A FIGHT has been on between Australia’s biggest film festivals to get their hands on a heart wrenching Israeli documentary about a gay man who has been shunned by his family.

AICE Israeli Film Festival festival director Richard Moore beat out some stiff competition to win the rights to screen Who’s Gonna Love Me Now at this year’s festival in September.

Shot over five years, the film follows the journey of Saar, an Israeli man living with HIV who escapes his Orthodox Jewish family in Israel to move to London and eventually reconciles with his conservative family through many tears and turmoil.

Having won a Panorama Audience Award for Best Documentary at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, Moore knew he had to have Who’s Gonna Love Me Now for the AICE Israeli Film Festival – now in its 13th year.

“I chased this one hard, against all the opposition from the other film festivals from across Australia” he said.

“They were really after it, and I said ‘they can’t have it’.

“There’s a strong LGBTI audience at the Israeli Film Festival and I knew it was a good film. I know Barak and Tomer (directors) and I respect what they do.”

The documentary mixes humour and heartbreak to tell Saar’s story and the filmmakers, brothers Barak and Tomer Heymann, are granted intimate access into the family’s lives.

The team behind Mr Gaga – which has just been nominated for a European Film Academy Award – only ever make films about people they know and who trust them with their stories, granting them full access to their lives.

Barak Heymann told Star Observer he did not feel any pressure telling such a personal story.

“Throughout this whole filmamking process there was very deep trust, which we build slowly,” he said.

We don’t make films without good feelings towards them, the people we work with. You can’t spend days and nights shooting and editing if you don’t feel right. If you don’t love and respect them, you won’t show faith to them in the film.”

Heymann explained Israel exists in contradictions, with major city Tel Aviv being an open, liberal and LGBTI-friendly place but many orthodox Jewish Israelis are homophobic and the country has suffered many violent attacks against LGBTI people.

“Israel is a funny place in, it’s truly very liberal and open. It’s heaven for gays and lesbians in Tel Aviv. You can find many women with women, trans people, people from all kinds of gender,” Barak said.

“At the same time it’s very conservative, but you can say that about Israel in general.”

He said along with his brother Tomer, they were shocked at the homophobic beliefs of Saar’s family they encountered when they were filming the documentary, but the brothers don’t shy away from talking about tough subjects.

“When we met this family for the first time, we were shocked by the conflicting values and diverse energies,” he said.

“They were very close and caring, and so distant and in so much pain to open their hearts to talk about the most personal thing. We were very moved by the story and the (Saar’s) need and wish to be back in the arms of the people who were hurting him and rejecting him.”

AICE Israeli Film Festival at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova from September 14 – 25 and for the first time at the Sydney’s Ritz Cinema from September 15 – 25


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