Documentary 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life,' Winner of Israel's Equivalent of Oscars, Screens This Month in New York and DC
Film by Tomer Heymann tells story of 'one of the world’s most successful gay porn stars'
Tomer Heymann's explicit documentary Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life, about the spiritual and emotional crisis of a famed gay porn star, will screen in New York and Washington DC later this month, fresh from victory at Israel's equivalent of the Academy Awards.
The film is scheduled to play the NewFest LGBTQ Film Festival in Manhattan on Thursday, October 24, followed by a screening Saturday, October 26 at the Reel Affirmations Film Festival in the nation's capital.
Jonathan Agassi, winner of Best Documentary at the Awards of the Israeli Film Academy last month, has earned a place at major festivals in cities across the world, including Istanbul, Chicago, Los Angeles, Amsterdam (IDFA), Stockholm, Helsinki and Barcelona. In addition to the Israeli Oscar, the film won Best Documentary at the Atlanta Film Festival and Best Israeli Documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It was nominated for Best Documentary at IDFA.
It's the opposite of Hollywood, this movie. It's the dark side of Hollywood, in some way. It's the backstage of the sex industry.
The documentary paints an intimate and complex psychological portrait of Agassi, who leveraged good looks, a potent libido and deep-seated need for attention into a successful porn career. But the charm of being a porn star began to wear thin for Agassi as a fundamental sense of brokenness crept into his life.
When I spoke with Heymann in Los Angeles this summer, he described Agassi's reaction when he proposed doing a documentary about him.
"Jonathan said, 'You're going to make a Hollywood movie about my life,'" Heymann recalls, noting that's by no means what happened. "It's the opposite of Hollywood, this movie. It's the dark side of Hollywood, in some way. It's the backstage of the sex industry."
Having seen the film, I can tell you it's a remarkably nuanced and moving examination not only of Agassi but his adoring mother and disengaged father, whose lack of interest in Jonathan as a boy hints at what drove Agassi as an adult.
The director avoids telling viewers how to feel about any of the principal characters.
"I work hard for this, not to come from judgment," he told me. "I think it's very easy to come from the moral aspect. 'I'm a better person, I judge you' -- you don't get it in the movie... Also about the mother and the father, I'm not in the position to judge them."
Watch the trailer below:
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.