This week on The Times of Israel Podcast we’re speaking with Canadian-Israeli documentary filmmaker Igal Hecht, whose newest project “The Wilderness” is now screening in North America.
“The Wilderness” is a 10-part series exploring biblical stories from the Hebrew and Christian Bibles in which the core action takes place in the desert. The stories include the Temptation of Christ, Hagar’s promise, Sodom and Gemorrah, and the story of Ruth and Naomi. Hecht himself plays Lot because, as he put it, anyone who had a beard was cast.
The Israeli desert is a crucible that divides biblical hero from zero. The series depicts the hardships faced by great biblical characters — from Satan, to the perception that they are the last people on Earth.
The series is narrated by a team of internationally known biblical scholars and archaeologists, including Claire Ruth Pfann, Academic Dean and Instructor in New Testament at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem; Bar-Ilan University Prof. Ed Greenstein; Ben-Gurion University Prof. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal; Houston Baptist University’s Dr. Craig Evans; Pardes Institute’s Rabbi Alex Israel; Hebrew University’s Prof. Noam Mizrahi; archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay; and archaeologist Avner Goren.
Each of the scholars brings a slightly different perspective to the well-known biblical stories, which are told through re-enactments. All dialogue between the characters is spoken in biblical Hebrew in quotes taken straight from the Bible.
While some 40 Israeli actors (and Hecht) took part in the series, the true star is clearly the breathtaking Israeli desert. Most filming took place over a month in Mitzpe Ramon, where within 20 minutes from any location, the changeable desert landscape offered a whole new movie set.
“I wanted that epic, iconic feel of the desert,” said Hecht.
Later, we chat about a project Hecht calls his “Moby Dick” — a film he tentatively titled “My Election” that he began two years ago when he was about to vote in his first Israeli election. Since then he’s voted in two more.
With another election likely on the horizon, his camera is still rolling and capturing the Balfour protests ahead of this next campaign.