Israel’s Reshet 13 is attached to “Dust and Coal,” selected for Series Mania’s Forum Co-Pro Pitching Sessions.
The eight-episode thriller focuses on a Mossad assassin, Esther, whose world collapses when her father reveals to her that she is, in fact, a Syrian sleeper spy. Planted in Israel as a child, as part of a KGB program, her activation time has come.
Produced by Ronen Ben Tal for Bental Productions Ltd and France’s Morgane Le Moine for First Love, the show was created by Ben Tal, Ron Ninio – who will also direct – Eleanor Sela and Ofer Seker, co-creator of “Uri and Ella”, now airing on HBO Max.
“It’s a dark, realistic psychological drama. The spy arena is just an excuse to explore complex family dynamics and our main character’s journey of emancipation,” says Ben Tal, also promising an insight into the “backstage” of spy missions in Israel.
“The show will be mostly about mental games, but we are planning big action sequences in Europe and Syria as well. We are looking for international partners, so this will define the scale.”
In the past, Ben Tal also produced “The Bubble” by Eytan Fox and Avishai Sivan’s “Tikkun.”
As teased by its makers, the show will explore the themes of identity, loyalty and individual freedom. Esther, a double agent against her will, will slowly begin the process of loosening her father’s “patriarchal grip.” As well as her husband’s, the deputy head of the Mossad, harboring secrets of his own.
“Later in the season, when she discovers that her husband knew the truth about her and hid it from her, she realizes that from here on she must set out on an independent and free path. This will translate into [concrete] decisions and actions,” he adds, with Ninio chiming in: “She will stop oscillating between these two forces and become active in setting up her own ‘masterplan.’ She will also allow herself to focus more on her needs and desires instead of always protecting her husband and her father.”
As promised by Ninio, also behind international hit and 2017 Series Mania winner “Your Honor,” nothing will be black and white in the show.
“There are lots of suspicions and concealments in this relationship triangle between the protagonist, her husband and her father. Along with that, [there is] a lot of love and emotions,” he adds.
Producer Morgane Le Moine – whose company is named after Series Mania’s 2018 short form winner “First Love” – also teases the show’s international appeal.
“Throughout the season, we will see how the seeds of today’s global geopolitical situation were planted in the Middle East back in the 2000s. For years, Russia has been using Syria as a laboratory [for testing] methods that are now used by Putin in his war against Ukraine. The role of Europe has been, and still is, key.”
But ultimately, the series’ complex emotional layers spoke to Le Moine the most.
“Apart from ‘Dust and Coal’s potential to become an entertaining spy show, full of action and tension, what attracted me to this project was the fact that it is, first and foremost, a psychological drama about a woman who discovers that her entire life has been decided by others,” she says.
“It’s an emancipation story and I related to it in so many ways. I’m sure many people will too.”