Jonathan Agassi was the most famous, extravagant and celebrated porn star of the ‘80s and now his life is coming to the big screen in the most honest and uncensored way. With “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life”, director Tomer Heymann (“Mr. Gaga”, “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?”) shows us the man behind the sexual dances, raunchy porn and steamy parties.
We caught up with Heymann to talk about his edgy documentary, his friendship with Agassi and documentary making. This is the second part of our interview. Read the first part here.
Liselotte Vanophem: If you now look back to that whole journey and documentary, what’s the moment that will stick with you forever?
Tomer Heymann: What I think is one of the most emotional and important moments in the movie and one that will stick with me forever is the moment Jonathan meets his father. When they see each other out on the street in Berlin something inside Jonathan breaks and this something is a key moment in the understanding of Jonathan’s vulnerability. Seeing his dad hold the hand of his young daughter brings great feeling of betrayal and loneliness in Jonathan who feels a hole open inside him. This hole he tried to fill in with sex, fame and drugs but their abuse and this specific moment of witnessing his dad care and support another kid, break Jonathan and bring him great pain. He was heartbroken…it was such an intense and sad moment.
LV: Did Agassi already see this documentary?
TH: Jonathan and his mother Anna were very involved in making the movie, not only in front of the camera, but also in the editing room. They helped decide what to include and what not and I think it was very important, especially for Jonathan, to see himself in all the different states and situations. Anna was happy that all the shocking scenes were exposed because Jonathan had to see himself in these moments and reflect. When he saw the final version for the first time he was so overwhelmed that he cried…
The movie has been traveling around the world visiting many different festivals and cinema halls and Jonathan also travels with it and attends Q&A session as well. He treats it like a mission, he meets audiences and gay communities around the world and shares his life story now with a clear perspective and awareness of all he went through.
LV: Are you still in touch with him?
TH: Yes, I’m. have been friends for more than eight years and I care for him very much. We went through so much together and shared many memories and intense emotions. I have seen him in good and in bad, in depression, happiness, in fear and through it all, in love. Even though the movie is quite dark, I hope you can still see the love I have for Jonathan and Anna, and the love they have for one another.
LV: What do you hope that the reaction of the audience will be after watching this documentary?
TH: There is definitely a ‘shock value’ for most audiences. This movie is hard to watch and it brings with it a lot of eccentric, explicit, sensual and emotional weight. It is ‘in your face’ and it can be too much to handle. What I want the audience to consider is not only the porn and drugs world that overwhelm and expose. This movie is about an intimate look into a unique person with a unique life, it is about the relationship between a mother and her son who courageously redefine family concepts. It is about a lonely person who seeks love and meaning but is drawn into a destructive lifestyle that reveals the dark reality of his extreme fantasies that mask a great denial. It is real and it is about life.
It was very important for me to show the real life of Jonathan Agassi, not to pretend and not to hide anything. Getting rid of this double standard that some things don’t have to be shared and that should be hidden. There is no judgement, there is no shame, no pretending, the movie opens a door to Jonathan’s world, what’s more, it gets rid of the door. It is fearless and real and people shouldn’t be afraid to face it.
LV: Where did your passion for documentary making actually come from?
TH: There is not one answer to this. My relationship with documentary making is something very elemental, it is like an extension of my being. From a young age I had this drive to record everything. I was always excited and curious to peek through my camera eye and capture life around me. I was filming and filming and it gave me a great thrill although I didn’t know what exactly I was going to do with all the footage. My family and my own life were central to the angle my camera took. With time I discovered my own style and language of documentary filmmaking and I believe now I have become more aware of what I want to convey with my movies.
I don’t really choose my subjects, they choose me and drag me into the field where I can explore their lives, their thoughts and feelings, their stories and memories and where I can take part in those. I am present in many of my films and I always make sure I retell the emotions and experiences I myself had while filming. I realized I wanted to share this with the audience and have the audience join me in all the situations and emotions. Over the years I’ve come to understand more clearly that this shared process makes the films more alive and more interesting, it intensifies the experience. This is also what happened in “Jonathan Agassi Saved my Life”. The title itself hides so much of this idea.
LV: Do you already have more projects coming up?
TH: Right now I am still busy and occupied with “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life”. I travel with Jonathan and the movie and we take part in different festivals and talks. We will hopefully arrive to New York soon, later also Paris. We still screen across Israel and part of our target is to reach different audiences and try and initiate conversations and debates that can break all the taboos the movie touches upon.
I have also started working on a new project (“I Am Not”) about a boy called Oren who has Asperger’s syndrome. It is a very interesting and touching story about a boy who moves from Guatemala to Jerusalem and who goes through the challenges of fitting in, finding his place and being true to himself, about family and support.