Ishai Golan. Picture: Supplied
False Flag was inspired by the real-life assassination of a Hamas leader by Mossad agents. That’s the genesis of the espionage thriller that is in the same compellingly surreal stable of the Emmy award-winning series, Homeland.
Maria Feldman and Amit Cohen are the brains behind this foreign-language series.

Cohen explains the title, saying: “In intelligence it is an action carried out by someone (espionage or a terrorist attack) but conceived and planned to look like someone else did it. We used this professional term because it relates to the theme of the show: you see something and you don’t know what you’re seeing - you see a character or an event only to realise that it is actually different. We liked the term both (as it is used) in ordinary life as well as its professional meaning”.

Although the series was inspired by a true event, the creators relied on their imagination to develop a web of political intrigue. The storytelling is layered and the character journeys, personal.

Cohen adds: “We wanted the show to look and feel realistic. The event is inspired by a Hamas leader but I think that, for me at least, it was inspired by people we’ve met. I was a journalist for 10 years and covered, for example, intifadas and met really interesting characters. Many of the characters are inspired by that”.

“When we created this show we didn’t think about an international audience, only the Israeli one. The main difference is that outside Israel people find the show funnier than in Israel. They see it as a dark comedy. I don’t think anyone in Israel would think that,” Feldman explains.

Expanding on her comment, Cohen shares: “Like Maria said, when we started working on it, it was for an Israeli audience. We didn’t try to make it international. The dialogue and the plot was related to an Israeli audience. This was the first non-English language show acquired by Fox on a global scale and we were surprised and excited. I will be interested to see the reception worldwide”.

So far, it’s left a profound impression at several award ceremonies, including the Berlinale Film Festival.

Although the intention wasn’t for the show to be anchored by the political climate, the topic negated that intent with positive results - it’s a hit series.

Shedding light on the characters populating the series, Cohen says: 
“Each one represents a strand of Israeli society and we wanted the combination of people to be interesting and fun to write about. It was a long process coming up with the right people to tell the story. We wanted it to be as relatable as possible. The response we received from Keshet and the focus groups was that each character should be different from the next and have their own secrets. In the first episode - an Iranian minister gets kidnapped and they blame Mossad. We wanted to take five different people who start in five different places and unite them along the journey”.

There are myriad spy shows on the small screen, but False Flag is designed to stand out. Cohen reveals: “There are brilliant espionage shows today - Homeland, another show based on a Keshet series Prisoners of War and other American dramas, which are really great but they all focus on the lives of professionals and tell the story through their eyes. The uniqueness of False Flag is that it is told from the point of view of ordinary people: an accountant about to get married, a family man, a musician, a teacher - all normal people. They don’t know anything about the espionage world. This is their first encounter with the world of shadows The audience can imagine their friends, family or neighbours going through the same ordeal. This is what makes it unique”.

* False Flag airs on Fox (DStv channel 125) on Wednesdays at 9pm.