The premise behind Kingdom of David, a joint collaboration between Oregon Public Broadcasting and Washington D.C.-based Devillier Donegan Enterprises, is the story of Judaism’s evolution.
‘From around 1000 BC onwards, the Jews were surrounded by great empires – namely the Babylonians, the Syrians and Egyptians,’ says series executive producer Carl Byker. ‘Initially, they were constantly beaten down by those surrounding empires, but ultimately they would have a massive impact on history. Our ideas of justice, mercy and democracy have their earliest roots in Judaism – especially when it comes to the stories told in 6000 and 7000 BC. When the king takes another man’s wife in the story of King David and Bethsheba, the prophet appears and says, ‘You’ve done wrong, this isn’t acceptable.’ He says this to the king! In other religions of that time period, the king is the religion – he can’t do wrong. So this little desert tribe came up with a unique view of the world. Their philosophy influenced all thoughts in the Western world from that moment onwards.’
Featuring interviews with historians and archaeologists, the 4 x 1-hour series travels to various areas of the Middle East and examines the Jewish faith from 586 BC through 500AD. Shooting is slated to begin in July, with a planned debut in September 2002 on PBS. Approximately US$550,000 has been allocated to each episode. Kingdom of Davidis part of DDE’s Empires series, which includes The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization( coproduced with Atlantic Productions), Napoleon(David Grubin Productions) and Islam: Empire of Faith(Gardner Films).
‘I’m currently thinking about the structure of the four shows,’ says Byker. ‘The series will probably begin with the Jewish people facing obliteration in Babylon. Then it will show how they study their own story and legacy.’ The series will also examine a variety of tales from the Old Testament. Included is the story in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, and God’s appearance to Moses in the form of a burning bush.
Byker anticipates that his massive project will demand extensive and challenging production values. ‘We’ll use helicopters and steadicams, among other elements because all our shots will be moving – something which will heighten the reality. When we visit Morocco, we will use camels and an entire Bedouin tribe when it comes to the stories related to Abraham.’