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‘One of the Most Epic European TV Productions of All Time,’ ‘Rise of the Raven’ Gets First-Look Image From Beta Film (EXCLUSIVE) 

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European giant Beta Film, known for ambitious titles such as “Babylon Berlin” and “The Swarm,” has shared with Variety in exclusivity a first-look picture of 1o-part series “Rise of the Raven,” which it hails as “one of the most epic European TV productions of all time.”

“Rise of the Raven” weighs in as a passion project of Hungarian-born and Canada-based producer Robert Lantos, behind “Sunshine,” “The Sweet Hereafter,” “Barney’s Version,” “Eastern Promises” and “Crimes of the Future.” 

A highlight at Beta Film’s showcase this Tuesday at the London TV Screenings, “Rise of the Raven” turns on the extraordinary feat of Hungarian army commander Janos Hunyadi, played by discovery Gellért L. Kádár, who in 1456 won a bloody, brutal Battle of Belgrade against a vast Ottoman force twice the size of his troops who were often farm labourers armed with just slings and patriotic fervor. 

Hunyadi largely halted a full Ottoman expansion in Europe for the next 70 years, allowing its Renaissance to lift off in Italy. Hunyadi achieved that through a mix of military innovation – including the use of artillery and firearms – the foresight of fortifying Belgrade’s fortress at his own cost, inspired tactics and improvisation.

Such was the relief in Europe that Pope Callixtus III ordered churches all over the world to ring their bells each day at noon. They still do so down to this day, tolling in celebration of Hunyadi and his victory.

“Rise of the Raven” has now concluded its shoot and is in advanced editing. “T. S. Eliot once wrote that between the dream and the reality there lies the shadow,” said Lantos. “Throughout my entire career I have been battling this shadow. Finally, with ‘Rise of the Raven,’ the shadow has been vanquished. This time, the dream is the reality.”

The epic series is financed by the National Film Institute of Hungary and Beta Film. It is produced by Serendipity Point Films, Twin Media, HG Media, MR Film, and Beta Film and co-produced by Hungary’s TV2 Network, which will broadcast in Hungary and Slovenia, and by Austrian co-producer public broadcaster ORF, which will broadcast in Austria.

Producers are Tibor Krsko (“Fateless,” “Children of Glory,” “The Song of Names”), Cecilia Hazai, Kinga Hazai, and Ari Lantos (“Remember,” “Barney’s Version”), alongside Oliver Auspitz and Andreas Kamm of MR Film (“Vienna Blood”), and Koby Gal Raday, Beta Film’s CCO.

Before the Battle of Belgrade, Hunyadi’s life was plagued by scandal, political power plays and conspiracies as noble families from Italy, Poland, Austria, Serbia, and Hungary jostled for power in Central Europe, Beta Film noted in a written statement Tuesday. 

“His strongest allies are the women in his life: Elizabeth [Szilágyi], the wife who not only stands by him but fights alongside him, and Mara Brankovic, his first love, who breaks his heart by becoming lead concubine in Sultan Murad’s court,” Beta Film  continued. Their stories and these women’s viewpoints run through the series.

“‘Rise of the Raven’ delivers on its promises – a highly entertaining, emotional, and powerful historical saga of exceptional production value,” said Koby Gal Raday, Beta Film’s Chief Content Officer. 

He added: “With a strong and unique emphasis on female perspectives, the series offers captivating storylines that are highly relevant to today’s audience. Supported by a stellar creative team and an excellent international cast, we firmly believe in its significant global potential.”

Hungarian TV, film and stage star Vivien Rujder portrays Elizabeth – a powerful, charismatic, influential character and Hunyadi’s life partner. 

Series directors are Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Robert Dornhelm, one of Austria’s leading helmers whose taken on big canvas titles such as “Maria Theresa” and “War and Peace,” as well as Hungarian directors Orsi Nagypal (“The Deal,” and the CW’s “The Outpost”) and Attila Szasz (“Tall Tales,” “Eternal Winter”). 

The series’ showrunner is Balazs Lengyel (HBO’s “Golden Life”), a writer on “Aranyélet” and Adam Csász’s latest movie, 2022’s questioning “Háromezer számozott darab,” who presented a project with Császi at Series Mania’s inaugural Seriesmakers last year.

Lengyel also directs one episode. The series is written by Lengyel, George Mihalka, Balazs Lovas, Zsófia Ruttkay, Attila Veres and Ban Mor, on whose best-selling series of novels “Rise of the Raven” is based.

Kádár and Rujder are joined by a strong international cast, including Austria’s Laurence Rupp (“Barbarians”), Cornelius Obonya (“Maria Theresa”), Murathan Muslu (“Breaking Point”), Italy’s Giancarlo Giannini (“James Bond 007: Casino Royale,”  “Quantum of Solace,” “Hannibal”) and Francesco Acquaroli (“Fargo,” “Suburra”).

Also featured are multi-prized  Czech actor Karel Roden (“Bourne Supremacy,” “Mr. Bean”), Serbian star Rade Serbedzija (“Batman Begins,” “Mission: Impossible II,” as well as Italian actors Thomas Trabacchi (“Studio Battaglia”) and Elena Rusconi (“6 Underground).”