The latest Israeli series to drop in time for quarantine binge-watching is “The Girl From Oslo,” the quadrilingual, Norwegian-Israeli thriller series from Israel’s HOT and Netflix.
The 10-part series, co-directed by Stian Kristiansen and Uri Barbash and based on a script penned by Kyrre Holm Johannessen and Ronit Weiss-Berkowitz, begins with the kidnapping of a young woman, the Norwegian Pia, who has traveled to vacation in Sinai with two Israeli friends.
The kidnappers request that 12 Islamic State prisoners be released in Israel and one in Norway, or they will kill the hostages. Pia’s parents, Alex and Karl, begin to untangle the events taking place, as Alex, Pia’s mother, a diplomat (played by Anneke von der Lippe), travels to Israel to make contact with two former colleagues — Arik, an Israeli politician played by Amos Taman, and Layla (Raida Adon).
The storyline began with the two production companies that were looking for a project to work on together, said veteran Israeli director Barbash. They honed in on the 1993 Oslo Accords as the right event for building a dramatic, political and emotional thriller, he said.
The series brought about a deep dialogue for the crew and actors, among whom were Arab Israelis, Palestinians, Israeli Jews and Norwegians, said Barbash.
“We didn’t just work together, we lived together,” he said. “When we went south, we worked and ate and slept. You don’t have a home of your own during those weeks.”
“The Girl From Oslo” was mostly filmed during the early months of the pandemic. After receiving permission to resume filming in the spring of 2020, the cast traveled down to the Dead Sea and Negev, where they were cut off from cities and crowds, said Barbash.
The time spent filming in the south came after the Norwegian cast members had been rehearsing with the rest of the cast on Zoom, and spent ten days in quarantine in order to film together.
“We would go at the start of the week and had no problems of where to stay because all the hotels were empty,” he said.
The series was filmed in more than 100 locations in Israel, including the Negev and Arava deserts, Timna, the Dead Sea and Judean desert, as well as several Palestinian cities, along with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
It’s a story that presents various levels of action, with scenes of car chases and terrorist threats along the rolling dunes and lone roads of the desert, as well as emotional conflicts set between couples, and parents and children, in Oslo and in Israel.
“It offers peaks that you have to reach,” said Barbash.
The series was always set for screening on Netflix, where it is currently among the top ten series in 36 countries.
“It feels good,” said Barbash, who pointed out the four languages as one reason for the show’s appeal. “A language is a world, and somehow all four met for one organic story that rises above it all.”