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A rare flagship indie producer left on the French market, Bruno Nahon‘s Paris-based company Unité is preparing to conquer international audiences with “Rematch,” a period psychological thriller chronicling the historical battle between world chess champion Garry Kasparov (Christian Cooke, “That Dirty Black Bag”), and IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997.

The sprawling show, directed by Yan England (“The Red Band Society”) and co-created with Nahon and André Gulluni (“Sam”), was commissioned by Arte in France and has already been sold by Federation Studios to major outlets around the world, including HBO Europe for Spain, Portugal, the Nordics, Iceland, Baltics, Central Europe, Greece and the Netherlands. Disney+ has bought first-window rights for the U.K. and will air the show in France after the Arte broadcast.

Nahon, who created Unité a decade ago, has been making bold shows and movies exploring social, religious and political aspects of societies, and has often captured the zeitgeist in the process.

Back in 2012, Unité broke grounds with “The Churchmen,” a daring series taking a critical look at the Catholic Church through the stories of five seminarians in Paris which proved a hit on Arte . In recent years, the company also delivered “Father & Soldier,” a father-and-son war drama starring Omar Sy which tackled colonial violence in Senegal, and “Class Act,” a Netflix original series starring Laurent Laffite as the divisive French figure Bernard Tapie. Unité has also co-produced a number of critically acclaimed director-driven movies that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, such as Nabil Ayouch’s “Casablanca Beats.”

The company, which comprises four partners – Caroline Nataf, producer; Thomas Morvan, head of productions; Jean Lioret, the financial and administrative director; and Nahon — is now reaching a new milestone with “Rematch,” its most ambitious series to date. In development for four years before it was greenlit, “Rematch” is a passion project for Nahon, who approached England with the idea.

“I grew up in a Sepharadic Jewish family where culture, films and music were considered secondary (…) but my mother always brought me to meet Nobel prizewinners whenever there were conferences organized,” Nahon said. “I remember meeting Georges Charpak, the Nobel Prize in Physics. Just seeing and listening to these people, even if I didn’t understand everything, it left a mark. There were people who were not only intelligent but also reflected about the society they lived in and thought about what it will become.”

“I’ve been fascinated by Garry Kasparov since I was a child. He was an out-of-norm figure, who had a rare intellectual and political stature,” said the producer, who co-created the show whose cast also comprises Sarah Bolger (“The Tudors”), Trine Dyrholm (“The Legacy”), Aidan Quinn (“Elementary”), Tom Austen (“The Royals”), Luke Pasqualino (“Skins”) and Orion Lee (“First Cow”).

Nahon said that the historical backdrop of the chess tournament in 1997 also gives “Rematch” a rich canvas. “In 1997, it was the arrival of Internet and computers started making their way in universities. At that time, the World Chess Championship was a major media event, like the Tour de France, or Roland Garros and the World Cup.”

“This World Chess Championship was unique because it was the first match between two of the world’s biggest powers at the time, the biggest human power of intelligence, and the most powerful computer of the time — and underneath the chess game, there were political and ideological matters at play,” said Nahon.

Since it’s an international show in English, “Rematch” was not eligible for any tax rebate in France. As a result, the series filmed in Montreal and Budapest. “Rematch” also reunites Unité with Federation Studios, with whom he worked on “Mytho,” the hit show that won an award at Series Mania Festival.

The banner’s pipeline of projects include the next film by Leyla Bouzid, “A voix basse,” which will begin filming on April 22; as well as “Bombonera,” the feature debut of Syrine Boulanouar.

Unité is also prepping some TV shows such as “Une famille française,” created by Pauline Guena et Nacim Mehtar, and commissioned by Arte.

The outfit is also developing “Six Shots,” an original anthology revolving around people’s relationship with guns. Nahon has assembled a stellar key crew for the six-part series, including the artistic director Sylvain Lemaitre (“Pieces of a Woman”), editors Xavier Sirven and Jean Bapstiste Baudoin. He’s also tapped Victor Jenkins (“Fleabag,” “Broadchurch”) to cast the limited series which will be executive produced by Olivier Glaas.

Part of the Creatives – an alliance of indie players – Nahon says he has no plans on joining a big group. “The biggest successes today, whether in cinema or in series, are the fruits of independent companies that value quality over quantity,” said the producer, citing the Oscar-nominated movie “Anatomy of a Fall.”

Another still of “Rematch:”

Christian Cooke ©LeoPinter



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