Hustling in the Holy Land
Aside from becoming one of the countries leading the world in equal rights for gays, Israel has, of late, produced some of the gay movies. We have had “Yossi and Jagger”, “Walk on Water, “The Bubble”, “Paper Dolls”, “Amazing Grace” and “Drifting”. Now we have “Good Boys” (Yeladim Tovim”. It is hard to believe that there are hustlers in the Holy Land and “Good Boys” shows us a seamy, steamy side of Israel. It has been said that we will know that there is a Jewish State when the cops, mailmen and prostitutes are Jewish which is so much the antithesis of what we think of in the States. Yair Hochner gives us a view of the dark side of Tel Aviv in his amazing film.
Meni who is 17 years old dresses himself in the latest styles, loves the movies and music and supports himself by working the streets. He also is a father—Mika, a young drug addicted prostitute is the mother. His adopted mother is also a prostitute and a male to female transgender person. One night, while at work, he meets Tal, another hustler and they end up by deciding to spend the night together. That night their lives change but there is little hope that they can change from the lives they have become used to. When they part the next morning, they decide to meet later that evening at the local club. Until the meeting of the two, they have to deal with clients that neither find particularly appealing. The toe boys are marginalized from society and unexpected events await them both.
The movie has the look of a documentary in its simplicity and candor. Hochner, the director, is able to convey the loneliness of the sexual underworld of the big city and those bonds which are fragile and develop among those who cannot express love. The grittiness of the young and vulnerable lives of the youngsters involved in the sex trade is thrown the screen in all of its grittiness. The movie is both erotic and somewhat raw. But the movie also offers a ray of hope that perhaps the boys will be able to experience love.
The movie is very intense in its rigidity. The events in the film are painful to watch and uncomfortable. It hurts to see young men throwing their lives away. The boys live in a state of torment—wanting love and yet seemingly incapable of it. In fact, I felt that the intensity of the movie dragged me down to the level of the actors who are remarkable in portraying this hopeless lifestyle. You want the boys to break out and fall in love and stop wasting themselves. I felt that they deserved a break and that break was there—if only they would grab hold of it.
As sad as their world is, Hochner manages to convey its validity—at least, its validity for Meni and Tal.
Having lived in Israel for many years and being aware of this going on made the movie that much more important to me. That, of course, does not mean it will be any leas important to anyone who has not been to Israel. Prostitution has been around almost as long as man has walked the earth and many of us know little about it—especially from the gay perspective. “Good Boys” takes us into the lives of male prostitutes and shows us how they live and even though it is not pretty, it is a part of the real world. To see it portrayed in such a well made film allows us to be part of that secret world. It is fascinating to see the way the hustlers think of their tricks but it is also very sad to se lives devoid of meaning. This is one of those must-see films. It is not easy to watch but the rewards are plentiful.