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August 03, 2018

Jonathan Agassi: Israeli Documentary Probes Gay Porn Star's Life

A new movie by an acclaimed Israeli brother duo of documentary filmmakers that takes an intimate look at the last eight years in both the personal and professional lives of gay porn star Jonathan Agassi opened to acclaim on Monday at the 35th annual Jersusalem Film Festival—and that film, Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life by Tomer and Barak Heymann, immediately scored an international sales deal from Vienna-based sales agent Autolook Filmsales, according to the movie news site Screen Daily. That means the film may soon be showing in Europe and the United States. But for now, the next scheduled screening is an encore showing on August 5 at the Jerusalem festival. The Israeli-born Agassi, who can be seen in such titles as Trapped in the Game, Hard and Wet, and Chris Crocker’s Raw Love, was unusually open with filmmaker Tomer Heymann, who directed Saved My Life while his brother served as producer, revealing his early years as “an effeminate young boy experiencing a tough childhood in a Tel Aviv suburb, through his rise to becoming a global figure in the sex industry,” Screen Daily reported. But the powerful relationship at the center of Agassi’s life is the tumultuous one he shares with his mother. In a statement, Autolook, which also represented a previous Heymann Brothers documentary Who’s Gonna Love Me Now, described the new film as a “complex Oedipus-like family story that will speak to a global audience.” Tomer Heymann told Screen Daily that when he first met Agassi, he had no idea that he had just encountered a gay porn star. “He was charismatic, sexy, beautiful,” Heymann told the site. “My friends told me I was crazy because I didn’t know that he was a hugely famous porn star. I Googled him and I learned he was everywhere.” Agassi was initially uninterested in appearing in a film. According to Heymann, the gay porn star had recently nixed a paycheck of about $140,000 to appear in the Israeli edition of the reality show Big Brother. But when Heymann told hm that the brothers’ policy was never to pay their documentary subjects, Agassi began to warm to the idea. But there  was still one obstacle: Agassi’s mother, who had vowed never to discuss her son’s career in sex work. If Heymann could persuade Agassi’s mom to appear in the movie, Agassi would give the green light. “He gave me his mother’s number and we met for a coffee. It took me time to convince her but we built trust over weeks and months and eventually she told me she trusted me to do the film,” Tomer Heymann told Screen Daily. The filmmaker calls Agassi “a symbol for this generation. He is young, gay and has the freedom and the luck to have any fantasies he wants without being in the closet.” The brothers are preparing two cuts of the film for global release: one depicting Agassi’s work in porn films in explicit, uncensored detail, the other without graphic sex. But the explicit version is the one that screened in Jerusalem. “Noa Regev [the Jersualem festival’s executive director] is a very brave woman,” Heymann said. “She’s standing behind it, but she might get a lot of tension and feedback about this choice.” Photo by Enrique Lin/Flickr Creative Commons 

 
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