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Israeli Drama The Lesson Premieres in June on ChaiFlicks Streamer

“The Lesson,” the Israeli drama series that bowed in Jan. 2022 on Jan 11 and nabbed first prize for best series at the 2022 Cannes International Series Festival, will drop June 21 on ChaiFlicks, an international streaming platform–think the Jewish Netflix or Jewish Hulu–founded in 2020 and showcasing award-winning and critically-acclaimed Jewish films, TV series and documentaries. 

“The Lesson,” created and penned by Deakla Keydar and crowned best drama series at the Israeli Television Academy Awards in 2023, is a deft socio-political drama revolving around Amir (“Fauda’s” Doron Ben-David), a troubled high school civics teacher, and Lian, a 17-year-old student in his class.  Maya Landsmann, who plays Lian, won best lead actress at the Israeli Television Academy Awards. 

Leib Lev Levin, Alma Zak and Dvir Benedek also star in the six-episode series, which is directed by Eitan Zur and explores the fiery aftermath of a politically-charged debate over racism, specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Loosely based on a real-life incident, the focal argument in “The Lesson” spins wildly out of control thanks to an online post, capturing the zeitgeist of a society steeped in social media. 

For Neil Friedman, founder and president of Menemsha Films and co-founder of ChaiFlicks (along with Heidi Bogin Oshin and Bill Weiner), notes that, “The setting for ‘The Lesson’ may be an Israeli high school, but the series deals with universal themes of identity in a profound way. There is something in the water in the Sea of Galilee that has vaulted Israeli series productions to among the highest quality programming around the globe.” 

Over the past 15 years, Israeli TV content has made an impactful splash on the international playing field. Friedman founded ChaiFlicks, billing it as “The #1 global platform for Jewish storytelling,” as an exclusive space for those stories. Initially, Friedman stacked ChaiFlicks with Menemsha’s slate of independent foreign-language films, all of which were nominated for Oscars: “Divided We Fall” (Czech Republic, 2001), “Son of the Bride” (Argentina, 2002), “Zelary” (Czech Republic, 2003), “Prisoner of Paradise” (Canada, 2004), and “Story of the Weeping Camel” (Germany, 2005). The Jewish streamer has since expanded ten-fold. It now features more than 1,700 hours of Jewish content and is available in five globalwide markets, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

“ChaiFlicks has a uniquely devoted audience that has come to expect the highest quality Jewish programming curated from all over the world,” says Friedman who, prior to founding Menemsha, served as vice president of New Line Cinema, COO of the Pressman Company and co-chair of William Morris’ Independent Feature division.

The anticipation for “The Lesson” is high, with audiences who became fans of Ben-David through his gripping role as an undercover terrorist operative on “Fauda,” anxiously awaiting its streaming debut. 

“He’s got another series called ‘Asylum City’ and the minute we saw it, we were sold,” says Friedman of Ben-David. “This guy is a great actor, and he’s about to become a movie star.”

“The Lesson” also plumbs the hot-button topic of political unrest between Israel and the Palestinians.

“As an American-Jew, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is one that I think about twenty-four-seven,” says Friedman. “But I think the setup in ‘The Lesson’ between the older male teacher and the younger female student provides a unique and different perspective on the world and how we all see the world differently. [The show] has got a rhythm to it. It definitely grabs you by the neck.” 

“The Lesson” aside, ChaiFlicks already boasts an impressive roster of in-demand content, including “The New Black” (original Hebrew title, “Shababnikim”), a hit Israeli series tracking the hijinx of four rebellious students at a Jerusalem yeshiva. 

“It is the most-watched show of any of our 20 or so series, and it continues to bring viewers and new subscribers,” says Friedman. “We are the exclusive distributor of that show in North America, Australia, New Zealand in the UK. And I think a show like ‘Shababnikim’ does not need to have a Jewish audience, so much so that when we decided to open in the UK we said to ourselves, we have to have this show as the foundation for our launch. And people continue to watch it because it’s a classic show.” 

ChaiFlicks is now set to expand. With skyrocketing rates of antisemitism and an urgent need for authentic and diverse Jewish representation in screens big and small, Friedman is committed to featuring “a wealth of programming, with storytelling from everybody’s experiences.” 

Friedman also has an eye on licensing international, rarely-seen “old programming” with a focus on Jewish culture for ChaiFlicks. 

“I want to do that in Italy,” he says. “I want to do that in Poland and in the Czech Republic. I want to do that everywhere.” 

The demand to distribute content on ChaiFlicks, says Friedman, is ever-mounting. 

“When you walk into the market and we’re the only one that people want to pitch Jewish-themed programming, then you know that you’re the number one streaming service,” he says. “That’s the best way to say it. People want to be with us. I’d be lying to you to say that antisemitism is not an issue in the back of our minds every day, but really what we are is a storytelling vehicle. The Jewish people have a tradition of storytelling, and we tell stories from all parts of the world. We are a wandering tribe. That’s the beauty of what we do and what our history is.” 

“We never do the same thing twice,” Friedman continues. “We have films and programming from all continents except for Antarctica. We have a Swiss series, ‘Labyrinth of Peace’ that launched six weeks ago. We have ‘The Women’s Balcony,’ which is a great movie. There are so many different stories to tell, and it’s never boring. I love the variety. That’s the thing that really gets me going. And that’s what keeps the passion going.”

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