An Italian-language streaming series based on real events about a woman prosecutor who enlisted gangsters’ wives to crack the ‘Ndrangheta Sicilian mob, and a whimsical series about an over-priced Oslo of the “near future” where young people are reduced by astronomical housing prices to living in parking garages, won the first Berlinale prizes for series on Wednesday.
“The Good Mothers”, produced by Disney+, won the Berlinale Series Award prize while the Norwegian series “Arkitekten” received honourable mention. Other series in the competition included “Bad Behaviour” from Australia, “Dahaad” (Roar) from India, “Agent” from Denmark, “Spy/Master”, a co-Romania and German production, and the Chinese drama “Why Try to Change Me Now”.
The Berlinale, which for the most part is a showcase for art-house films, began showing streaming series in 2015, in recognition of changes in audience viewing habits. This year the festival gave out prizes to series for the first time, in cooperation with the Deadline film website.
Based on a novel by U.K.-based journalist Alex Perry and adapted for screen by Stephen Butchard (“Baghdad Central,” “Five Daughters”), “The Good Mothers” draws from the actual prosecution and trial of ‘Ndrangheta mobster Carlo Cosco and five accomplices for the murder of Cosco’s former partner, Lea Garofolo.
Cosco and his co-defendants received life sentences in 2012 for the murder of Garofolo. She and Denise, her teenage daughter with Cosco, were lured to Milan on promises of help to pay for Denise’s education. She was instead shot dead and her body dissolved in a vat of acid.
Mafia prosecutor Alessandra Cerreti, recently arrived in Calabria when Garofolo went missing, hit on the idea of creating a network of informants among the mobsters’ wives to seek evidence for prosecution.
“The series creators have been meticulous in recreating an authentic and detailed world, presented by a stellar cast, with performances that made our hearts skip a beat,” the jury panel said in a statement published by Deadline.
“The beautiful cinematography, production design and locations contributed to the ultra realistic feel of the show, which is only right considering it is based on true events.”
Micaela Ramazzotti is the mistakenly trusting Garofolo, who believes her former partner’s assurances that nothing will happen, even though she had informed on the mob, and Gaia Girace plays Denise, whose hopes that she can finally lead a normal life are dashed by her mother’s disappearance.
A striking sequence from the second of two episodes screened at the festival shows Denise refusing to attend an 18th birthday party in her hometown in Sicily, to which her father has invited the heads of other mob families. The production spares no expense to decorate and populate a mansion with all the opulence of the luxury Sicilian hotel that was used for the latest series of “White Lotus”.
“Arkitekten”, created by a team of young directorial and writing talents from two Norwegian film schools, takes viewers to what director Kerren Lumer-Klobbers, at the screening, called a “parallel universe” — but one which doesn’t seem as distant or alien as all that.
Recent architecture graduate Julie, played by Eili Harboe, is trying to work up the career ladder at a swanky Oslo architectural firm. Meanwhile her life is disintegrating financially and the city is being overwhelmed by technology.
In the “near future” in Oslo, drones walk dogs, mobile coffee salespeople force you to buy a cup if you linger in their “space” for longer than five minutes and young people who can’t afford the astronomical price of housing live, illegally, in parking garages.
Julie, forced by a rent increase to take up residence in a garage — at 2,300 euros a month — is only an intern, but she sees her opportunity when a competition is announced seeking plans to construct a thousand low-cost housing units in the city, for a prize of 80,000 euros.
To win the prize, Julie has to work in tandem with her ex-boyfriend, recently hired by her firm, but the even greater challenge she faces is when she realises her plan to convert garages to housing will result in the people who’ve become her friends in the garage being evicted.
“I think it’s a story for Julie as a character that she has to discover that her values may be a bit going in the wrong direction,” director Lumer-Klobbers said. “At the end maybe too late she realises that she has gone with the wrong decision, but she is very much a product of her society and I can relate to her character.”
By Michael Roddy