Production Begins On Israel’s Biggest-Budget TV Drama Series ‘Valley Of Tears’; Lior Ashkenazi Stars In 8-Part Mini Set Against Yom Kippur War

Yaron Zilberman, Lior Ashkenazi WestEnd Films & Daniel Kaminsky

EXCLUSIVE: Production is under way on Israel’s biggest-budget TV drama series, Valley Of Tears, we can reveal.

The ambitious, under-the-radar project set against the 1973 Yom Kippur War, stars Israeli mega-star Lior Ashkenazi (Foxtrot) and comes from in-demand Israeli writers Ron Leshem (Euphoria) and Amit Cohen (False Flag).

Directed and co-created by Yaron Zilberman (A Late Quartet), and based on true events, the Hebrew-language, eight-part miniseries shepherded by WestEnd Films depicts the 1973 Yom Kippur War through the eyes of young combatants. It will follow the stories of three individuals swept away by the ravages of war, and culminates in a climactic battle. We understand each episode will cost in the region of $1M.

Valley of Tears stars Footnote and Big Bad Wolves actor Ashkenazi, Aviv Alush (The Shack), Lee Biran, Shahar Tavoch, Joy Rieger and Ofer Hayoun (Euphoria). A handful of Israel’s most prominent novelists reportedly took part in writing the series alongside original Euphoria screenwriter Daniel Amsel.

UK based film sales company WestEnd is handling world distribution rights to the show, which is the first major drama for its recently launched TV arm WeSeries. Producing are WestEnd, Endemol Shine Israel, United King and Israeli public broadcaster KAN.

Crew include DoP Amit Yasur (The Wedding Plan) and art director Nir Alba (The Attack). Shoot got under way last Sunday.

The Yom Kippur War, also known as the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, by a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel. The war took place mostly in Sinai  and the Golan — occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War —with some fighting in African Egypt and northern Israel. Egypt’s initial war objective was to use its military to seize a foothold on the east bank of the Suez Canal and use this to negotiate the return of the rest of Sinai. The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Thousands died in the conflict.

Leshem previously created the Israeli drama Euphoria and is an executive producer on HBO’s English-language adaptation, starring Zendaya. The show was recently re-commissioned for a second season. With Cohen, he wrote and created Israel’s The Gordin Cell which was adapted into the NBC series Allegiance, and the two recently wrote the Syrian Civil War drama Fertile Crescent, which Hulu ordered straight to series.

Leshem is also the author of the war novel Beaufort and wrote the screenplay to Israel’s 2007 Oscar-nominated foreign-language adaptation of the same name. Meanwhile, Cohen created, wrote and executive produced Israeli series False Flag.

Leshem and Cohen said of Valley Of Tears, “This is a universal story about a group of young men, full of life, thrown into the shock of battle and its intoxicating, addictive effects as well as its absurdity. It is also the most dramatic moment in Israel’s history, a chapter never before depicted on television”.

Sharon Harel and Maya Amsellem from WestEnd commented, “Valley Of Tears is the most challenging production ever made in Israel. It’s a result of 10 years of development with our partner Moshe Edery of United King, and its success might open the door to a new phase and a new, highly cinematic standard of international production value coming out of the country. Above all, these are extremely emotional, captivating stories that show humans at war in a way never seen before”.

WestEnd will be selling the drama at upcoming TV and film markets.

In addition to Valley of Tears, and under the same series arm WeSeries, WestEnd is also developing another thriller-drama with writers Leshem and Cohen called Blind (previously The Traitor), set to shoot later this year.

The company’s current movie sales slate includes TIFF special presentations opener I Am A Woman, the biopic by Unjoo Moon about Australian singer Helen Reddy starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Danielle Macdonald and Evan Peters; action film Sylvia starring Noomi Rapace; and comedy The Cow, directed by Marc Forster and starring Ewan McGregor.

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