Eichmann docuseries and a new Tel Aviv sitcom - new on Israeli TV

Disney+ launches in Israel on June 16 and it is now possible to sign up for a full year or shorter package

 EICHMANN: THE Devil Speaks. (photo credit: State Archives/ Kan 11)
EICHMANN: THE Devil Speaks.
(photo credit: State Archives/ Kan 11)

The 60th anniversary of the execution of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official chiefly responsible for implementing the Final Solution, is being marked by Kan 11 by the release of a new documentary series that brings to light important documentation of Eichmann’s admission of his guilt.

The series, Eichmann: The Devil Speaks by Yariv Mozer, which is being broadcast on Tuesdays at 9:15 p.m. – and all episodes of which are available on the Kan website for free (https://www.kan.org.il/page.aspx?landingPageId=1039) – focuses on recordings of interviews between Eichmann and Dutch Nazi journalist, Willem Sassen, in the late 1950s. Just a few years later at his trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann denied that he was involved in the highest levels of planning and executing Hitler’s plan to wipe out Europe’s Jews, giving the infamous defense that he was simply a bureaucrat who was following orders and knew little about what was really going on with the Jews during the Holocaust. But these tapes, on which he is clear about the brutality and scope of the Holocaust and his role in it, contradict his testimony, which of course did not convince the judges, who ordered his execution.

The tapes served as the basis for articles in Life magazine in the US and Stern magazine in Germany following Eichmann’s capture in Buenos Aires by Mossad agents in 1960 but were unavailable to Israeli attorney general Gideon Hausner as he conducted the trial. The documentary details how Sassen received a big payout from selling the tapes to the international press, but was frightened by threats from Nazis sympathizers and hid the recordings.

The first episode focuses on how and why Eichmann cooperated with Sassen and summarizes the most important aspects of what is on these dozens of hours of recordings, while the second looks at how Sassen kept them hidden. The importance of the recordings is put into context in a way that may be a bit basic for some viewers but will make their significance crystal clear to those with less knowledge about Eichmann.

Among those commenting are many historians, including Deborah Lipstadt, the distinguished historian who is the United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, as well as family members of Hausner and Sassen. The series combines newsreel footage of Eichmann’s trial and the Holocaust, as well as dramatized moments from the taping of the interviews and his capture in Argentina, and it also looks briefly at how the trial was televised at all since, at the time, there was no broadcast television in Israel yet. All in all, it is a fascinating series and is a must-watch for anyone interested in Holocaust history.

 ‘BLOODY MURRAY’ (credit: COURTESY  YES/OHAD ROMANO) ‘BLOODY MURRAY’ (credit: COURTESY YES/OHAD ROMANO)

If you visit the Kan 11 website, you can also watch selections from the government broadcaster’s archive that relate to the trial, including interviews with Hausner and much more.

BLOODY MURRAY, the new Israeli sitcom that won the Best Series Award at the prestigious Series Mania competition in France earlier this year, has started running on Thursday nights on Yes TV Drama at 9:30 p.m., as well as on Yes VOD and Sting TV, and it is an enjoyable show, a kind of Israeli Sex and the City. The city in question is Tel Aviv and the series, which was created by Stav Idisis, focuses on two roommates who have been friends since third grade, Murray (Naomi Levav, who starred in On the Spectrum) and Dana (Rotem Sela of The Baker and the Beauty, known in Hebrew as Lehiot Ita) and an endless series of commercials for banks and various products.

They are in their mid-30s and feel they are stuck in various ways. Both are hung up on their exes and have been for years, although in other ways, they are very different. In the Odd Couple convention of sitcoms, one is messy and rebellious and the other is neat and obedient. Murray is a screenwriter who hasn’t written anything for a long time, is prickly and disorganized. She teaches screen writing and each episode references a movie she is teaching her students about. Dana is an OB/GYN resident who works long hours and is ambitious about her career.

While it may all sound a little too formulaic, Levav and Sela are very appealing and work well together. The scripts are clever and reflect the reality of life in Tel Aviv for women who haven’t settled down yet, like whether they should freeze their eggs before it is too late. I would have liked to have seen male characters, but maybe there will be some character development as the season progresses. The series reminded me of the 1992 movie, Tel Aviv Stories, by Ayelet Menahemi and Nirit Yaron, about three single Tel Aviv women at different stages of their life, which has held up remarkably well and is worth watching wherever you can find it. Bloody Murray is fun and fast-paced and I can easily see it becoming the next Israeli show to travel abroad. Given the fact that Murray’s name is pronounced “Mori” throughout, it seems that the title is a nod to a future international release.

DISNEY+ LAUNCHES in Israel on June 16 and it is now possible to sign up for a full year or shorter package. While the full list of what will be on offer was not complete at press time, the streaming service will be offering a full library of past and present Disney films, including such classics as Cinderella, Fantasia and Aladdin, as well as Pixar and Marvel movies, including all four Toy Story films, Pixar’s most recent releases, such as Turning Red, and the new Marvel movie, Moon Knight, with Oscar Isaac. There is also a whole Star Wars section, including the latest mini-series, Obi-Wan Kenobi. But it is not all animation and superheroes at Disney+ and those who crave a different kind of entertainment will be able to enjoy the documentary series, The Beatles: Get Back as well as such movies as Hamilton. For the full list of what is available and details on pricing, go to https://www.apps.disneyplus.com/il/pre_launch

“You get fame and give a piece of yourself in exchange,” says Alicia Vikander as Mira, the heroine of Irma Vep, the new HBO series that is running on Cellcom TV, Hot HBO, Hot VOD and Next TV, as well as on Yes VOD and Sting TV.

This trite observation by Mira, who portrays an actress playing the vampire Irma Vep in a new series (the name Irma Vep is an anagram for vampire), is typical of this stylish but empty drama, which is nevertheless enjoyable for its superficial elements, mainly the beauty of its cast and locations (mainly Paris). The series plays like a mix of the Netflix drama about a Parisian talent agency, Call My Agent! and a vampire flick, with an emphasis on Call My Agent! The series has a complicated history. In 1915, Louis Feuillade made a movie series, Les Vampires, about a group of criminals and vampires, which featured feminist icon Musidora in the lead role of Irma Vep. In 1996, Olivier Assayas, one of France’s leading directors, made a movie entitled Irma Vep, which starred Maggie Cheung, his then-girlfriend and later spouse (the two are now divorced) as an actress filming a remake of Les Vampires, with Cheung beginning to meld with her vampire character. It was seen as a satire of and a commentary on the state of the French movie industry.

Now, Assayas, whose father was Turkish-Jewish, revisits this story again, this time with Vikander as a jaded, exhausted young actress with a tumultuous personal life remaking Les Vampires as a television series. This kind of insider-baseball, self-referential storytelling – today, this kind of thing is often dubbed meta and it was once called post-modern – demands that viewers take an interest in the backstory, because without it, what’s on-screen is pretty thin.

Assayas seems to enjoy these jaded movie star dramas. He made a similar one, without the vampire element, with The Clouds of Sils Maria, with Juliette Binoche as the star and Kristen Stewart as her scene-stealing assistant in 2014. Assayas seems to love his actresses and enjoys making them look great, even as he invites us to laugh at their petulance.

The director character in the current series, Rene Vidal (Vincent Macaigne), is entertainingly unhinged and provides much of the fun. Much of the plot centers on Laurie (Adria Arjona), Mira’s ex-girlfriend and former assistant, who left her for the director of a superhero flick that was Mira’s greatest success to date, but their sparring isn’t as much fun as it should be. Like the 1996 film, a lot of the movie seems to be an excuse to get the alluring heroine into a cat suit and turn her loose on the rooftops of Paris, and Vikander, who is otherwise pallid, is suitably alluring in these scenes.