The BBC has a new series, The Honourable Woman, starting next Thursday.
It is about a Jewish woman on a one woman peace mission to the Middle East. Wonder who the villains will be.
Gyllenhaal plays Nessa Stein, a British citizen but an Israeli Jew by origin, whose father– a Zionist gunrunner – was murdered in front of her when she was a child. She has inherited his ill-gotten fortune and used it to create a foundation that forges relationships between Israel and Palestine. When we first see Nessa, she announces a contract to lay fibre-optic cables in the West Bank, but the ghosts of the past haunt her and the internecine plot shows that her father’s murderous legacy is a curse.
Another daunting aspect of The Honourable Woman was its subject matter, bound to provoke strong reactions. “[The Israel-Palestine question] is so polarising because everyone has such a tight grip on their feelings. Throughout the eight hours we veer from one way to another and people will say, ‘Oh my God, they are being totally pro-Israeli or totally pro-Palestinian.’ But because the piece has been written with such compassion, I hope people will loosen their grip on either side.”
This may sound naive but Gyllenhaal is aware that a few hours of drama is unlikely to aid the peace process and she was sensitive to the intransigence of the situation throughout filming.
“It’s about Israel and Palestine, refracted through the prism of a family,” Blick explains, fully aware that this sounds like a tough sell. He reveals that he took the idea to Janice Hadlow, the controller of BBC2, who made two recommendations. “She said, ‘Not too much sand’, by which she meant, ‘Make it make sense to a UK audience,’” Blick says. And the other? “The other was, ‘Don’t kill too many children…’” he says, laughing.
It casts Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein, a British businesswoman with a bird’s-eye view of the intractable conflict in the Middle East. Her father’s company sold munitions; Stein, though, wants it be a force for good, and has moved the company into telecommunications. It’s an eight-part thriller that finds as much drama in affluent London as it does in the West Bank, and articulates the conflict there in personal as well as political terms. It travels back and forth in time, revealing ghastly truths in a beguilingly casual way.
I am certain that it would be foolish to prejudge the BBC and the arts world when it comes to creating the ‘ghastly truth’ about Israel and the Palestinians, and all without killing ‘too many children’….based upon the nefarious activities of a Zionist father who flooded the Middle East with arms, a daughter who wants to right his ‘wrongs’, and a murdered Palestinian businessman.
Any bets there will be a Palestinian suicide bomber blowing himself up in a restaurant, ‘driven’ to do the deed by the oppressive and vicious illegal occupation of the West Bank by the nazi-like, Zionist IDF.