Emily Gian reviews “Prisoners of War”
The Israeli television series “Prisoners of War” has been airing on SBS ONE on Saturday nights for past three weeks. This is a compelling series about the return of two Israeli soldiers after 17 years of captivity in Lebanon and it is already winning the acclaim of critics and the hearts of many Australian viewers.
The series (which first aired in Israel almost three years ago) won nine Israeli Academy of Film and Television Awards and is billed by SBS as navigating “from delicate political themes to poignant domestic drama, under the direction of acclaimed writer Gideon Raff” (see more).
Raff, who is also an Executive Producer on the American series “Homeland” (which was based on the Israeli format), created the series to explore a contradiction between the way Israeli society fights to bring home its prisoners of war, “then, once they’re back, we don’t want to hear about them anymore. We don’t want to hear that coming back home is just the beginning of the journey and, that for some of them, it’s even harsher than being captive. We don’t want to hear about secret investigations against them or if they’re endangering Israeli security if they’ve been turned. Also, the prisoners of war themselves carry such a heavy burden and guilt on their shoulders that they don’t want to be exposed” (see more).
This is the premise behind this incredibly well scripted and brilliantly acted programme is one that, to my mind at least, contrasts remarkably with both the Hollywood pizzazz of “Homeland” and the blatant historical distortion of fact of the BBC propaganda series “The Promise” which was shown on SBS a little over a year ago. It also contrasts with some of the media hype surrounding real “prisoners of war”, like Gilad Shalit, who was held captive in Gaza by Hamas for five years until his release in late 2011, and of the less fortunate Ehud Goldwasser z”l and Eldad Regev z”l whose capture in an incursion and attack inside Israel by Hezbollah sparked the Second Lebanon War.
“Prisoners of War” succeeds for all of the right reasons and its screening is a welcome development after “The Promise”, with its stilted acting and a script which mangled historical facts in a thinly veiled attempt to delegitimise the Jewish State and its creation in 1948, and to dehumanise its people in their present day struggles. The latter was certainly a different programme but it lacked completely in credibility to those who understand the factual nuances surrounding the conflict between Israel and its neighbours and more particularly, the role of the British prior to the War of Independence.
Emily Gian is the Media and Advocacy Director at the Zionist Federation of Australia and a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature.