In spite of everything, Israel’s high-quality television series and made-for-TV movies continue to win prizes and fans around the world, and are available for streaming locally.
Earlier this week, the series Unsilenced, from yes Studios, won the Best Performance Award for its star, Nelly Mira Rubin, at Marseilles Series Stories, a prestigious French festival dedicated to television series based on literary works.
Unsilenced, an adaptation of the best-selling novel The Confidante, by Odelia Carmon, dramatizes the story of a young woman who worked for former president Moshe Katsav. Katsav raped her and harassed other women, and eventually went to prison for his crimes. Rubin plays the young woman, who was identified in the press only by her initial, the Hebrew letter “Alef,” which was the title of the series in Israel.
In my review last June, I wrote that she was so good in the part that “I kept having to remind myself that she was an actress playing a part, because it was hard to believe she was acting.”
This excellent series stars Yaakov Zada Daniel as Katsav, and it is available on the Yes website and on Yes VOD.‘FELLOW TRAVELERS’ (credit: Hot, Next TV, Yes, and Sting TV)
While it is certainly disturbing to see one of the highest-ranking political leaders in the country committing such crimes, the ray of light is that he was held accountable for his crimes in a court of law.
Journey to the Past, a documentary about five Israeli actors on a trip to Poland, also recently won a prize, the Best Documentary Feature Film at the 40th Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. The documentary was created and broadcast by KAN Educational Television and is available on the KAN website at kan.org.il/.
Another film from KAN, Bronca! by Tomer Slutzky, won the Best Screenplay Award in the Contemporary Competition of the Festival of Ibero-Latin American Cinema of Trieste. It is a documentary about an Argentinian immigrant to Israel who tries to discover what happened to his cousin during the reign of the Argentinian military regime of the 1970s.
Memory Forest, a KAN Educational series for teens about a school trip to the death camps in Poland, is nominated for an International Emmy in the children’s live action category. It can also be viewed on the KAN website.
While Israeli series may win so many awards we tend to get jaded, I think it’s important to point out that all international success from such a small industry is not to be taken for granted, especially not during the current war.
Speaking of success, Tehran won an International Emmy for Best Drama Series in 2021. Both seasons of the suspenseful thriller series about Tamar (Niv Sultan), a young, female Israeli Mossad agent in Iran, are available on KAN 11, which produced the series, and on Apple TV+. On KAN, the episodes are with Hebrew titles, while on Apple they have English titles, as well as Hebrew and many other languages.
It’s a well-paced show, in which Tamar jumps from one tension-inducing situation to another, and if some of the predicaments she gets into don’t make that much sense, you will likely only realize that in hindsight because you’ll be caught up in it while you’re watching.
The second season features Glenn Close as a psychologist living in Tehran who is at the center of the action. She will be returning for season three, and Hugh Laurie is joining the cast as a South African nuclear inspector. The third season was filming when the actors’ strike broke out in Hollywood, but it got a waiver to continue working, and it was set to be released in late 2023, although there is currently no date yet.
A NEW television series and a movie look at the connections between American politics and sexuality, during an earlier era.
Fellow Travelers, which is currently on the VOD platforms of Yes and Hot and will begin showing on Hot HBO next month, is about a mostly forgotten aspect of senator Joseph McCarthy’s crusade to root out supposed Communists in various sectors of American life – namely, that he also promised to rid government of “deviants,” a code word for homosexuals and lesbians.
Based on a novel by Thomas Mallon and created by Ron Nyswaner (who was a guest of the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2008 and who wrote the screenplay for Philadelphia), the series focuses on the troubled, clandestine affair of two gay men who worked in Washington, DC, in the 1950s, and follows them up to the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis took so many lives.
Hawkins “Hawk” Fuller (Matt Bomer of Magic Mike and The Sinner), a World War II hero, works for the US State Department. He dates a senator’s daughter (Allison Williams of Girls), but he has fleeting sexual encounters with men, taking care to keep them a deep secret, since these were the days people could be arrested – and lose their jobs – simply for frequenting a gay bar.
He helps an ambitious young anti-Communist true believer and devout Catholic, Tim (Jonathan Bailey of Bridgerton and Broadchurch) get a job working for McCarthy (Chris Bauer of The Wire). But Tim is also gay, and he and Hawk start an affair that becomes increasingly passionate, but they are torn apart by the fact that Hawk will do whatever necessary to hide his sexual orientation, while Tim longs for them to find a way to be together openly.
There is also a plotline about a black gay reporter, Marcus (Jelani Alladin), and his challenges.
The series is very well done, and it’s interesting to see how McCarthy’s persecution of gays paralleled his hunt for Communists, and how, according to the script, he was a closeted gay man himself. It’s a bit like Mad Men meets House of Cards. The acting is very good, although the actors look much too young in the scenes set in the 1980s. There is a lot of sex and it’s very explicit; like many television shows since The Sopranos, if this were a movie, it would get an R rating.
Rustin, a new Netflix movie, covers roughly the same period and tells the story of civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, who faced persecution due to being gay, as well as because he was African-American. Colman Domingo gives a compelling performance in the title role as the close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. (Aml Ameen), who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington.
If you’re interested in the internal politics of the Civil Rights Movement, you’ll find this story very interesting, as it shows how Rustin understood King’s potential as a leader and pushed him to take a more active role in politics. It also shows how Rustin was threatened at times because of his sexual orientation, and once was even blackmailed that an absurd rumor would be leaked to the press that he and King were lovers. It’s definite Oscar bait, so if you like to keep up with Oscar nominees, you’ll want to see it.
If you really want to travel back to a very different time and mood, try one of the most charming movies of all time, the original 1961 version of The Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills, which can be streamed on Disney+ (available on its own or through Yes) and is available for purchase or rental on Apple TV+. The Lindsay Lohan adaptation is better known today, but the first Hollywood version of the Erich Kastner novel The Double Lottie, which has long been very popular in Israel in a Hebrew translation, is sublime.
Mills plays identical twins Sharon and Susan, who were raised apart, Sharon in Boston with her mother (Maureen O’Hara) and Susan in California with her father (Brian Keith). The filmmakers used surprisingly sophisticated techniques for the time to make it look as if Mills really is two different girls in one frame. She has a naturalness and sweetness on camera that is magical, and it’s one of the great comic leading performances by an actress. If you have never seen this, or if you barely remember it, you are in for a treat.
The highlight is Mills’s double performance of the song “Let’s Get Together.” While the film is obviously dated-looking, it’s in color, and I think that young children will enjoy it.2023-11-25T11:25:29Z dg43tfdfdgfd