JERSUSALEM — The documentary “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life” has been awarded the Best Israeli Documentary Film prize from the recently concluded Jerusalem Film Festival.
Director Tomer Heymann’s film was chosen “due to its powerful main character and narrative that reflects society’s complexity,” the festival said. “A rare and intimate look at the world of porn and escorting, as well as a unique mother and son relationship, redefining familiar family norms.”
Heymann has described Agassi as “the biggest porn star to ever have come out of Israel.”
He told Screen Daily a chance encounter with Agassi in Tel Avi piqued his interest in the performer. “He was charismatic, sexy, beautiful. My friends told me I was crazy because I didn’t know that he was a hugely famous porn star,” he said. “I Googled him and I learned he was everywhere.”
The two eventually met in Berlin. “I came to meet him in a hotel and it was strange — after a minute I realized he thought I was trying to have sex with him,” Heymann recalls. “I told him it was a different offer, so he went back to his room, dressed, and asked me what I wanted.”
Agassi revealed he’d just turned down a lucrative offer to appear on the Israeli version of the “Big Brother” reality television show. He agreed to collaborate with Heymann under one strict condition: the filmmaker had to convince Agassi’s mother to participate in the film.
“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,” reveals Heymann.
The film follows Agassi over an eight-year period and examines his life from childhood to the present day. “Jonathan is a symbol for this generation,” the director said. “He is young, gay and has the freedom and the luck to have any fantasies he wants without being in the closet.”
An alternate edit of the film contains explicit footage from Agassi’s adult oeuvre. Both versions are being “tweaked” for further festival screenings. Heymann praised the Jerusalem Film Festival for choosing the spotlight his film in what he describes as a “conservative political climate.”
For the festival prize announcement, click here.
Click here to read the entire interview with Heymann at Screen Daily.
Ahead of its world premiere at the Jerusalem Film Festival, Vienna-based Autlook Filmsales snapped up the doc for worldwide representation. Click here for that story.
Heymann Films is on Twitter here.
Image source: Agassi Instagram