“Yossi and Jagger”–gay in love in Israel


Gay in Love in Israel

Amos Lassen

Eytan Fox, the Israeli director, scored quite a hit with his first major international film release “Yossi and Jagger”, a movie about two gay Israeli army officers and is based on a true happening. They are stationed in a position on the Israel-Lebanon border. Yossi is the company commander an introvert and a product of the military system while Jagger (named for Mick) is completely open and the friend of all in his company and in the platoon which he commands. They try to find a place where they can be who they are, a place that is a haven against the opposing and oppressing rigid system of military life. Jagger is due to finish his duty to the service soon while Yossi wants to keep their relationship a secret. As they are about to embark on a tremendously dangerous mission, the tensions between the two come close to exploding. The movie is courageous, genuine, real and amusing while still painful, So much more liberal towards gays in the military, Israel represents a wonderful place to these guys (as long as they are not overt). Because of the security risks in the country, all men and women are required to serve and their lives are put on the line.

It is a pity that this movie s so short but in its brevity it still packs quite a wallop. It seems to be a cinematic short story about two soldiers who just happen to be in love. Yossi (Ohad Knoller) is a big and macho male who takes his army career very seriously is the exact opposite of Jagger (Yehuda Levi) who is lighthearted and happy go lucky. They must keep their feelings secret because of the nature of their mission. We see them on a winter day when their special time in a special way is interrupted by the visit of a high ranking officer who orders all of the soldiers to set up an ambush against suspected terrorist invasions from Lebanon. They prepare for their mission without realizing the seriousness of it. Jagger wants Yossi to come out and tensions reach a high level by the time the men undertaken their mission which turns out to be very dangerous. If I were to tell any more I might spoil the beauty of the movie for those of you who have not seen it.

The underlying theme of “Make Love, Not War” really comes to the fore as the movie draws to a close. And the story is all too brief. “Yossi and Jagger” does not fit into any category when attempting to classify the film. It is not really about gays in the military because the military is just the backdrop. It is not really a love story because the love between the two men, although sexual, is innocent.

The film is a day in the life of the Israeli army and shows what hours of boredom and days of fear can do. The movie is not about gay sex, although it is there, but about love and survival. When Jagger begins to make long term plans for himself and Yossi, the tragedy that is to come is slightly foreshadowed.

It is really about two soldiers who find love during war time and does not go into the gay/military issue. Instead it deals with young people who attempt to find a balance in life between their responsibilities to their country and having a life and loving the people they want to love.

The movie was originally made for Israeli TV and clocks in at a short 67 minutes. It is a modest undertaking but is made more meaningful by great writing and above competent acting. Director Fox conveys the atmosphere of army life with rich detail. As “Yossi and Jagger” sits on the fence between sensationalism and pathos, it is an admirable movie and a welcome addition to the canon of gay film as it gives us an effective look at men caught between personal desire and the expectations of society.

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