Magazine article Variety

A Piece of Hollywood in the Middle East

Magazine article Variety

A Piece of Hollywood in the Middle East

Article excerpt

Seventy years after it established statehood in 1948, modern Israel is a country wrapped up in contradictions, a place where the same person who barges ahead of you in line will invite you over for dinner. And he'll mean it, and you'll go. ("Sabra," a prickly pear-like fruit, is a word often used to describe native-born Israelis - spikey on the outside, sweet on the inside.) Thanks to political clashes and ever-boiling arguments over peoplehood and land, Israel is a culture of distrust and suspicion, but also one of insurmountable joy and celebration, of vibrant clubs and cafes humming with fiery conversation and lazy Saturday outings at a Mediterranean beach.

Sociologically, Israel is the exact opposite of Los Angeles, a city in which everybody threatens to get together, but rarely does; in Israel, entire neighborhoods turn up at weddings. If you're looking for subtlety and refinement, you won't find it in Israel, a place where Starbucks failed because its coffee is just too weak.

"We have a great deal of passion toward life, and I think that can be misinterpreted as aggressive because of the delivery and the manner with which we conduct our business and our lives," says Israeli actress Moran Atias, who stars in Fox's "The Resident." "There's a sense of efficiency - it cuts right to the chase."

Israel is also one of the most heavily scrutinized nations in the world, boycotted by such rock icons as Roger Waters and, most recently, Lorde, entertainers whom media mogul Haim Saban unapologetically refers to as "ignorant wusses who don't understand the issues."

Jerusalem-born Keshet CEO Avi Nir calls Israel "a closely knit but diverse society with huge, intense and emotional differences."

Perhaps it's this emotional wattage that has helped to foster an environment in which Israel has emerged over the past decade as a global powerhouse of arts and entertainment, a pulsating hub of creativity in film, TV, dance, music and technology.

From small screen series "In Treatment" ("BeTipul" in Hebrew) to "Homeland" ("Hatufim") to Gal Gadot and internationally renowned mentalist Lior Suchard, Israeli imports have taken Hollywood - and the world - by storm.

"'In Treatment' gained attention quite immediately because of its unique format and its universality, which made the series easy to pitch, easy to produce, easy to use the scripts as they are and can attract big names everywhere," says series creator Hagai Levi, who's since gone on to create Showtime's "The Affair. …

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