Actress Roda Canioglu — who speaks French, Turkish and Kurdish — is among the international cast of Hulu’s No Man’s Land.
It took a team of producers from Israel, Morocco, France, Belgium and the U.S. to make Hulu's suspense series No Man's Land, which explores the Syrian civil war through the eyes of a young Frenchman searching for his sister.
While investigating her disappearance, he joins forces with Kurdish female fighters, who are ISIS's biggest nightmare.
"ISIS soldiers think they will go to heaven and get 72 virgins if they kill people — unless they are killed by a woman," explains Maria Feldman, a cocreator and executive producer of the series. "Then there is no heaven, no virgins. They are simply dead. When they see these women fighters in their colorful headscarves, many ISIS soldiers freak out and run away."
Feldman says she got the idea for the show while watching a news report about women fighters in the YPJ, a largely Kurdish, all-female group also known as the Women's Protection Units.
Shot in Belgium, Paris and Morocco, the eight-episode series employed crew from six countries and cast members from 10 nations. Six languages — English, French, Kurdish, Arabic, Farsi and Turkish — are spoken in the show. Subtitles abound.
Feldman calls this the most challenging international show she's produced, due in part to numerous cultural differences. For example, she says, the Israelis were used to filming scenes quickly with small crews, while the French were accustomed to a cinematic approach, with longer shoot times. The Moroccans were the most adaptable, she notes, often helping to bridge differences.
Production continued as U.S. troops were withdrawing from Kurdistan in October 2019. Emotions ran high. "We all wanted the show to be the best it could be," Feldman says. "We had Syrians, Kurdish and ISIS consultants on set to make sure the story rang true."
Feldman, who grew up in the former Soviet Union, immigrated to Israel as a teenager and graduated from film school before starting her own company, Masha Productions.
She cocreated and produced the Israeli series False Flag, which sold to more than 150 countries and streams on Hulu. She was also an executive producer of the popular Israeli action series Fauda, streaming on Netflix, and of the drama series Absentia, available on Amazon Prime.
In decades past, she says, international producers dreamed of getting American remakes of their shows. But with the advent of streaming services and their international audiences, demand has grown for shows that appeal worldwide. Shooting on No Man's Land, which debuts November 18, wrapped in November 2019.
"Before Covid, the world had never felt so open," Feldman recalls. "Now it feels so different. We brought in actors from everywhere for the show. I don't know when that will happen again."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 11, 2020