“Our Boys” is the miniseries inspired by real facts that you should already be watching
A violent murder moves Israel, and discovery of the perpetrator can blow the country up. It’s a meticulous, realistic and suspenseful drama.
It’s a hidden gem on HBO Portugal
In the early hours of July 2, 2014, a 16-year-old boy was grabbed, put in a car and kidnapped. The body was found a few hours later, severely beaten and charred. The crime, which took place outside Jerusalem, killed a young Arab man, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The Arabs pointed a finger at the Jews. The Jews rejected the guilt. The incident would ignite the fuse of a new war.
This could very well be the scenario idealized by (more) a screenwriter inspired by the complex and dangerous relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. But it all happened. The crime that shocked the Arab community has resulted in retaliation. Israel responded with a new invasion of Gaza, which, as always, has claimed thousands of lives.
This is the scenario from which “Our Boys,” a miniseries of “HBO” launched in 2019, has discreetly passed through the Portuguese platform on which it is available. It was written by three Israelis, two Jews and one Arab and begins with a portrait of a country that was shaken by the kidnapping of three young people – Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah – by Palestinian terrorists.
The death of the three teenagers sparked a wave of solidarity as well as anger that would eventually lead to the death of Mohammed Khdeir. The series starts in this powder keg and immediately answers the question that viewers will ask. “More of the same?” On the other hand. Only a few productions use the internal conflict of both peoples as well as that of “HBO”, which controls the sensitivities and prejudices of both sides almost neutrally.
It’s slow police drama, the same rhythm that allows you to focus on the little details that are so often the keys to telling a good story. Immerse yourself in the sensitive networks of different religious groups, in different ways of thinking, acting and living – and it is not always easy to separate them from one another.
Hussein Kdheir (Johnny Arbid) on the left is one of the cast’s good surprises
For 10 episodes the main subject is the investigation of the Jewish section of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet – hated by the most conservative fringe groups who accuse them of treason of persecuting Jews, even those who commit horrific crimes – and the man responsible to find out who eventually killed Mohammed Khdeir. Had they been Arabs after rumors surfaced that the young man was gay? After all, were they Israelis in an act of revenge for the deaths of the three young men weeks ago?
It is also a drama that is told in two phases. Simon, the investigator, serves as a mirror for the various strata of the Jewish community, from the most extreme to the most liberal. On the one hand, those trying to establish a sense of justice, sometimes for moral reasons, occasionally to avoid the escalation of an international conflict. On the other hand, those debates about justifications for an act of cruel vengeance on a young Arab.
The same thing happens on the Arab side. The parents’ palpable grief collides with their distrust of the Israeli system – while trying to avenge their son’s death in the police and courts – and the use of the most radical fringes to instrumentalize the crime and turn Muhammad into a martyr .
Simon (Shlomi Elkabetz) is the agent at the center of the case
“Our Boys” is troubling because it doesn’t reflect the reality of heroes and villains, soldiers and terrorists. It is a story of ordinary people who have become the focus of eternal conflict. And the way he portrays some of his most vulnerable characters is also disarming: what can lead an innocent person to commit a heinous act on behalf of someone supposedly greater?
With no strong names in the cast, the Israeli co-production is full of good actors. Some perfectly show the real characters to be mimicked; others embody a group of characters, as is the case with investigator Simon, who symbolizes all the police officers and agents who uncovered the crime; or Dvora, the psychologist who embodies all the professionals responsible for the thankless task of evaluating criminals and even questioning their position in the Jewish community.
Avishai (Adam Gabay) is one of the main characters
Of course, the premiere of “Our Boys” sparked reactions that led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for a boycott of the show’s co-production company. This is because, in his words, the production “tarnishes Israel’s reputation”.
“There is a deep and enormous moral divide that separates us from our enemies. They glorify death while we glorify life. They glorify cruelty while we glorify compassion, ”Netanyahu said in 2014 at the funeral of the three young Jews. The truth is that the miniseries is balanced on criticism here too: it uses a lot of real-life imagery, including some protests calling for the “death of the Arabs”.
Of all the filmographies about the conflict, “Our Boys” is probably the one that best portrays the other side of the conflict, the friction, the daily life of two communities living side by side. It’s a disturbingly real story, impeccably told and interpreted – and one of the few that can evoke empathy on all sides, regardless of the preconceived notions we have about the conflict. It is a must.