HAARETZ REPORTS / ISRAEL – The Israeli TV industry has taught its creative artists to be massively patient. Series such as “Shababnikim” (about young people in the ultra-Orthodox community) or “Metumtemet” (about a struggling actress who goes undercover for the police) have sometimes needed up to five years to go from idea to screen. But now there’s the miniseries “Douze Points” (which means 12 points).
The setting is the Eurovision song contest, which is being held in Tel Aviv this year after Netta Barzilai’s famous victory in Lisbon last May. In “Douze Points,” the Islamic State plans for a French contestant to carry out a spectacular terror attack on the air. Mossad agents do their best to foil it.
Asaf Zelicovitch and Yoav Hebel started working on the series right after Barzilai’s triumph. They wondered, what if there were a terror attack at Eurovision? The two, who once worked together at the McCann advertising agency, decided on a three-part comedy thriller.
Last week, filming started at a hotel in central Tel Aviv, where the fictional French delegation to Eurovision, including the planted Islamic State terrorist, is welcomed. Of course the suits in the closets are sequins galore, not your typical Parisian elegance. Eurovision has its own fashion rules.
The series’ creators surely couldn’t imagine how much their screenplay would imitate life. France is sending Bilal Hassani to Tel Aviv. The 19-year-old Muslim, who came out as queer in 2017, has infuriated orthodox Muslims who can’t seem to relate to his wigs and makeup.
“Douze Points” is directed by Daniel Syrkin, whose timetable is almost impossible. Eurovision takes place in less than four months; in the remaining time he must finish the filming in Israel – and three days in Paris – while hoping the editors can stitch the three episodes together before the deadline: one week before the broadcasting of Eurovision in mid-May.
In the miniseries, Shani Klein plays Tzionit, the patriotic Israeli accompanying the European delegations including the two French singers. The two grew up together but took different paths: One is a gay man who came out of the closet, while the other is an Islamist who has lost it. Meir Suissa, Mali Levi and Roy Miller play the Mossad agents.
A key goal of Zelicovitch and Hebel is to make fun of the serious facade of Israeli security agents, as well as the Islamic State’s intimidation tactics.
“For a long time Mossad agents have appeared in all kinds of series like ‘Kfulim’ [‘False Flag’] and ‘Hamidrasha’ [‘Mossad 101’], in which the Mossad and other agencies are taken very seriously,” Hebel says. “We said ‘enough’ – we have to have some fun with this.”
“They’re people too and they’re also screwed up in some ways. These characters have two kids at home and a wife who reminds them to pick up some diapers on the way home. We’ve put them in comic situations that bring out the human being inside them.”
Zelicovitch adds, “There’s also the fact that having Eurovision in Israel rubs ISIS’ face in it. It’s being hosted by Israel, it’s full of gay people and the whole world is interested. From a comical standpoint, there’s a lot of material to play with, because suddenly these tough Mossad agents find themselves at Eurovision with cruel ISIS operatives also having to blend in.”