“The Lesson,” the Israeli drama series that was named best series at the 2022 Cannes International Series Festival, is set to premiere June 21 on streamer ChaiFlicks.
Created and written by Deakla Keydar, “The Lesson” is a deft socio-political drama revolving around troubled high school civics teacher Amir (Doron Ben-David, “Fauda”) and Lian, a 17-year-old student in his class.
The series, which first premiered in January 2022, was also named best drama series at the Israeli Television Academy Awards in 2023. Maya Landsmann, who plays Lian, won best lead actress at that same ceremony.
Leib Lev Levin, Alma Zak and Dvir Benedek also star in the six-episode series, which is directed by Eitan Zur. 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. The series explores the fiery aftermath of a politically-charged debate over racism, specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
ChaiFlicks was founded in 2020 to showcase award-winning and critically-acclaimed Jewish films, TV series and documentaries. Neil Friedman, president of Menemsha Films, co-founded ChaiFlicks with Heidi Bogin Oshin and Bill Weiner.
“The setting for ‘The Lesson’ may be an Israeli high school, but the series deals with universal themes of identity in a profound way,” Friedman said. “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.”
Friedman bills ChaiFlicks as the “No. 1 global platform for Jewish storytelling,” and as an exclusive space for those stories. Friedman began programming ChaiFlicks with Menemsha’s slate of independent foreign-language films, many 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 to more than 1,700 hours of Jewish content and is currently available in five markets: 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,” said Friedman, who previously served as vice president of New Line Cinema, COO of the Pressman Company and co-chair of William Morris’ Independent Feature division before founding Menemsha.
Ben-David developed a fanbase via his role as an undercover terrorist operative on “Fauda.”
“He’s got another series called ‘Asylum City’ and the minute we saw it, we were sold,” Friedman said of Ben-David. “This guy is a great actor, and he’s about to become a movie star.”
“The Lesson” also focuses on political unrest between Israel and the Palestinians, a conflict that Friedman said is always on his mind.
“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,” he said. “[The show] has got a rhythm to it. It definitely grabs you by the neck.”
Other content available on ChaiFlicks includes the Swiss series “Labyrinth of Peace” and the film “The Women’s Balcony.” Then there’s “The New Black” (original Hebrew title “Shababnikim”), a hit Israeli series tracking 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,” said Friedman. “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.”
With skyrocketing rates of antisemitism and an urgent need for authentic and diverse Jewish representation in screens big and small, Friedman said he’s committed to featuring “a wealth of programming, with storytelling from everybody’s experiences.”
Friedman is also on the lookout to acquire more library content 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.. 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. 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.”
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