It’s clear to see that 2017 was a huge year for Israel in the entertainment industry. But what will 2018 hold? Turns out, it’ll be an action-packed year with more Israeli-inspired films than ever before. No fewer than four thrillers are expected to premiere in the next 12 months that depict thrilling IDF and Mossad operations overseas – from airlifting Ethiopian Jews to capturing Adolf Eichmann, rescuing Entebbe hostages and gathering Egyptian intel. But those aren’t even the only exciting developments to look out for in 2018. Here are my top eight:
1. ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’
That’s right, Captain America’s very own Chris Evans will be playing an Israeli spy in an upcoming film about the airlift of Ethiopian Jews to the State of Israel. The film, written and directed by Israeli Gideon Raff (who created the hit show Hatufim (Prisoners of War), tells the real life story of the 1984 rescue and evacuation of thousands of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan. Evans will star as Mossad agent Ari Levinson, alongside Haley Bennett, of The Girl on the Train fame. Also making appearances are Ben Kingsley, Greg Kinnear and Israelis Mark Ivanir and Alona Tal. Filming took place in South Africa and has already wrapped up, though the film’s 2018 release date has not yet been confirmed. British actor Alex Hassell, who also has a role in the film as a Mossad agent, said in a recent interview that it was a “wild shoot” with a lot of action: “It’s an amazing tale about reaching out across borders to those in need, and we had a brilliant cast.”
2. An Israeli Oscar?
When the final Oscar nominations are announced on January 23, you can be sure that Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz will be listening breathlessly – and so will Culture Minister Miri Regev. That’s because controversial Israeli film Foxtrot – which made the Academy Awards shortlist for foreign language movie earlier this month – represents perhaps Israel’s best chance to finally clinch the category. The film, which Regev has repeatedly criticized for its depiction of the IDF, has been honored internationally and proclaimed one of the best films of the year by several media outlets. Israel has been nominated in the category 10 times but never taken home the statue. Maoz’s Foxtrot was selected as one of the final nine contenders out of a whopping 92 entries. Could 2018 finally be Israel’s year?
7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE - Official Trailer (Youtube/ Focus Features)
Season 2 – and 3 In Israel, the much-anticipated second season of Fauda will begin just this side of 2017 – on December 31. But most of it will be aired in the coming year, which is also when it will hit Netflix globally with English subtitles. And before the new episodes had even begun airing, Yes TV announced a third season would be forthcoming, since fans just can’t get enough of the action-packed thriller about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The show made The New York Times’ list of top shows of 2017, and when American television host Conan O’Brien was in Israel in September, he even filmed a fake scene for, as he put it, “one of my favorite shows.” The buzz around this program will only keep growing in the new year.
4. Summer of concerts
While the world is buzzing about the Lorde cancellation, Israeli music fans know that 2018 will still be a year of incredible live concerts. It’s a little early to discuss the biggest shows of next summer, but there are already a few acts locked in for 2018, including Foreigner, former Beatle Ringo Starr, Alt-J, A-ha, Ozzy Osbourne and The Scorpions. Rumors have long swirled that Coldplay would be showing up to perform in Israel this year, which obviously didn’t materialize. But since lead singer Chris Martin did visit twice in 2017, including once with his girlfriend, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that show finally occur.
5. ‘7 Days in Entebbe
A brand-new Hollywood take on Operation Thunderbolt will be hitting theaters in March. The 1976 IDF and Mossad operation to rescue the hostages taken in a hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris has been dramatized before, but not like this. The film, produced by Focus Features and directed by Jose Padilha, stars Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike, who portray two of the terrorists that hijacked the plane. Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is played by beloved Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi, and Lt.-Col. Yoni Netanyahu, the older brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is portrayed by Uruguayan-Israeli Angel Bonanni. The British Eddie Marsan plays Shimon Peres, who was defense minister at the time of the operation.
6. ‘Countdown to Calvary
There are a lot of films featuring Israeli tales coming up, but few of them were actually filmed in the Jewish state. But Hugh Bonneville – of Downton Abbey fame – wrapped up shooting for his documentary in Jerusalem earlier this year on the final days of Jesus’s life. Bonneville was in the country in April to film Countdown to Calvary, a film for public television that will air around Easter.
The actor and director got to know the streets of the Old City, and interviewed numerous local experts about that era. During a press conference while in Jerusalem, Bonneville said, “There are these phrases about going ‘up’ to Jerusalem, and you realize it really is what you do, and [it’s] obvious to those who live here... It’s been really interesting to see the skulduggery of it, the spies... to get a real sense of drama and, of course, as an actor, I’m a real sucker for that.”
The film is slated to premiere on RTÉ, Ireland’s public broadcaster, ARTE, a European channel, and the US’s PBS in March.
7. ‘Operation Finale’
Sir Ben Kingsley might be playing a British operative aiding Jews in The Red Sea Diving Resort, but the legendary actor will also be taking on a very different role – and on a very different side of an Israeli operation. Kingsley is portraying infamous Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann in the upcoming film Operation Finale, which filmed in Argentina this fall.
The movie, directed by Chris Weitz and produced by MGM, tells the dramatic story of the Mossad operation to track down and capture Eichmann in Argentina in the 1960s. The movie doesn’t have a premiere date yet, but is most likely to hit theaters in 2018. Oscar Isaac portrays Mossad agent Peter Malkin, Broadway star Michael Aronov plays spy Zvi Aharoni and Fauda creator and star Lior Raz appears as Isser Harel, the director of the Mossad.
8. ‘The Angel’ and ‘The Spy Who Fell to Earth’
No, Hollywood just cannot get enough of Israeli spy operations. Therefore 2018 is scheduled to see not just one but two films about the legendary Egyptian man who spied for the Mossad. Netflix is producing a thriller about Ashraf Marwan, the Egyptian billionaire who fed information to the State of Israel and met a mysterious death in 2007. Titled The Angel
, the Netflix drama was directed by Israeli Ariel Vromen and was filmed in London, Morocco and Bulgaria. Marwan is portrayed by Dutch-Tunisian actor Marwan Kenzari, and Israeli actors Sasson Gabai (The Band’s Visit
) and Ori Pfeffer (Hacksaw Ridge
) also joined the cast.
Separately, Salon Pictures announced recently that it is producing a feature documentary about the life and death of Marwan. It will be based on The Spy Who Fell to Earth
, a book by Ahron Bregman that was published last year. Bregman was the man who first claimed Marwan had spied for Israel, and the two later became friends. They were supposed to meet on the day Marwan’s body was discovered in London.