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Documentary explores homosexuality in Israel

By Dana Trismen

Section: Arts

November 11, 2011

The 45-minute documentary “Mom and Dad: I Have Something to Tell You”—shown as part of “Out in Israel Month”—has something to say not only to parents of gay children in Israel, but to all people in every country.

The documentary was presented at a screening this past Monday at the Wasserman Cinematheque on campus and was sponsored by both the Schusterman Center for Israeli Studies and Brandeis’ Film Television and Interactive Media Department. “Mom and Dad: I Have Something to Tell You” reveals the hardships of being out of the closet in Israel.

Assi Azar, the creator of the film and a well-known Israeli TV personality, starring on Israel’s version of “Big Brother,” was present at the screening. He prefaced the film by explaining his hopes that it would help others in Israel come out to their parents like he did. He also mentioned the tension that exists from being gay in Israel, a country that holds religion in great importance. Azar is trying to show that being gay in a religious country is possible and that there are other forms of reaction than hate.

The documentary itself used multiple perspectives to discuss what being gay and coming out in Israel was really about. Sometimes the film focused on Azar and his personal experience coming out to his parents. There were also interviews with other gay Israeli celebrities who discussed their own experiences.

The movie also detailed Azar traveling to people’s homes in Israel to discuss with parents and their gay children their feelings on coming out. There were different reactions here: Some parents were totally accepting; other parents admitted they would no longer speak to their children.

Though it served the purpose of the documentary, I felt this section was a personal journey for Azar himself. He seemed to be seeking information about how other parents reacted as a sort of soothing exercise to calm his own feelings about coming out. I felt as though by hearing other parents’ reactions and how other homosexual children had handled their family’s tension, Azar was able to come to terms with how his parents, for the most part, now accept him as gay. The camera angles here caused me to believe this. It would show Azar walking up the stairs and knocking on peoples’ doors, as if he had a physical quest to complete and could only accomplish it by traveling around with a video camera.

What was the most prominent reaction to coming out in a place like Israel? Though many parents insisted they still loved their son or daughter, most did not fully accept the gay label. Many of the parents seemed to be trying to turn their child straight or insisted that it was just a phase. Many of the interviewed also discussed battling the stereotypes of being gay. Azar said when he told his parents, his mother just pictured him never having children, instead constantly attending half-naked parties in an altered state.

This isn’t the lifestyle Azar leads but he is forced to live with the implications of the stereotype every day. Many of the parents seemed unable to think beyond the sexual act itself, claiming it made them sick just thinking about it. One mother told her son it would have been better to see him badly hurt in a car accident than to have to hear he was being sexually active with another man. Many of the children in the interviews were upset with their parents for not noticing they were gay; many of them had acted and felt different from others since childhood. Azar mentions this probably stems from the parents’ denial.

I thoroughly enjoyed this screening and was a little upset that not more people were in attendance. Because of the screening time (during classes at noon), the location (the edge of campus) and inadequate publicity, there were very few people in the audience. Those who were present were mainly professors or graduate students. This is a very important topic. It is not just about coming out in Israel; it can transcend and apply to coming out in America.

One interviewee told a story of how he had been attacked while at a gay youth club in Israel. When he called his father to tell him he was going into surgery, his father refused to come visit him, telling him he was disowned. The interviewee said he felt as if he had been shot twice that day—once physically and once by his father’s words. He heartbreakingly reminded viewers that his father should “wake up—I’m his son.”

This is the message that everybody should take away from this documentary: It is a wake up call to the world to be more accepting of those who are gay.

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