The Abraham Accords are now the subject of several books and a recent documentary that has been airing on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The momentous and important agreement appears ideal for a dramatized feature film or multi-part series on Netflix, HBO or a similar platform. How should such a project be undertaken and what might be its pitfalls?
Author Joel Rosenberg was the first to write a book on the subject. The 400-pager was published by Tyndale in September. It is called Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey Inside The Fast-Moving and Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East. There are likely to be a number of other publications and media releases related to the Accords.
The first episode of the documentary The Abraham Accords, produced by the Christian global Trinity Broadcasting Network, aired earlier this year. The second episode aired on December 3 and former Ambassador David Friedman, the executive producer of the series, tweeted that he was putting the finishing touches on episode 3 of the documentary, which will appear in January. Friedman is also writing a book called Sledgehammer: How Breaking With the Past Brought Peace to the Middle East, which will be released in February 2022.
At the same time, a new book by Barak Ravid about the peace deal has been making the rounds. He has also been doing a podcast called How it Happened at Axios. His book, announced in early December, is called Trump’s Peace: The Abraham Accords and the Reshaping of the Middle East.
What this means is there are a variety of accounts already out there that relate to the accords. Each has its own perspective. This is because the accords are like an elephant, where each person can only see part of it. Israelis involved in the process, such as those close to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have one way of looking at the road that led to the normalization agreements. The team around Trump has another view and likely within that team there are differing views as well. The Gulf leadership, from Bahrain to the UAE and leaders in Saudi Arabia, has yet another side to tell.
BECAUSE OF the many sides to this complex story, it may be more suited to become a dramatized movie than a single book or documentary. This is precisely because movies enable directors to retell a story while keeping essential elements true to the narrative.
The problem facing such a production is whether audiences would watch it and whether there are too many issues involved to be able to create a fictionalized account of something that involves sensitive subjects, such as those that exist in the Gulf or the former Trump administration. This is because the Trump administration is reviled by some in the United States and key members of the administration are facing legal issues before Congress related to the refusal of Trump to concede the 2020 election.
This, unfortunately, has clouded positive aspects of his legacy, since in a democracy like the United States civilians expect peaceful transitions of power and not a president clinging to power and refusing to acknowledge that he has lost an election. So far none of those closely linked to the Abraham Accords have been called before Congress, which may make the accords more palatable as a subject from the Trump years.
There have been plenty of films made about controversial leaders in the past. Olive Stone’s Nixon appeared in 1995 and was an excellent portrayal of the complexities of former President Richard Nixon. Douglas MacArthur was the subject of a 1977 film with Gregory Peck, and even Stalin was the subject of a comedy called The Death of Stalin.
What about dramatizations of diplomatic events? There have been a variety of films portraying interesting political figures and crises. Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill is one of them, and so was 2012’s Lincoln. Other films have broadened the lens to look at a variety of characters, such as Path to War and Thirteen Days, about the Vietnam War and Cuban Missile Crisis.
There actually are not very many well-known or acclaimed movies about diplomacy. A look at lists compiled by the Council on Foreign Relations and other places shows the paucity to choose from. There is 2009’s In the Loop and several others, but for the most part the subject of peace and diplomacy is a lacking genre in film. Perhaps this means a mini-series befitting Netflix, HBO or another platform would be a better fit for the Abraham Accords.
In that case, however, those creating such a project would have to figure out what material to draw on. Telling the story only from Washington or Israel's point of view, without the Gulf, would be problematic. Not all of those involved have been speaking to the media.
Nevertheless, from what we’ve heard so far, there may be enough material here for a compelling series.