The Honorable Woman photo
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein in The Honorable Woman

Des Willie

A new TV drama about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is airing in the US right now. The creators knew the material was timely, but they couldn't have imagined how timely it would turn out to be.

The Honorable Woman is a mystery thriller set in London. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Nessa Stein, a British-Israeli heiress and businesswoman who believes her company can help foster reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Then, ironically, the recent war in Gaza began days after the show first aired on the BBC in the UK. The airs on the Sundance Channel in the US.

The show depicts the nightmarish violence, complexity and seeming intractability of the conflic. But Hugo Blick, the show’s writer, producer and director, says it does not take a side. At its core, he says, the show is “pro-the-existence-of-both-sides.”

But that doesn't mean the show is constantly on edge about balancing ideas. Instead, says Blick, "It asks you to take a position or recognize a position within the characters, and then later on it will re-invert a new idea that might make you question the position you took with the character previously.”

When the latest war in Gaza broke out last month, Blick says he had to step back and remind himself that “ours is just a fiction.” But he also had to believe that that fiction could help illuminate conflict’s stubbornly cyclical nature.

“When I was writing the project, I was in Hebron a year ago,” he says. “It was relatively peaceful. But of course, so peaceful that people may think that the problem has almost had gone away — and, of course it doesn't go away, it comes back. I think our story is explaining and exploring that. And for that I think it has real value.”

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