The Israeli media giant Keshet has responded to a public plea from PLO officials that production be canceled on an upcoming program, dismissing claims that it planned to shoot in a Palestinian village and implying that the criticism was both ill-founded and premature.
On Tuesday, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, called on NBC to scrap all plans for filming “DIG,” an archaeological thriller from “Homeland” writer Gideon Raff, in the City of David National Park near the walls of the Old City. Much of the action of the show, which follows a US FBI agent who stumbles upon a massive conspiracy while struggling to solve a murder, she said, is slated to be filmed within the ancient walls and tunnels of the park, according to a Haaretz report.
But Keshet shot back on Wednesday, issuing an exclusive statement to The Times of Israel that says no such plans are in the works and that production teams haven’t even begun to scout for locations.
Keshet is the creator and producer of the show, which it sold to NBC and will co-produce with the American network.
“There was no plan made to film the series in the City of David National Park or in the village of Silwan,” the statement read. “Furthermore, location scouting and planning will not begin until February 2014, and any decisions regarding possible production sites will be made with respect for all concerned parties.”
Officials with inside knowledge of the program insisted on Wednesday that no such plans have been made and all Jerusalem locations have yet to be decided.
“DIG” has garnered support from the Jerusalem mayor, who has pledged to grant production teams unfettered access to the city’s historical sites.
The program has been signed for six-episode deal with USA Network, a subsidiary of NBC Universal. It is the first-ever Israeli series to be bought for a season without first producing a pilot. Raff will serve as co-creator along with “Heroes” creator Tim Kring, and Keshet’s CEO Avi Nir will serve as a co-producer, much as he did with “Homeland.”
In a press release issued when the NBC deal was announced last month, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was quoted as saying, “When we combine Hollywood’s creative potential with Jerusalem’s historic backdrop, it will result in the ability to connect hundreds of millions of viewers around the world to this unique and beautiful city. There is an undeniable inspiration and creative energy in Jerusalem, which is why it has become a center for international film production. When Hollywood and the Holy City meet, the sky is the limit.”
In Tuesday’s statement, Ashrawi said, “With the support of Israeli authorities and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the first season will brand Jerusalem’s history and heritage as a Jewish city and the capital of Israel.”
She went on to cite the show’s potential influence over “hundreds of millions” of global viewers, adding, “The choice to film the series in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem is designed to endorse the occupation and the bitter reality experienced by Palestinian Jerusalemites.”