TV: Two Worthwhile Series by Hugo Blick

From left, Eve Best, Tobias Menzies, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Genevieve O’Reilly in “The Honorable Woman.” Robert Viglasky/Sundance TV

Hugo Blick, is an English writer, producer, director and occasional actor. I’m familiar with his writing and directing of two TV series in which two different genocides figure prominently.

‘The Honourable Woman’

The principal character in The Honourable Woman is Nessa Stein an Anglo-Jewish businesswoman ably portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Stein’s mother died in childbirth. Her father was murdered in front of her eyes at a tender age by the PLO. She also lost most of her family in the Holocaust. The scars of these traumas show up in a series filled with intrigue.

I had to watch this eight-part series more than once to get all the details. I enjoyed every minute. And the sets and the atmosphere are wonderful. Although Gyllenhaal is an American, she manages a very convincing British accent.

Gyllenhaal won a Golden Globe Award for her performance, and the series was awarded a Peabody Award in 2015. The The New York Times called Gyllenhaal’s performance remarkable in “playing a principled but conflicted woman whose quicksilver personality alters from hour to hour and flashback to flash-forward.”

‘Black Earth Rising’

Black Earth Rising tackles the Rwandan genocide, a mass slaughter of Tutsi, Twa, and moderate Hutu in Rwanda, which took place between April 7 and July 15, 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War. On the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said that the “failure to act to prevent [this] genocide extracted an enormous human toll, tearing apart families and entire communities.”

In Black Earth Rising, Michaela Coel portrays Kate Ashby, a Rwandan who, as a little girl, was rescued from the 1994 genocide by human rights lawyer Eve Ashby who adopted her and raised her in London. Blick again focuses on an orphan subjected to trauma.

NPR said that despite the flaws of this eight-part series “Coel plays Kate with such incandescent intensity that she keeps us riveted anyway. In fact, the whole series is superbly acted.”

The New York Times was less charitable calling the series an “illustrated lecture.” But I think Blick has accomplished far more than that with a challenging and important topic.

The series is available on Netflix in the United States.

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