Holy Land’s fertile film soil
The words “Israeli” and
“drama” usually herald reports of an intractable conflict in the Middle
East, as is currently the case, but that is changing thanks to a stream of
popular Israeli television series that US studios are rushing to snap up.
Israel has become an
unlikely hotbed for gripping new dramas that are spawning award-winning
which was inspired by the Israeli thriller Hatufim, recently returned to our
screens for a second series fresh from its success at the 2012 Emmys where it
scooped all the top gongs.
American TV executives
are mining Israel’s airwaves to find the next candidate to receive the Homeland
treatment. NBC’s Universal Television has just bought the rights to another
mystery series from the Israeli network behind Hatufim. The studio is planning
to develop an English-language version of The Gordin Cell, which follows former
Soviet spies starting a new life in Israel.
Rick Rosen, the Hollywood
agent who brokered Hatufim’s sale to the network Showtime among others, said
Israel was emerging as the next Scandinavia, another rich source for
captivating dramas. “There’s an enormous amount of creativity there. There are
some great writers and some great shows.”
What Israel’s series lack
in the iconic knitwear and brooding female protagonists, they make up for with
psychological tension and deft storytelling. Rosen said Israeli comedies were
“edgier” than their American equivalents.
“It’s easier to see
interesting shows around the world because of the internet,” he said,
explaining the recent obsession with foreign formats. “The world is a smaller
As is clear from
Homeland’s cult status, audiences are as keen on Israeli formats as US viewers.
Odelia Haroush, who organised the UK’s first Israeli film festival in London
this year, said: “We included television in our festival because there is so
much interest. [TV series] are popular because they are very funny and
emotional. [They show] the cultural and social diversity of in everyday life in
Israel.” Seret, the London Israeli Film and Television Festival, will be held
again in June.
Other Israeli shows in
the pipeline in the US include Yellow Peppers, a drama about a rural family
with an autistic son, and Pillars of Smoke, a series about a mystery at a
secretive commune. All are being remade for American audiences, because, as
Rosen said: “Americans seem to like the American versions.”
Richard Ferrer, editor of
Jewish News, said the nature of Israeli politics meant local writers, such as
Hatufim and Homeland’s Emmy-winning Gideon Raff, had plenty of potential
plotlines. “Israel’s survival is always at stake, so what might appear to be
paranoia from a comfortable distance tends to be reality on the streets of Tel
Ferrer added: “Talented
young Israeli writers like Raff are turning their country’s raw survival
instincts into edgy and authentic drama. His show Hatufim tapped an open wound
in a country where conscription is law and kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad
Shalit was feared lost. It makes for truthful and plausible drama.”
The best-known of the
spin-offs is the US’s favourite drama after cleaning up at the 2012 Emmys. It
tells the tale of a former prisoner of war, Sergeant Nicholas Brody, played by
Damian Lewis, and Claire Danes’s suspicious CIA agent, Carrie Mathison.
Life Isn’t Everything
CBS is developing its own
version of Israel’s most successful sitcom, about a middle-aged divorced couple
who were bad at marriage and are proving even worse at divorce.
adaptation of the Hebrew show Ramzor proved a rare disappointment because it
messed around too much with the original
The Gordin Cell
The latest thriller
getting the Hollywood treatment features former Soviet spies. The US version
will be called M.I.C.E. (Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego).
One of the earlier
remakes, this was based on Israel’s The Mythological Ex about a woman who
visits a psychic and discovers she has already dated the man she is destined to
Pillars of Smoke
Described as part-Twin
Peaks, part-Lost, the series is a mystery set in the Golan Heights, about a
probe of a cult’s disappearance.
– The Independent on Sunday