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SA-Israeli thriller examines trouble in Paradys

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A local Jewish-led production company will join Israel’s Keshet International (KI) to produce a murder mystery series based in South Africa. The show, titled Paradys, explores what happens when two black police officers investigate a murder in a “whites-only enclave in the rainbow nation”.

“We saw the potential for incredible drama in imagining two black cops walking into a whites-only town. It’s a fascinating world full of secrets and a brutal collision of our past and present. The themes of discrimination were close to our hearts as Jews, with antisemitism on the rise around the world,” says Nimrod Geva of Quizzical Pictures, the production company he heads with Harriet Gavshon. Keshet will join them as a global distribution and production partner.

Geva says the show is about “a whites-only enclave in the new South Africa, the horrific murder of an elder’s son, and two black cops drawn into a dusty town that refuses to let go of the past. It’s a moody and complex murder mystery unfolding in one of the strangest places on earth. In South Africa’s arid Northern Cape, you’ll find a small town built in the middle of the desert by Afrikaner ‘survivalists’ as the last stronghold of extreme white nationalism.

“This town, called Paradys, projects the image of perfect peace and safety. But its attempts to keep the outside world at bay are undermined when a horrific murder takes place in its midst. This brings in the ‘unwelcome intrusion’ of the police and threatens to expose some of the community’s darkest secrets.

“Like True Detective and Top of the Lake, this moody show is set in an isolated, physically arresting world, populated by twisted and compelling characters,” he says. “The story explores political and racial divisions, the wounds of the past that have never healed and the psychology of extremists trying to keep their dark ideals alive.”

He points out that “Paradys is a frighteningly relevant story in a world facing a resurgence of white supremacy across the United States and Europe. Paradys gives audiences a unique and haunting angle on racial politics through the deeply troubled South African experience. But it’s also a beautiful, emotional story of human beings grappling with their own demons.”

He believes the series is relevant to our times. “In the age of xenophobia, Trump and QAnon, we feel this is part of our reckoning with where we are as a country but also as a world, how we treat one another, whether we expand our circle of compassion or retreat into fearful laagers.”

Indeed, KI’s Anke Stoll says the film “feels incredibly relevant. By shining a spotlight on a community that’s a homogenous cultural time-bomb, Paradys is a compelling and entertaining examination of the scourges of institutional racism.”

Established in 2012, KI is the global production and distribution arm of Israeli media company Keshet Media Group. Programmes distributed by KI include Prisoners of War, the Israeli show from which Homeland was adapted. So, Geva and his team are in good company.

Paradys was written by South Africans Darrel Bristow-Bovey and Anton Visser, who say the film is a critique of South Africa. “As two white South Africans who came of age through the end of apartheid, we know what happens when individuals and societies choose separateness rather than connection. We’re still coming to terms with the legacies of our own past and the truth of what our own fathers did in our names, so we’re disturbed to notice that the world is increasingly looking more like the old South Africa, rather than less.

“We’re powerfully drawn to examine how good people do bad things, how forgiveness can be a double-edged sword; above all, we want to tell a moving, exciting, sexy story that questions the easy answers.”

Paradys is still in development, so it could take a little while before it hits our screens. The show will be shot on location in South Africa, and will be directed by John Trengove (Manodrome), with Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody (Inxeba). Quizzical’s Harriet Gavshon, Arrested Industries’ Anthony Kimble, Keshet’s Avi Nir, and KI’s Alon Shtruzman are executive producers.

They don’t want to be too didactic about what the audience takes from it. “We’re hoping to find the greys – that the truth isn’t always black and white,” says Geva. “But at the same time, we’re hoping to remind ourselves that the past isn’t dead, vigilance against injustice cannot waiver and that we have a lot of work to do to bring about tikkun olam [repairing the world].”

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