by Doris Strub Epstein
Stock up on food, turn off your cell phone and get ready to watch what many have called, the best dramatic television series ever made. Prisoners of War, the Israeli show that was remade into the Emmy winning American series Homeland – which it far surpasses – was based on it. Seasons one and two are now available in DVD. Creator, writer and director is Gideon Raff, who also the writer and executive producer on Homeland.
In the first episode, negotiations are held in Germany between Israel and Arab representatives, for the release of the three reservists who have been held captive for 17 years. They were captured behind enemy lines in Lebanon. Two of them are alive, having survived unimaginable torture and isolation; the third is coming home in a coffin.
The impact of their arrival on their families, their attempts to reintegrate into society, as well as handling the national hero status thrust upon them and the unfolding of their time in captivity, is spellbinding.
Nimrod Klein (Yoram Toledano) returns to wife Talia (Yael Abecassis) who has campaigned on his behalf around the world and his two teenaged children, who barely know him. Uri Zach’s (Ishai Golan) wife Nurit, (Mika Avital) has married his brother and has a son by him. The families have to cope with the fall -out of 17 years of brutal captivity. The third soldier, Amiel Ben Horin (Assi Cohen) has a sister Yael (Adi Ezroni), who is inordinately close to her brother and phantasizes he is still alive.
Instead of the CIA in Homeland, there’s an Israeli miliatary psychiatrist who doubts their stories and wants to know their secrets.
At the time of its original Israeli broadcast in March 2010, the series ranked as Israel’s highest rated TV drama of all time. Prisoners of War took home top honours at the 2010 Israeli Academy of Film and Television awards, winning the Best Drama Series award. Raff took home Best Directing of a Drama Series and actors Ishai Golan and Yael Abecassis won Best Actor/Actress in a Drama Series. During its entire run, the show has won nine Israeli Academy of Film and Television Awards, in addition to the Grand Prize at the Seoul International Drama Awards in 2013.
The series is in Hebrew with English subtitles. It costs $29.98 for each season and can be obtained from Video Services Corp. which has offices in Toronto and Los Angeles.