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The hidden history of the negotiations that led to the Oslo Peace Accords is told in Oslo, an Emmy Award nominee for outstanding television movie. Bartlett Sher’s adaptation of J.T. Rogers’ Tony Award-winning play traces the true story of how two married Norwegian diplomats, Mona Juul and Terje Rød-Larsen — played by Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott — used their connections at the Foreign Ministry and in the Middle East to set up secret back-channel negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the neutral ground of the Norwegian capital.
Against all odds, the enemies found common ground and the talks led to the landmark agreement in which the two implacable adversaries recognized each other’s legitimacy for the first time. The hope represented by the handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat, at the Rose Garden in front of Bill Clinton in 1993, would be shattered as violence erupted again in 2000 with the Second Intifada. The Oslo Peace Accords still represent the closest the two sides in the Gaza conflict have ever come to lasting peace. The film features an ensemble cast including Salim Dau, Dov Glickman, Itzik Cohen, and Jeff Wilbusch. The music was composed by Jeff Russo and Zoë Keating.
As recounted to THR Presents, powered by Vision Media, Sher shares how she met Juul and Rød-Larsen on the school playground (their daughters were best friends) and introduced them to Rogers, who first turned their story into a Broadway play in 2016. The recent eruption of conflict between Israel and Palestine makes the film seems particularly timely, though Sher notes that the story seems to reflect the current political moment overall.
“When we first did the play in 2016, anybody who came to see it on the Upper West Side in New York City thought it was about Republicans and Democrats,” Sher recalls. “When we did it at the National Theater in London, all people talked about was Brexit, about things that were dividing, things were separating people.”
For Ruth Wilson, Mona Juul’s story is not only that of an “idealist” who has a “desire to change the world and do good and at great cost and great risk,” but also that of a “woman who has to keep stepping over and breaking her own boundaries in order to make great change.”The film was the first time she had major screen time with Andrew Scott—who she’s known for years. “It was a really lovely opportunity to actually work with him properly,” says Wilson, “and find a dynamic of husband and wife [with me] stealing his drinks, keeping a tight leash on him all the way through the film. It was fun to find that sort of emotional side [to this political story].
“Glickman, the Israeli actor who plays Yair Hirschfeld, one of the main negotiators in the film, notes that the story of the Oslo Accords is well known in Israel — “nothing is new in Israel,” he jokes, “everything is extremely old.” But he sees hope in the story of Oslo, particularly in the way it is told in the film, from the perspective of the human beings who, at great personal risk, sat across a table from one another and tried to make peace.”
The Israeli negotiators were risking fall of the Israeli government, on the Palestinian side they were risking being killed,” notes Rogers. “To sit across the table from your enemy and have the courage to have that conversation and to see the enemy as a human being–that [was the thing] I found so moving.”Now, notes Glickman, all the region needs is a sequel. “They should maybe do it before, make a movie about the success of the next peace process,” he says. “And then maybe the reality will imitate the movie.”
This edition of THR Presents was sponsored by HBO.
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