The tangled, complex nature of American foreign policy in the Middle East has proven to be extremely fertile ground for filmmakers over the past few years. FX’s Tyrant is currently exploring the geopolitics of a fictional Middle Eastern nation with shades of Iraq and Afghanistan, The Hurt Locker won an Oscar for tackling the dangerous days of a bomb squad in Iraq and Syriana dealt with issues of oil politics, to name a few of many. Now, AMC is gearing up for its own geopolitical drama by ordering a pilot for White City.
Hailing from co-writers and co-executive producers Nick McDonell, a journalist and novelist who has written about Iraq and Afghanistan for TIME, and John Dempsey, senior advisor on Afghanistan to the late U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, White City is described as “an adventure story set in the somewhat surreal ex-pat world of near-present Afghanistan.” More specifically, the series will center on:
Jon Liston, a war junkie who has spent the better part of the last decade in Kabul with a front-row seat to the carnage. In the pilot, against the advice of everyone from American embassy staffers to tweeting tribal leaders to the French journalist he’s in a relationship with, Jon tragically overreaches in an attempt to talk with insurgent leaders. In the series, Jon must find a new role in Kabul as he attempts to address his guilt, frustration and doubts about whether there is good left for him or any Westerner to do in Afghanistan.
Former Rolling Stone journalist Chris Mundy and Tom Freston, advisor to VICE and the Afghan media corporation MOBY Group, are also exec-producing. With news of the pilot order, Joel Stillerman, AMC’s EVP of original programming, production and digital content, released an official statement, saying:
“This is a story born from a creative team in Chris, John, Nick and Tom that has both an incredibly deep understanding of one of the most misunderstood regions of the world, and a fantastic sense of how to tell a compelling story about the lives of people who are drawn to the world’s hot spots. It’s not a war story, it’s a character story that will tackle some of the most complicated issues of our time.”
While not a war story, the backgrounds of the exec-producers and co-writers suggests to me that the series will definitely tackle questions of so-called “American interests” and what the current role of the U.S. in Afghanistan is doing to both countries. Seeing as Tyrant hasn’t quite succeeded in holding my interest, I’m excited to see White City go forward. The series joins AMC’s upcoming Galyntine and Knifeman, both already in production.