The 5 hottest Israeli entertainment exports of 2017

Sure Gal Gadot is huge, but she’s far from the only local making a big buzz this year.

December 21, 2017 06:44
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. (photo credit: FACEBOOK)

It’s been a busy year for the Israeli entertainment industry – after all, a native was the third-most searched-for actor on the globe in 2017! But the glamorous Gal Gadot isn’t the only thing that got audiences talking about Israel.

US late night comedian Conan O’Brien filmed a travel special here in September, the entire fourth season of the Amazon show Transparent was set in Israel – though filmed in LA, and Reza Aslan set an episode of his CNN show Believer here.

But plenty of the global buzz was produced right here in the Jewish state, and still got audiences around the world talking. Here are the five biggest exports of 2017:

1. Gal Gadot Gal Gadot Tries a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup for the First Time. (YouTube/The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon)

There’s no two ways about it – Gal Gadot is not just the hottest Israeli export of 2017, she’s arguably the most-talked-about citizen of the Jewish state ever. The Rosh Ha’ayin native has quickly become one of the biggest names in showbiz, and an icon and role model around the world. Her portrayal of Wonder Woman in the superhero’s standalone film this summer rocketed her past her already modest fame toward legendary status. But to the delight of Israeli fans, she’s a legend who hasn’t forgotten her roots. From speaking Hebrew on Saturday Night Live to whipping out a bar of Elite milk chocolate while a guest on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Gadot doesn’t hide her pride in her country. And with a sequel to Wonder Woman already slated for 2019, we can rest assured that she’s a superstar who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

2. ‘Fauda’ Trailer for Fauda Season2 (Israel FilmCenter/YouTube)

Who would have thought that a TV show about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would prove so popular? Turns out when you pack in action, violence, drama and of course, great writing, the audiences and the buzz will follow. The Yes original series first hit Israeli airwaves in early 2015 and got excellent reviews. But when it was picked up by Netflix in December 2016 with English subtitles, it suddenly received global attention. The show made The New York Times’ list of top shows of 2017, and Yes renewed it for a third season before the second has even aired – a rare move for Israeli TV. When 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 second season of the hit show is set to premiere in Israel on December 31 and fans around the globe are anxious to know when it will make it to Netflix, but the streaming service hasn’t provided a date yet. Netflix, however, has clearly been pleased with the show’s performance, since it signed a deal in August for two new programs from Fauda’s creators – Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff.

3. ‘Foxtrot’ FOXTROT Trailer | TIFF 2017. (YouTube/TIFF Trailers)

This quiet drama from Israeli director Samuel Maoz has created somewhat of a firestorm within the country this year. But internationally it has become a film festival darling and could very well bring Israel its very first-ever Oscar win. The film, from the director of 2009’s Lebanon, tells the story of a family notified that their son was killed during his IDF service – but the circumstances behind his death are far from clear.

It has already won the Silver Lion at the Venice International Film Festival and the Best Foreign Film from the National Board of Review in New York. It also won eight Ophir Awards including for Best Picture, making it Israel’s official submission to the Academy Awards. And from the record 92 entries, Foxtrot made the shortlist of nine movies. Culture Minister Miri Regev has loudly and repeatedly denounced the film, calling it anti-Israel propaganda, which definitely stirred local interest. But even if Foxtrot doesn’t make the cut for nominations, the film has already brought plenty of attention – good and bad – to the Israeli film industry.

4. Ram Bergman

He’s not exactly a household name the way Gal Gadot is. But Hollywood producer Ram Bergman, a native of Rishon Lezion, is responsible for one of the biggest hits of the year: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Bergman, best known until now for 2005’s Brick, 2012’s Looper and 2015’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, has now attached his name to a box office smash hit. He is also slated to be involved in the next Star Wars sequel, Episode IX, though filming has not yet begun.

Bergman has been in Hollywood for more than 25 years, moving there right after finishing his IDF service. He has been involved in dozens of films since then, and has regularly teamed up with director Rian Johnson. So when Johnson was tapped to direct The Last Jedi, he brought Bergman right along with him. In an interview with Vox this week, Johnson said: “There’s nobody I trust as much as Ram. It’s always been that way with our films, and with The Last Jedi, especially so.”

5. Keshet 

Within Israel, Keshet has always been the biggest Israeli producer of hit TV shows. But quietly, the media company has been making serious international inroads, selling its shows and adaptations of them to outlets worldwide. Earlier this year, the hit show Lihiyot Ita – stylized as The Beauty and the Baker – hit the Amazon Prime Video streaming services, with English subtitles. The show had already been shown on the UK’s Channel 4 and adaptations have been made in Greece and the Netherlands.

But it’s far from Keshet’s only show making international inroads – over the past few years its programs have aired around the globe. The Israeli singing competition Hakochav Haba, or Rising Star, was adapted for more than a dozen other countries. The game show Boom! which features players answering questions to stop “bombs” from going off, was recently licensed to the Philippines, is a hit show in Spain and has aired in another 11 countries. Hatufim (Prisoners of War) aired around the world, including on Hulu, and was then adapted to the US as the hit show Homeland. Hulu also picked up the Israeli hit Kfulim (False Flag). Keshet’s Sabri Maranan aired in the US as Your Family or Mine; Pilpelim Zehuvim (Yellow Peppers) became a BBC series called The A Word and Ramzor was remade in the US as Traffic Light.

It is quite clear that TV executives around the globe have a close eye on Keshet to see what is still to come.

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