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Pride and prejudice
By HANNAH BROWN
06/11/2014
Normal and Orange are the flavors of the week.
 
It’s Pride Week around the world, and there is some special programming in honor of the occasion on Israel’s television networks.

On June 13 at 10 p.m., YES 3 is broadcasting Ryan Murphy’s HBO movie, The Normal Heart . It’s an adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Tony- Award-winning play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Mark Ruffalo plays Ned Weeks, a character based on Kramer himself.

Although it’s been decades, the anger that fired Kramer’s activism is still fresh as his characters fight to get the medical community to take their illness seriously, and to get the rest of the world to show concern over a disease that was taking a disproportionate toll on the gay community.

In addition to Ruffalo, one of the most gifted character actors/leading men working today, the movie has an all-star cast. It features Julia Roberts as a doctor devastated as she watches her patients die, Jim Parsons (you may know him as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory ), Taylor Kitsch ( Friday Night Lights ), Matt Bomer ( White Collar ) and Denis O’Hare ( True Blood ).

While the basic plot – the search for a cure for AIDS – is similar to Dallas Buyers Club , the movie that won acting Oscars for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, this heartbreaking movie is very different in tone and setting.

Dallas Buyers Club focused on a straight blue- collar man who became an advocate for people with AIDS, but The Normal Heart is set in upscale neighborhoods of New York City and Fire Island, and takes place among the sophisticated out-of-the- closet urban gay community.

I lived in New York in the ’80s when the AIDS epidemic started, and I saw friends and coworkers contract the disease and die. All of them were under 50, and The Normal Heart brings back the terrible fear and desperation of that time, when so many died so young.

The Normal Heart ’s director, Ryan Murphy, is best known for the television shows, Glee and American Horror Story , but while those shows are known for their music and thrills respectively, The Normal Heart tells a straightforward story, simply and affectingly.

Jenji Kohan’s brilliant, dark and bitterly funny series Orange is the New Black has just started its second season, and is showing on HOT 3 at 9:30 p.m. and on HOT V.O.D. The show, which is based on the true story of an educated white woman who went to prison because of a single drug offense she had committed years before, not only is not suffering from a sophomore slump – this new season is at least as good as the first. It opens as Piper (Taylor Schilling), the main character, is just getting out of solitary after the violent fight she got into at the end of the first season. She gets shipped off to a maximum security prison, and finds herself sliding even deeper down the rabbit hole of the criminal justice system.

The series, which was produced by Netflix, released all its episodes in a single day. I won’t reveal any spoilers here, other than to say that although Piper is taken to snowy Illinois in the first episode, the scene quickly shifts back to the Litchfield Women’s Prison that is the main setting for the first season. There are a number of surprising twists, and we get to learn the backstory of a few more of the ladies, including Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Poussey (Samira Wiley), Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) and, perhaps most surprisingly, Lorna (Yael Stone). Like Kohan’s previous series Weeds , Orange is the New Black is the best that television has to offer. It’s fitting that it started just before Pride Week, since nearly every character is lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Sound of Torture , a film that had its premiere at the recent Docaviv International Film Festival, tells a shocking story of Eritreans kidnapped by Beduin on their way to Israel and held for ransom. It focuses on an Eritrean radio broadcaster who receives their appeals and tries to help but can free only a fraction of them. This tragic story will be shown on YES Docu on June 18 at 9 p.m. and will be rebroadcast throughout the month on YES VOD.
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