In “False Flag” Season 3, Streamaze, an Israeli high-tech company, suffers a chemical attack at a hotel which is masterminded by terrorists.
Or does it? Maybe this was an attack on an individual gone awry.
Mossad’s state-of-the art data analysis identifies three suspects, all with possible reasons to commit the outrage, one of whose victims is the Israeli Minister of Culture. But suspicions don’t make them guilty.
‘False Flag’ mainstay character Eitan Koppel is once more dispatched to investigate and is always two moves ahead of the local police. But even in Episode One, as possible explanations proliferate, the series, as in Seasons One and Two, consistently pulls the rug from under the viewer’s feet, suggesting the supposedly guilty may be innocent, and innocent guilty, as a more nuanced and complex picture emerges.
In its constant caveats against pre-judgement, “False Flag,” a propulsive thriller, takes on a resonant ethical overtone in a world of Internet trolling and prejudice-fuelled geo-political conflict.
Directed by Oded Ruskin (“No Man’s Land”) “False Flag” packs impeccable pedigree. Created by Amit Cohen and Maria Feldman and produced by Keshet Broadcasting, it proved a milestone title that helped turn Israeli series into a global brand, with Fox International taking the world on Season 1 at 2015’s Mipcom in its first global acquisition of a foreign-language series.
Winner of the Audience Award and the Grand Prize at France’s Series Mania, its first season was selected by Berlin as a Berlinale Special, its second as part of its Berlinale Series.
Chosen for the new Berlinale Series Market Selects, the first two episodes of “False Flag” Season 3 will screen on Feb. 16 in Berlin. It is slated to bow in Israel on March 23 on Keshet 12 and then premiere globally on Fox International Channels’ network of 200-plus channels around the world, in a sale brokered by Keshet Int’l.
It comes as “Suspicion” – based on “False Flag,” starring Uma Thurman, and now with Rob Williams (“Man in the High Castle”, “Killing Eve”) as the showrunner – bowed Feb. 4 as an Apple Original on Apple Plus, produced out of the U.K. by Keshet Productions, Keshet International’s U.K. production arm.
Creators of Season 2, Feldman and Leora Kamenetzky returned for Season 3, where the latter served as main writer and Cohen takes an EP credit. Variety chatted to them before the Berlinale Series Market.
Enrolling the classic rollercoaster of plot twists, turns and false trails, “False Flag” builds a consistent case against the dangers of rapid pre-judgement which takes on a near ethical force. Could you comment?
Feldman: Generally in “False Flag,” but even more in the third season, one of the main themes of the series is: Who is this person? What you see is not the real person. Even their closest family doesn’t really know them. You have to question everything you think. In the third season, this theme is even more pronounced.
Kamenetzky: This third season deals with the internet and high tech, and how we perceive things in in the internet age. It’s more complex than the first two seasons. I feel that maybe also with the influence of all of the data and false information that we get at this time and age, it’s getting harder and harder to decipher between what’s true and what’s false.
One challenge for a further season of a highly successful show is that you’re being asked to be fresh, but also not disappoint the series’ fan base. How did you approach this?
Feldman: It’s very, very challenging, especially with “False Flag” because, even if the audience wants them back, we can’t use the same characters. In each season, we discover all their secrets and get to know who they are. So if we bring them back, we’d have to write a completely different kind of series. What we have discovered is that we can keep the main investigator. But it’s still very challenging, even harder for Season 3.
Kamenetzky: Each season works like another mini-series, a completely different story, completely new characters and yes, it’s a challenge, though by now I think we sort of understand the key elements that need to be put in. But it’s still a challenge to find the right story, characters and twists and turns in the plot and keep that up over eight episodes.
In its nuanced attitude towards character – suspects look innocent but may not be as innocent as it seems – “False Flag” echoes much modern premium entertainment by suggesting that there aren’t good or bad people merely people who are responsible for good or bad acts. Could you comment?
Kamenetzky: Nobody’s inherently good or bad. We face different situations in our lives and function according to the way our life takes us. I’m not saying there isn’t a choice but usually society is so much stronger than the individual. And so in a way we are moulded into the roles that we are supposed to play. So, yes, that’s what modern TV, modern filmmaking is all about.
“False Flag” Season 1 was one of the first TV series to screen at the Berlinale, way back in 2015. Its distribution deal with Fox proved one of the big milestones in the global reach of original non-English scripted series….
Feldman: When we were working on Season 1, shows did not travel. The only way for them to travel abroad was as a remake. So while working on it, “Homeland” kind of made it. And the dream of every Israeli producer and creator was to make your small Israeli show that will be sold to big Hollywood, becoming a remake. The first time we actually watched the show was at the Berlinale on the big screen with a thousand international people. It’s an Israeli show and they loved it. For me, that was a revelation: “Oh my God, they can watch it.”
I think everyone kind of understood – and not because of our show, it was the time in 2015 – like all of a sudden, that you can just watch an international show from a different country. What changed for us, for the whole Israeli and probably the whole international society of filmmakers is that we realized that the shows we made could be watched by international audiences. That said, I don’t feel that fact has actually affected us, in terms or writing, directing or budget.