Spanish Jews take the spotlight in ‘Heirs to the Land,’ a Netflix series about the Inquisition – The Forward

(JTA) — The collection “Heirs to the Land” that dropped on Netflix final month appears, at first look, like simply one other installment within the fast-growing style of Spanish interval dramas.

In some methods it’s, that includes the acquainted mixture of romance, violence and a liberal dramatization of key historic occasions in medieval Spain which have made worldwide hits out of a number of latest Spanish productions resembling “Isabel” and “El Cid.”

But “Heirs to the Land” additionally takes a deep dive into what it meant to reside as a Jew in Spain on the time, when the strictly Catholic nation started its descent into organized persecution of minorities that culminated with the Inquisition.

The collection displays a rising urge for food in Spain for exploring native historical past on the whole, particularly its oft-overlooked Jewish chapters.

“There’s a growing realization in Spain that Sephardic history isn’t about ‘them’ but about ‘us,’” stated David Hatchwell Altaras, a former president of the Jewish Community of Madrid and one of many co-founders of the town’s deliberate Jewish museum.

The present’s creators stated they needed to transcend the dramatic scenes of execution and violence which were typical of Spanish productions dramatizing Sephardic Jewish historical past.

“You have multiple references to the Inquisition and to antisemitism in recent historical production, but I wanted to go beyond and show the texture of life for a Jew in Spain just before the expulsion,” stated government producer Jordi Frades, who is just not Jewish.

Possibly essentially the most closely Jewish manufacturing of its variety in Spain, the 10-episode second season of “Heirs to the Land,” primarily based on a novel by Ildefonso Falcones, follows the lifetime of Hugo Llor, a fictional character born in 14th-century Barcelona.

The movie director Jordi Frades receives the Gaudí award for finest tv movie for “The Cathedral of the Sea” in Barcelona, January 2020. Photo by Pau Venteo/Europa Press through Getty Images


The illiterate son of a cleansing girl, Llor will get into bother with the legislation and finds refuge with a Jewish household that teaches him to turn into a winemaker, ultimately paving his path to the higher echelons of society.

His journey supplies a window into how lots of of 1000’s of Sephardic Jews would have reacted to the tightening noose that ultimately ended their presence as a vibrant neighborhood on the Iberian Peninsula.

Whereas earlier productions in regards to the Inquisition — together with the Netflix collection “The Cathedral of the Sea,” which Frades additionally directed, and the Netflix movie “Coven of Sisters” — depicted Jews briefly and largely as hapless victims, “Heirs to the Land” digs a lot deeper.

It depicts a Jew studying of the bloodbath of Jews in Valencia in 1391 whilst he maintained belief within the authorities and king, who, at the moment, typically intervened to guard Jews from lynchings — however at different occasions ignored or inspired them.

Jucef Crescas, a personality loosely primarily based on the real-life Jewish thinker Hasdai Crescas and his pupil Joseph Albo, adopts exterior Christian customs resembling sporting a cross, and modifications his identify to Raimundo. But he pursues neither Christian nor Jewish theology, devoting himself to science as a substitute.

Another protagonist, Regina Llor, is a Jewish physician who genuinely needs to transform to achieve the acceptance she has at all times desired and to marry Hugo, the protagonist, who is just not Jewish.

“Above being Jewish, I’m a person. A woman. A physician. I’m tired of being ignored. Of being spat at on the street. Of being humiliated. I’m tired of being Jewish,” Regina, portrayed by well-known Spanish actress Maria Rodríguez Soto, says in a single memorable scene.

Elsewhere, Dolça, a Jewish lady who was Hugo’s old flame, chooses loss of life over conversion. A lynch mob executes her in one of many many gory scenes that earned this collection a mature-audiences score. In an earlier scene, she refers to a non-Jew dismissively as “just a Christian” — an acknowledgement of Jewish isolationism and emotions of superiority.

The execution scene was “the first time that this tragic part of Jewish history has been shown on television” in such a way in Spain, in line with Reconectar, a nonprofit that seeks to attach folks with Sephardic ancestry with Judaism.

The constructing generally known as “The Ungovernable,” which is to turn into the Jewish museum of Madrid, is pictured when it was nonetheless illegally occupied by far-left activists, July 4, 2019. Photo by Eduardo Parra/Europa Press through Getty Images

Relying on a number of consultants and specialists on Sephardic historical past, the present additionally makes an attempt to discover realistically how non-Jews handled Jews again then. Even the noble and brave protagonist, portrayed by celebrity Yon González, says at one level about his estranged spouse, who had transformed mainly to have the ability to marry him: “I wish that damned Jewess had stayed out of my life.”

There’s additionally an try and seize Jewish communities {and professional} circles on the time, starting from Jewish docs performing abortions on Christian ladies (enabled by Judaism’s extra permissive stance on ending pregnancies) to the manufacturing of kosher wine solely with Jewish labor, as mandated by Jewish legislation.

(There are additionally a number of slip-ups, like a number of scenes by which supposedly religious Jews publicly say “Jehovah” — a severe no-no of their circles.)

Frades stated the brand new collection makes an attempt to do for the Inquisition what “Schindler’s List” has completed for the Holocaust.

“I must admit that I’ve found some references for explaining what happened in that period in what you can see in ‘Schindler’s List,’” he stated.

The reception of “Heirs to the Land” has been good, Frades stated. Since dropping on April 15, the collection has cracked the listing of Netflix’s top-10 most considered reveals in 50 nations, together with Israel and France, he stated, citing info offered to him by Netflix.

“It’s amazing to me because there has been so little active promotion and the series was done on such a small budget,” Frades stated. He declined to reveal the finances however did say that “it’s a lot less than what ‘Game of Thrones’ paid for catering.”

Hatchwell, the co-founder of the Madrid Jewish museum, is just not stunned by the viewers curiosity within the collection.

The 2013 legislation handed in Spain giving citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews has “placed a spotlight on the Inquisition,” Hatchwell stated. Portugal additionally handed such a legislation in 2013. Tens of 1000’s of descendants of Sephardic Jews have turn into naturalized in each nations below these legal guidelines.

The authorities’s promotion of Jewish heritage websites may additionally be fueling curiosity within the present, he added.

“There’s a growing realization that Sephardic heritage is Spanish heritage,” Hatchwell stated, citing a 2008 research by which Sephardic genes have been noticed in about 20% of about 1,000 Spanish males examined.

A taboo in Spain till the loss of life in 1975 of the pro-Fascist dictator Francisco Franco, the research of Jewish ancestry in Spain has been facilitated by the arrival of the web and social media.

To Hatchwell, the present curiosity within the Inquisition is a part of a broader curiosity in historical past in a second when Spain is “experiencing an identity issue,” fueled by tensions round separatism in Catalonia and crises round Basque nationalism.

The emergence of Jewish themes in Spanish standard tradition is probably a boon for teams like Reconoctar, which try and construct bridges between the descendants of Sephardic Jews and the Jewish world.

“It’s popularizing an important period in history that has not been fully discussed because of historical circumstances,” stated Ashley Perry (Perez), Reconectar’s president. This pattern advantages a number of initiatives, together with the digitization of Inquisition-era information for genealogical analysis and getting Spain to affix Portugal in establishing a nationwide day of remembrance for the victims of the Inquisition.

The politics are of little curiosity to Frades, who stated his motivations are purely about storytelling.

“It’s about breaking down a big political narrative, a statistic, to individual stories,” he stated.

“There’s a Jewish saying about saving the world by saving one person,” Frades added. “Well, in the same vein: If you tell one person’s story, you’re telling the story of a whole world.”

The publish Spanish Jews take the highlight in ‘Heirs to the Land,’ a Netflix collection in regards to the Inquisition first appeared on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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