'Homeland' as a Telenovela? Mexico's Take Among Several Foreign Versions in the Works

Joe Alblas/SHOWTIME; Courtesy of WeiT Media

Russia and Turkey also are putting their own twist on the Israeli format 'Prisoners of War'

This story first appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

As U.S. Homeland fans await the Oct. 5 return of the Showtime Emmy winner, broadcasters around the world are putting their own twist on the show.

Mexican network Televisa has signed a deal with format owner Keshet International to adapt the original Israeli series, Prisoners of War, as a 70-episode telenovela for the Spanish-language market. RTI Colombia will produce and Televisa will air the show in Mexico. Univision has picked up rights in the U.S. for its Spanish-language network UniMas.

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This Hispanic Homeland is only the latest foreign adaptation of the series that Gideon Raff created for Israeli TV in 2009. Since then, the show has become Israel's most successful drama. Already in the works are versions in Russia (with Moscow-based producers WeiT Media), Turkey (with Medyapim) and South Korea (Star J). Raff hints that more are on the way. "The success of Homeland, the first POW adaptation, sparked interest in the original show and brought a lot more people to the table," says Raff. "We are working on contracts [for local adaptations] all over the world, for a lot of surprising places."

For every version of Homeland, the core story remains the same: a soldier, held hostage for years, returns home as his family and government wonder if he's been turned by the enemy. "That's the one-liner plot pitch; it's very high-concept and easy to explain," says Keshet International's Alon Shtruzman, who negotiates deals for new POW adaptations."It can work in any country with a conflict. And every country, except maybe Switzerland or Holland, is in a fight with someone."

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What differs from country to country is what Raff calls "the cultural minutiae." In Russia, Nicholas Brody is marine major Alexey Bragin (Vladimir Mashkov), rescued from Islamic extremists. The Turkish version shifts the focus to a majority Muslim country. South Korea sets the conflict along the demilitarized zone as a South Korean soldier (Kim Nam-gil), captured by al-Qaida, is handed over to the North. "The conflict on the Korean Peninsula goes back further and even deeper than the one explored in Homeland," says producer Teddy Zee.

Raff takes a hands-off approach. "I don't know enough about Russia or Korea," he says. Instead, he's counting on producers to follow the Homeland lead: Start close to the original, then make it your own. "The first season of Homeland was extremely close to POW — some scripts were practically word-for-word," says Raff. Then Showtime took it in a new direction. "That's what I'm hoping for with these other versions."