How Nextflix series ‘Fauda’ has broken down boundaries

Lior Raz is the hero of Fauda, the Netflix series which has taken much of the world by storm.The son of Iraqi and Algerian parents,  Raz grew up speaking Arabic and believes that Fauda (he is filming its fourth series) has helped humanise Israelis to Arabs and vice-versa. Profile by Francine White in the Jewish Chronicle:

Lior Raz, Arabic-speaking hero of Fauda (Photo: Ohad Romano)

When Fauda, which means “chaos” in Arabic, first aired in Israel in 2015, Raz and his co-writer, Avi Issacharoff, thought no one would watch an Israel Defence Force (IDF) drama that looks at the conflict from both sides, with half the dialogue in Arabic. Raz also plays the lead character Doron Kavillio, a maverick member of an undercover counter-terror unit in the IDF.

“We started with a dream that you think nobody will follow,” he says. “It’s yours and of course my partner Avi’s. We had this dream. We didn’t know that this is going to be such a huge success. Nobody wanted it, you know? So we are running from broadcaster to broadcaster, just to try and secure a commission. When it was taken up by Yes Studios, we still thought only our parents would watch it.”

Not only did people watch Fauda, but it also quickly became the most-watched drama in Israel, winning 17 Israeli Academy Awards. Netflix took up the show in 2016 and it became a worldwide hit. When the trailer landed for the long-awaited season four — coming later this year — it immediately chalked up nearly 200,000 YouTube views.

The most surprising thing is that the show resonated across the Arab world.
“It was number one in Lebanon, number two in UAE, popular all over the Arab world. I cannot walk around in the UAE, I am mobbed,” he laughs. “It’s crazy what’s going on there. Countries who feared Israelis, from Yemen, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, their people are sitting with me, talking with me on how we changed their perspective of Israelis.”

Raz, whose father was from Iraq and mother from Algeria, is proud of the way his work has broken down boundaries.

“I thought art didn’t change people,” he says. “I truly believed that nobody would change because of art. But now I can see that Fauda has this power on people. Look, we didn’t set out to make a propaganda show and still it is mainly a drama. There was an article in the main Egyptian newspaper which said it was the first time they had seen a proper Israeli person. Not the propaganda that they had seen for many years of how bad we are, how ugly we are, how cruel we are. So now they see an Israeli can be a good guy who just sometimes does horrible things. Also, the right wingers in Israel, they say this is the first time they’ve seen Palestinians as human and sympathetic.”

Growing up in the West Bank town of Ma’ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, he and his family spoke Arabic at home. His father, who served in the Shin Bet, went on to open a plant nursery while his mother was a secretary for a law firm. “A lot of the people who worked at my father’s nursery were Arabs and I would help out there after school, so I got very used to speaking Arabic,” he recalls.

Unable to concentrate at school, he played the clown instead. He later discovered that he suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “I thought I was lazy,” he says. “I tried really hard to be a good student, really hard. But I thought I’m stupid or lazy. I thought I had no potential, as my teachers said.”

As he got older and was diagnosed, he learned to see the positives. “It’s a blessing, in a way, if you can control it,” he says. “You can allow your mind to wander and to create. It’s like being on a surfboard and not knowing where or how high it’ll take you.”

After completing his army service, he went to the United States and became a bodyguard for Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I was at his home, outside guarding,” he recalls. “Not such a big deal. It wasn’t like the movie Bodyguard.” I sense it wasn’t the greatest time in his life. “I was in shock from my army service. I went to the US two or three days after I was released from the army. I didn’t see Hollywood as a place I wanted to live. I think it’s a hard place to live if you are not successful.”

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