlo TV Festival Hosts World Premieres: ‘Absentia,’ ‘The Last Tycoon’

Variety logo Variety 6/14/2017 Nick Vivarelli
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Faced with increased rivalry from nearby Cannes, the Monte Carlo Television Festival is pulling out all the stops this year with two world premieres of hotly anticipated Hollywood shows as “Absentia” and “The Last Tycoon,” will grace the Grimaldi Forum red carpet.

Long known as a glitzy launching pad for high-end global TV fiction and a celebration of top notch news content — the festival celebrates 57 years with this edition — the competitive event is seemingly undeterred by announced plans for yet another ambitious TV fest, called Cannes Series, that is slated to run concurrent with MIP. Expected to launch next year in Cannes, of course, which is about an hour’s drive down the Cote d’Azur.

Monte Carlo itself runs June 16-20 — shortly after the L.A. Screenings in May.

“We are very fortunate to have the shows that we are screening,” says fest CEO Laurent Puons. Monte Carlo historically runs in “a perfect time slot for American studios,” just when they are eager to promote their skeins to the more than 200 international journalists who descend upon the tiny city-state. The Monte Carlo event was initiated by Monaco’s Prince Rainer III in 1961. Of course, his tie to show business was his actress wife, Grace Kelly.

Produced by Tel Aviv-based Masha Prods. and shot in Europe, “Absentia,” which stars Stana Katic (“Castle”) as an FBI agent who disappears without a trace while hunting a Boston serial killer, will be the festival’s opener before debuting globally this fall on Sony’s AXN channels. “The Last Tycoon,” which stars Matt Bomer, Kelsey Grammer and Lily Collins, is produced by Sony TV’s TriStar Television and will bow exclusively in July on Amazon Prime Video.

Key cast and crew from both shows are expected to make the Monte Carlo trek.

Sky Atlantic’s slick “Riviera” skein, which was partly shot in Monaco, is however conspicuously absent from the Monte Carlo lineup, having opted to bow at MipTV.

But Lionsgate and Starz chose Monte Carlo for the European junket of the fourth season of hit drama series “Power” with star and executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in tow.

Since taking the reins of the festival in 2012, Puons has raised the bar, making the selection process more stringent by introducing independent selection committees. He has also created more thematic events at which audiences can engage with creators, such as a 30th anniversary tribute to “The Bold and the Beautiful” this year, and managed to score more world premieres.

“Monte Carlo is a fantastic place for industry networking; however, our focus right now is on fan engagement with shows,” says the former boxer, who makes no bones about the fact that Monte Carlo “is not a TV market.”

There will be an event celebrating 20 years of Brit mystery series “Midsomer Murders,” known as “Inspector Barnaby” in France.

Another aspect of the fest that continues to make it unique amid the TV fest frenzy in nearby France are its sections dedicated to news content — documentaries, live reporting and specials — that this year will see titles such as PBS Frontline’s timely doc “Saudi Arabia Uncovered” in competition for the Golden Nymph Awards.

As noted by Helen Mirren, who will be feted with a lifetime achievement award, Monte Carlo from the start “has been a strong advocate and supporter of the international TV business across both drama and documentary programming.”

Though Hollywood looms large, the global aspect of the fest is key. This year submissions poured in from more than 50 countries. European scripted content will be repped by standouts such as “Victoria” from Britain’s ITV, U.K. comedy “Fleabag” and Sky/HBO’s “The Young Pope.”

The event’s high-caliber fiction jury comprises Argentinian multi-hyphenate Juan Jose Campanella, director of Oscar-winning “The Secret in Their Eyes”; producer Ramon Campos, co-founder of Spain’s Bambu Producciones; French actress Odile Vuillemin; American actor John Corbett; Canadian producer and writer Peter M. Lenkov (“Hawaii Five-0,” “MacGyver,” “CSI: NY”); and Iranian-American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (“The Expanse”).

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