How accurate is the TV show Fauda

Trauma on Fire

With the third season, the exceptional Israeli series FAUDA is growing up and into great serial art: it is still politically highly ambivalent, more than before, it shows real empathy without giving up its merciless analytical calculation

From Axel Timo Purr

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a tragedy, a clash between one very powerful, very convincing, very painful claim over this land and another no less powerful, no less convincing claim. Now such a clash between right claims can be resolved in one of two manners. There’s the Shakespeare tradition of resolving a tragedy with the stage hewed with dead bodies and justice of sorts prevails. But there is also the Chekhov tradition. In the conclusion of the tragedy by Chekhov, everyone is disappointed, disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, but alive. And my colleagues and I have been working, trying… not to find the sentimental happy ending, a brotherly love, a sudden honeymoon to the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, but a Chekhovian ending, which means clenched teeth compromise. " - Amos Oz in an interview on PBS on January 23, 2002

Israeli series have not been traded like high-quality rough diamonds on the international series market for years for nothing. Just think of the remakes of series like BeTipul - בטיפול (In Treatment - 2005-2008) or Prisoners of War - חטופים (Homeland - 2010-2012) to get an idea of ​​the creative potential of the Israeli series market. Even more than in other regions, the »war on one's own doorstep« is an important creative motor for confronting the traumatizations of Israeli society with something like a cinematic, therapeutic catchment basin.

How well film can work as therapy and historical coping strategy was already shown two years ago by the Palestinian-Israeli director Sameh Zoabi with his furious Middle East conflict comedy Tel Aviv on Fire, in which both Palestinian and Israeli conflicts and Traumatizations are processed and both sides of the conflict are dealt with in the therapeutic deficiency in order to actually draw something like hope in the end.

The dark counterpart to this great balancing act is the series “Fauda” (Arabic فوضى, DMG fauḍạ̄ ‚Chaos, Mess, Tohuwabohu, Disorder; Anarchy; Planness'), the third season of which was released in Israel at the end of 2019 and has been available on Netflix since April 2020. As in Tel Aviv on Fire, the Middle East conflict lies on the therapeutic film couch in »Fauda«. If Sameh Zoabi's film recognizes a chance to overcome the conflict, despite his exact, depressing everyday observations, precisely through the similarities of both sides, even if it is only in a shared passion for hummus, in »Fauda« it is exactly the opposite.

Although the similarities between Israelis and Palestinians are clearly worked out in »Fauda«, the protagonists of a Mista'aravim special unit of the Israeli defense forces speak Arabic as well as Hebrew and also differ in other ways from their counterparts at Hamas, whose radical leader they are in trying to eliminate covert operations in the West Bank, only in ideological matters, at the end of the first two seasons there is above all the realization that any form of sympathy and love towards the other side can only lead to a fatal disappointment.

Above all, the central protagonist, the agent Doron Kavillio embodied by Lior Raz, creates an extremely complex and gripping portrait of a person who does not learn from his mistakes and who is in danger of losing his identity again and again in almost schizophrenic border crossings. However, he can only regain control of his impetuous flaring up empathy for the Palestinian-Arab side through the death of his counterpart.

The series developed by Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff, who is known as a journalist for Middle East topics, not only takes time for his "anti-hero", but also develops a fascinatingly dense, great one on both the Israel and Hamas sides Acted staff cover, which not only handles the undercover assignments in a spectacular way, which not only convey an almost unsettling documentary reality due to the "inexpensive" external shoots, but at 200,000 euros per episode also well below the price level of comparable formats in other countries.

But »Fauda« also tells of the private life of all those involved and gives an idea of ​​the high price paid on both sides for the ongoing conflict that exists. With everyday details from the West Bank and Israel, with dialogues, most of which are conducted in Arabic (and shown with Hebrew subtitles in Israel), the closeness of the two conflicting parties becomes clear just through clichés and recurring God-related tirades. The tragic »elective affinities« become even more pronounced at the informal meetings of the fantastically developed and overwhelmingly ambiguous acting head of operations of Doron, Gabi »Captain Eyov« and his counterpart from the Palestinian security service, to describe just one of many situational moments when fragile ones Emotional relationships are established between the conflicting parties, in which neither side can be sure what this relationship is ultimately capable of bearing and the smallest misunderstanding can lead to the greatest catastrophe.

Nevertheless - and this was made clear by both Raz and Issacharoff, who both had their personal experiences as undercover agents - the core perspective is that of Israel, the writers room of the series, if a very unusual one (1), is then a pure one Israeli, if it is calculated here (not to say propagandistically) supposed insider Middle East reality is constructed, in the end it is always the Israeli Bad Boys for Life, who act in almost soap-like, melodramatic coolness, whose sympathies belong to the audience In the end, people lose loved ones, but then get something like satisfaction from Old Testament vengeance, even if they never experience real happiness.

Only with the third season does this basic attitude begin to change. It is true that this season is also being heavily criticized from within the Palestinian ranks, for example by the »Haaretz« journalist George Zeidan, who in a comment at the end of April attacked the latest season for misinformation, allegations and dangerous propaganda. But beyond false Arabic dialects and a massive blurring of the dramatic poverty and marginalization of the Gaza Strip, "Fauda", directed by Rotem Shamir and the scripts by Noah Stollmann, succeeds for the first time in addition to the continued shimmering hyperrealism with something like real empathy with the radicalized counterpart , who is coming of age in the shape of the young Palestinian boxer Bashar Hamdan (Ala Dakka). With that, »Fauda« comes close to what Raz once basically said about the series: »It's a TV show. It's meant to be entertain. But I can tell you that when I talk with Israeli right-wingers, a lot of them tell me that this is the first time they feel empathy for the other side. "

Because as in none of the previous seasons, it becomes clear how traumatized the region and all those involved and how dangerous any form of trust is, that the division does not only exist between Israelis and Palestinians, but that there are cracks through society and families on both sides and not only that the most striking and lasting split is perhaps even that in each individual who tries to emancipate himself again and again, only to be ground up again in the next moment by the conflicts and traumatizations that have been passed on for decades.

In all its ambivalence, tension and inescapable, apocalyptic hopelessness, this is great serial art, so good that it is sometimes unbearable in its intensity, even if the script team repeatedly intervenes radically and, as in the first two seasons, the political thriller - Building blocks with virtuoso soap elements underlaid, with grandiose drone recordings permanently "located" in a chapter-like manner and again and again intoxicating, gloomy Middle East apocalypse with dry, sober buddy humor and everyday household life, in order to calm the wounds that were again opening up, but without them really being able to heal.

In the end, you really only want one thing: that those involved, like in Tel Aviv on Fire or like in Samuel Maoz, an important, subversive, cinematic inventory of the Middle East conflict, Foxtrot, finally realize that they don't have to remain silent about what you can't talk.