Saturday, 29 August 2015

Gideon Raff: No Easy Answers

By Christopher Buur

Host Rafael Epstein asked Gideon Raff, the mastermind behind the critically acclaimed productions Prisoners of War and Homeland if he expected Homeland to be such a hit in the USA and beyond. Gideon replied, “I don’t think you can expect anything like that.”

Homeland, based upon the Israeli Prisoners of War or Hatufim in Hebrew, follows CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison, and a returned US Marine Nicholas Brody, who was held captive by Al-Qaeda as a POW for 8 years.

The two kicked off with a discussion of how Raff came up with the idea for Prisoners of War, with Raff humorously admitting that he had no idea where the idea had come from. This was followed by what the show meant for POWs in Israel, a country that constantly finds itself with its soldiers held captive overseas.

Raff commented that in his research he had come across many returned POWs, and found from this that it was always an immense struggle to return to daily life. He specifically remembered one POW who told him that he cherished being “dragged from his hole”, because despite the torture, it meant he could finally have some human interaction.

Combining humour with the seriousness that comes hand-in-hand with such a sensitive topic, Raff and Epstein go on to discuss the effect upon family members in such situations, pairing it with a clip from Prisoners of War.

Epstein was sensitive with his questions and trod carefully – as was necessary – around the topic of the show and that of the Islamic State, saying “It’s really horrific what’s going on in the so-called Islamic State...” to which Raff replied “You think?!”, garnering laughter from the audience.

When the time came for questions pre-submitted by the audience, Raff described the script-writing process as a “torturous one” yet reflected fondly on being the “writer’s room” on Prisoners of War, the show he affectionately called his “baby”.

Raff was clearly proud of both Homeland and Prisoners of War, but Prisoners of War was more personal.

Mental illness is broached in “Homeland”, and Raff saw writing the bipolar Carrie Mathison as both a relief and a challenge. “It’s always more interesting to write a damaged character.”

At the end of the one-hour session the audience was reluctant to leave, so captivating was the seemingly effortless conversation, which covered everything from Raff’s early career to future projects.

Edited by Isabella Ferra

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