“Fauda,” “False Flag” and “No Man’s Land” producer Maria Feldman is teaming with Israeli director Dror Shaul on “The Collective,” an epic drama series set against the background of the early history of one of Israel’s best known institutions: the kibbutz.
Created, written and to be directed by Shaul, “The Collective” is set up at Feldman’s New York and Israel-based Masha, out of which she co-created and produced for Hulu and Arte the Fremantle-sold “No Man’s Land,” a standout in Series Mania’s main competition last year. This year, Feldman served on the jury of Series Mania’s Forum Co-Pro Pitching Sessions.
Now being written by Dror, “The Collective” marks his return in an extended narrative form to the kibbutz setting of his two huge hits, the 50-minute “Operation Grandma,” (“Mivtsa Savta”), which won the Israeli Academy Award and became a cult film in Israel; and 2007’s “Sweet Mud,” which world premiered at Toronto, won a Sundance Grand Jury Award, Berlin Crystal Bear, Miami IFF Audience Award and four Israeli Academy Awards.
Shaul was born and raised at Kibbutz Kissufim, near the Gaza Strip. “Operation Grandma” was based on the true story of his grandmother’s funeral and “Sweet Mud” on the figure of his Yemenite mother from Tel Aviv.
“The Collective” is inspired by his father, a Manhattan-born musician who studied at New York’s Music & Art and frequented its jazz scene of the early 1950s.
In the series, William is accidentally caught up in an incident that forces him to leave the U.S. Given his uncle is an Israeli government minister, he joins a ragtag group of Americans who set sail for Israel, many also escaping a past, in order to found and settle a kibbutz.
William arrives in Israel at a moment of hope and much freer love. But the kibbutz is situated on the edge of the Gaza Strip, inhabited just a few years before by Palestinians.
Israel, moreover, is preparing for a war it will fight against all odds and kibbutz members, even if they’ve never held a gun, are expected to defend the border.
Many of the volunteers didn’t really understand what they were signing up for,” said Feldman. “Some stay, some leave, some even die,” she added, calling “The Collective” “at times half comedy, half tragedy.”
Envisaged as a three season series, each season builds to a conflict, the 1956 Suez War, the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Feldman said.
From being an outsider wanting to belong, William becomes a leader who defends the kibbutz against the Egyptian army.
But his leadership will come at a price.
Dror Shaul can be expected to bring to the series his hallmark first-hand connection with the period and knack of recreating telling, redolent historical detail, plus his large sense of humor and knowledge of the real human stories and huge pressures fracturing the kibbutz movement.
“‘The Collective’ is an epic series that brings alive a story that has not been told before, a modern Western of sorts,” said Saul.
Given most of the main characters are Americans, most of the series will be spoken in English, Feldman added.
He added: “More than seven decades after the group of Americans sat around a campfire singing songs by Brook Benton, Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie, the lyrics of the immortal ‘This Land Is Your Land’ beg the question of why the kibbutz flame cannot die.”
The soundtrack of The Collective will feature greats of the 1940s and 1950s, including Joan Baez’s “All My Trials,” and classics by Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Brook Benton, Pete Seeger, Big Bill Broonzy and Billie Holiday, Saul said.