TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) – Israel’s latest hit TV series takes viewers straight to the heart of the country’s nemesis, Iran.
“Tehran” tells the story of Tamar Rabinyan, a young Mossad employee tasked with hacking and shutting down an Iranian nuclear reactor so that the Israeli army can carry out an airstrike. But when the mission fails, the agent becomes rogue, falls in love with a local pro-democracy activist, and rediscovers her Iranian roots in the city of her birth.
It’s a storyline that touches many of the region’s most urgent fault lines. It is also the newest episode in the golden age of Israeli television.
After countless Israeli shows inspired American spinoffs such as “Homeland”, “Hostages” and “In Treatment”, Netflix went a step further by running “Fauda”, the groundbreaking action series about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the original Hebrew -Arabic form with subtitles.
“Tehran” marks the next phase, with Apple TV + purchasing the rights to the eight-part series and signing up to co-produce its international streaming. The spy thriller, with dialogue in Hebrew, English and Farsi, premiered on June 22 in Israel. It is looking for a page from the “Fauda” success story, combining fast-paced action scenes with current political intrigues and personal backstories that touch the region’s chaotic nature.
“Although it is a very entertaining show and has a lot of action, there are many layers,” said Dana Eden, one of the creators of the show. “We just found it really interesting trying to get to Tehran, Iran, a place we really don’t know and want to know more about.”
Israel considers Iran its most dangerous enemy, citing its call to destroy Israel, the development of advanced missiles and support for anti-Israel militias in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Israeli leaders believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability and have often pointed to the possibility of a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities if international sanctions fail to halt the suspected Iranian nuclear program. Israeli Mossad agents are said to have acted behind enemy lines in stealing documents from a secret Iranian nuclear archive.
But before the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, the countries were close allies and Iran was home to a large and thriving Jewish community. Some 250,000 Israelis are of Iranian descent and have remained close to the music, culture and food of their roots.
“My character reminds me of my mother, my aunt, my grandmother,” said actress Esti Yerushalmi, who plays the role of Rabinyan’s Iranian aunt, Arezoo. “I took them all and put them in my character. It is an Iranian woman who is also a Jew. ‘
Yerushalmi and her family fled Iran after the revolution when she was 13, and she said acting in her native Farsi was an emotional experience.
“It was difficult because it brought me back to my memories from Iran,” she said. “It was touching and very painful for me. I miss Iran. I miss all beauty, all people. It’s a great country, but now I think they are suffering. ‘
Co-written by Fauda’s writer Moshe Zonder, the show stars Israeli actress Niv Sultan in the lead role and Homeland’s Navid Negahban and Iron Man actor Shaun Toub in supporting roles. The film was shot in Athens to mimic the Iranian capital.
The television series has yet to be mentioned by Iranian officials, although Kayhan International, a publication affiliated with the hardline newspaper of the same name, described the show as an “anti-Iranian production.” The newspaper, Kayhan, also acknowledged the show, saying in April that it reveals the “pro-western and promiscuous” nature of activists targeting Iran.
Similar to Fauda, the makers said they wanted to present a nuanced story for a deep-seated conflict that would resonate from all sides.
“We don’t have bad guys and good guys in this show. It’s more complicated and I’m sure Iranians who will see the show will enjoy it a lot, ”said Eden, who also co-produced the series. “I’m sure it will be a hit in Iran.”
Audrey Horowitz, producer of the Associated Press, contributed to this report.
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