By K.J. Yossman for Variety
Leonard Cohen’s 1973 visit to the frontlines of the Yom Kippur war is set to be dramatized in a new limited TV series from Keshet International and Sixty-Six Media.
“Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai” is an adaptation of Matti Friedman’s book of the same name, which tells the story of Cohen’s 1973 concert on the frontlines of war.
“In October 1973 the poet and singer Leonard Cohen – 39 years old, famous, unhappy, and at a creative dead end – traveled to the Sinai desert and inserted himself into the chaos and blood of the Yom Kippur War,” reads the logline. “Moving around the front with a guitar and a pick-up team of local musicians, Cohen dived headlong into a global crisis and met hundreds of fighting men and women at the worst moment of their lives. Cohen’s audience knew his songs might be the last thing they heard, and those who survived never forgot the experience. The war tour was an electric cultural moment, one that still echoes today, – but a moment that only few knew about, until now.”
Cohen’s trip was followed not long after by his album “New Skin for the Old Ceremony,” in which he referenced the war, including “Lover, Lover, Lover,” written at an Israeli air force base during fighting, and “Who by Fire,” which is inspired by a Yom Kippur prayer about human mortality. (The song was recently covered by PJ Harvey and used as the title track to Apple TV+ show “Bad Sisters.”)
The series, which is set to shoot in Israel in 2024, will be written by Yehonatan Indursky (“Shtisel”) and executive produced by Sixty-Six Media’s Jill Offman, who brought the project to Keshet.
KI’s Atar Dekel and Keshet Broadcasting’s Yuval Horowitz will also EP.
“As a life-long Leonard Cohen fan, I loved Matti Friedman’s brilliant book from the moment I read it,” said Offman. “With Yehonatan at the helm and with my partners at Keshet, I am very much looking to bringing this his extraordinary story to the screen. I set up Sixty-Six Media looking for undiscovered international stories with universal resonance and it’s an honour to have this as our first project.”