Antarctica, the explicit Israeli queer film recently released on DVD in Australia, represents something of a landmark in Israeli cinema — never before have that country’s audiences seen a homegrown, sexed-up gay love story on their screens.
Producer Eitan Rueven said that making Israel’s first queer romantic comedy — the story of 30-year-old Omer, a gay man trying to get off the one-night-stand conveyer belt and find true love — was not an easy process.
“Most Israeli films involve political issues to gain funding from investors, as the success of [politica] movies is astronomical,” Reuven told Sydney Star Observer.
“When you try to create any other genre, especially when it’s a gay-themed film, no one wants to support it. When everyone told us this [film] is a loser for sure, we still believed and pushed hard to make it happen and eventually we did it. The film was sold to 16 countries and has won four prizes,” Rueven said.
While Rueven is straight, most of his friends in the entertainment industry — including many of the crew and actors in Antarctica — are gay. He said life for them in Tel Aviv is becoming more open, but is still fraught with danger.
“In the centre of Israel and especially in Tel Aviv, the gay community is big, wide open and out of the closet. It’s a very liberal city. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have problems — just last month a masked person entered a gay community shelter and shot and killed two people.”
While Rueven has been thrilled by the positive feedback from queer Israeli audiences, he’s also had problems getting the film seen in Israel.
“Some theatres refused to screen the film since they didn’t want straight audiences to watch it by accident due to its confusing name,” he said.
But Rueven also said more conservative elements in Israel had been surprisingly quiet about the film’s release.
“When Shortbus was released, there was a lot of criticism around screening a film that had full nudity… We had similar scenes, but the Orthodox didn’t care. They understood that any criticism and opposition would just create the opposite outcome — free advertising for us.”
The film has been an easier sell for overseas audiences, something Rueven said he had always intended.
“We did plan to have the film viewed internationally, and we added more erotic scenes than we had planned originally, as we understood from distributors worldwide that this is a big help for any LGBT film,” he said.
“We didn’t think about the Israeli audience at all. Our main goal was to have it viewed in the USA and Europe, but we never thought Antarctica would be viewed in Australia and we are very happy with this.”
info: Antarctica is out now through Beyond Entertainment.

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