Wednesday, 29 April 2020

TV review: Fauda, season 1, Netflix (2015)

For fans of action thrillers, this show has definite appeal, but as well as the regular features of the genre – the raids, the guns, the licit violence, the secrecy, the power plays involving select individuals – all of which can be cathartic for the viewer, you have a very unusual physical setting: the West Bank or, to be more precise, towns in a contested space where Arabs (Palestinians) and Jews compete for influence in a bloody struggle the end of which is appears to be, still, some way down the track.

At the centre of the action are two people, one of whom is a Hamas member and who goes by the name of Abu Ahmad or “the Panther” (Hisham Sulliman). On the other hand you have an Israeli Defence Force special operative named Doron Kirillio (Lior Raz) who goes undercover in an effort to capture or kill Abu Ahmad. Orbiting around these two people, close associates – on either side – include the IDF minister as well as members of Fatah, the Palestinian authority that officially administers the West Bank. Hamas is in charge of the Gaza Strip, but this part of the world does not feature in season 1 of ‘Fauda’.

While the West Bank constitutes the physical space used in the series, the emotional space where the drama plays out lies amid the personal relations between members of Doron’s team – the Mista'arvim (or, “Arabised”) unit – and his family, and those between Abu Ahmad and his family and associates. Watching this show you can see how conflict can become both personal (resulting in certain behaviours) and abstract (because it can escalate to physical violence).

One shortcoming is the lack of humour evident in the characterisation of Palestinians. Only one of them, a doctor named Shirin (Laëtitia Eïdo), has a sense of humour, and this is only expressed when she is talking with Doron. For the most part, the Palestinians in the show are more than stoic, they are wooden, as though being driven to free what they see as their homeland from what they view as a foreign occupation has drained any humanity from them. One sequence, at the wedding of Abu Ahmad’s brother, contains levity, but this is an exceptional circumstance, and a very special celebration. In their day-to-day dealings with each other, the Palestinians hardly ever smile unless it is to anticipate some form of violence at the expense of Jews.

To a certain degree, under circumstances such as those depicted in this show, your allegiance to a cause defines, once you are an adult, who you are. Secrets become deadly things. Lies can have mortal consequences. Accidents can kill. To cut a long story short the stakes are high but the makers of the show – or at least of season 1 – are both inventive and fair, illustrating what life is like for people on both sides of the divide that has caused so much chaos (the Arabic word is “fauda”) globally. 

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