Binge-watching in the time of Covid-19: Fauda

Published by UnHerd (18th March, 2020)

Perhaps it has something to do with a job that takes me to hotspots around the world but I am a sucker for those brutal, fast-paced foreign thriller series — especially if they are rooted, however loosely, in reality. So I loved the various Narcos based on Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, enjoyed the Spiral series about French cops cutting corners and followed some Scandi Noir hits.

Best of the lot is Fauda (Netflix), a perfect antidote for those looming long hours of lockdown. This show was part of a wave of Israeli hits spawned by Hatufim, which inspired the disappointing Homeland series. Fauda was created by its charismatic star Lior Raz, a former military operative, and follows a secretive unit called the Mista’aravim that goes on undercover anti-terror missions into Palestinian areas.

Trigger warning: the title means ‘chaos’ in Arabic and it is very violent. It is also gripping. Yet it is not just the intensity, strong characters and pacy drama that makes this series, launched four years ago on Netflix, stand out. Nor that this is another drama exposing the human cost of conflict, since we all know that by now. The reason the show is so striking are the political undercurrents flowing beneath the storylines that puncture the tired narrative on both sides.

Fauda shows, albeit imperfectly and partially, the brutal and oppressive nature of Israeli occupation. It shows there are two sides to the story. It also humanises Palestinians, something seen so rarely in the media and perhaps unexpectedly for an Israeli series that comes from their stance. So everyone struggles with the conflict, commits appalling deeds, wrestles with the impact on relationships. Doron Kavillio, the character played by Raz, has such a messy private life that he falls while undercover for a doctor linked to a Hamas operative.

There are gaping plot holes, implausible scenes and political inaccuracies — but this is drama, not documentary. It has been called The Wire of the Middle East but is far easier to follow than the Baltimore-based gangland hit. The first two series are set in the West Bank, the third one — recently trailered — will be based on Gaza. I look forward to seeing if it can capture the hideous claustrophobia of that blighted region. Until then, enjoy the first two series.

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