New Israeli Gay Film—a Prizewinner
I have just received word about a new Israeli prizewinning film, “V’ahavta”. This sounds like a film that we are all going to want to see. Directed by student director, Chaim Album, it depicts the struggle endured by an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva (a school devoted to the study of sacred texts) student who is forced to sublimate his homosexual tendencies in a society that is by and large intolerant. He ultimately comes to understand that to struggle is useless and accepts himself as a gay religious man and makes peace with his creator and himself.
From what I have read, “V’ahavta” mirrors the filmmaker’s own life. The significance of the title is something many will think about. The word “v’ahavta” means “and you shall love.” It is also the word that starts one of the prayers that religious Jews utter everyday, “And you shall love, the Lord, your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.
Album is thrilled to have the award for best feature film made at the Ma’ale film school for two reasons—the nature of the film is controversial and the fact that he was given the chance to make a film that is so close to him. The movie, he says, is deeply personal and intimate. Reflecting on his decision to come out he says that midway through his studies he decided to either leave the school or make the film. Album stresses the importance of bringing the topic of homosexuality up for discussion in an ultra-Orthodox society because the issue has not been discussed freely.
One of the problems he faced in making the film was that he had no assistance with the production, When he tried to find locations to shoot the film, doors closed quickly and he encountered fear and ignorance about the subject. The film which deals with faith and religion is not sexual but still he was refused help wherever he tried. He ultimately had to build all of the film’s locations himself.
Even with many hostile reactions, no one walked out of the film when it was screened. Most told Album that after seeing the film that they felt more tolerant and with more understanding about gay life.