This weekend, Hulu premiered episode one of "Prisoners of War" (in Hebrew, "Hatufim"), an Israeli series about two soldiers returned home after being held captive in Lebanon for 17 years.
"Prisoners of War" isn't of interest just because it's an acclaimed, award-winning show in its native country -- it's also the series on which Showtime's excellent U.S. thriller "Homeland" is based. Both dramas are the creation of Gideon Raff, an Israeli filmmaker turned TV writer/producer who's been involved with each as it enters its second seasons this year.
In Indiewire's interview with Raff from last week, he told us that "Prisoners of War" was inspired by the sense that captured soldiers are an "open wound in Israeli society":
We as a society really struggle to bring back our boys. We go out to the streets, we fight for them. Israelis take it to heart and sometimes for years campaign for the release of prisoners of war. Then once they’re back, we don’t want to hear about them anymore.
That was one of the things that I researched, and I realized that after paying such a high price, we needed a happy ending. We didn’t want to start dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. We don’t want to hear that coming back home is just the beginning of their journey.
Watching the first episode of "Prisoners of War," which you can check out below or on Hulu's site, the differences between it and "Homeland" are striking -- it's much more centered around the POWs and their experiences coming home and reuniting with their families, as opposed to the duel that's set up in the American version between Damian Lewis' Nicholas Brody and Claire Danes' investigating CIA agent Carrie Mathison. While there are suspenseful elements in the Israeli original, the emphasis is, at least at first, quite different. As Raff told us, "Rather than saying that there’s more drama in the Israeli one, it’s more accurate to say that there is more investigation in the American one."
Hulu will be streaming new episodes of the ten-part "Prisoners of War" every Saturday.