Press review for The Queen Has No Crown

Israeli pride in Turkey: Tomer Heymann guest of honor at the proud film festival in Ankara

Amir Tomer / Mako / Nov 17, 2011

Israeli pride in Turkey: Tomer Heymann guest of honor at the Proud Film Festival in Ankara

Amir Tomer / Mako / Nov 17, 2011

(picture caption): One of the most successful Israeli directors in the world, Tomer Heymann

Guest of Honor at the first Proud Festival in Ankara

Among the many festivals to which he is invited with his touching films, Tomer received an unexpected invitation lately from our Turkish neighbor: to present his films in the first Ankara film festival “Life in Pink”. On the festival’s official website, Heymann’s name appears first, without fear, in the list of activities, including his life story as an Israeli, information about his works and pictures from the various films that will be shown in the festival.

“The organizers in Turkey thought a lot before the opening of the first gay festival in Ankara because of the atmosphere in the country, and they were concerned about showing an Israeli film. After they saw the two films at the Berlin festival they came up to me and asked if I would be the guest of honor”, says Heymann in a conversation from Germany, where he’s participating in a screening of his film at the ExGround Festival. Yes, Heymann doesn’t stop for a moment. He wanders from festival to festival around the world with his films, and creates a dialogue with the crowd that is thirsty for more of his works.

(photo caption): The Heymann Brothers, Tomer and Barak

Heymann is one of the most fertile documentarists that we have in Israel, and certainly one of the most significant in the proud community. Heymann maintains a steady rhythm of almost a movie per year, and in his movies, you can find an authentic mosaic of the life of the LGBT community in Israel.

Despite the tension between the countries, and maybe even the anger that exists between the nations, Heymann explains his decision to attend the festival in person. “The existence of the festival and the discussion with the audience is not only for entertainment purposes, it’s for a basic reason of being uncompromising and of understanding why it’s important that all the communities in the world unite and understand the relation between the various oppressions”.

Heymann highlights the importance of his participation in the festival. “There’s a chance for this struggle to succeed and in Turkey there’s a real existential struggle of the proud community”, he says. “It’s important to me to be there and to support it, especially because it’s coming from the initial underground place that I know from my own life. A few years ago in Tel Aviv, the revolution succeeded a lot because of brave and persistent people. In addition it was also personally important for me to come and show that governments don’t necessarily represent all the citizens and that there can be a personal connection despite politics”.

Breakthrough with the film “It Kinda Scares Me”

Heymann started in the industry in 1998, but he only appeared in our lives in 2001 with his unforgettable film “It Kinda Scares Me”. The film documented Heymann’s work with teens before military service and their attempt to put on a play about their complicated life stories. The film was a hit in world festivals, won the Israeli Academy Award and the Haifa Festival, and put a new and fascinating artist on the map.

His proud creations continued from there to other films including the memorable “Paper Dolls”. A tale from the margins, from our backyard, in which the story of six migrants from the Philippines is portrayed, working as caretakers in Bnei Brak in the daytime and putting on drag shows at night under the name “Paper Dolls”.

2009 was the beginning of a three-year period in which Heymann possibly made his most personal bodies of work. Three films that deal with his personal life and family and in many ways make up a trilogy that combines into one piece of work about the man and artist. The films are “On The Way Home” (2009), and two additional films which will be shown in the Turkish festival this weekend, as two parts of an autobiography: “I Shot My Love” (2010) and “The Queen Has No Crown” (2011). All three, by the way, were produced by Barak Heymann, Tomer’s brother and his partner in their “Heymann Brothers Films” company.

(photo caption): From the film poster of “I Shot My Love” “

On the way home, you say, in the end we’ll feel good”

“On The Way Home” was first made as an 8-episode documentary series that was shown on “Yes Docu” and later was shortened to a film that was screened on Channel 2. The series follows Tomer’s life, through 8 millimeter home movies of his family and footage that he filmed for 15 years, which expose Tomer’s personal world, his relations with his divorced mother and father and his relationship with the casual and serious partners that he met throughout the years. Tomer prepared for the editing process and watched 500 hours of raw footage with Tali Shamir Verzberger, who has been with him since his first film. Out of the materials, a relatively small part made it into this film and the following films.

(video caption): Rona Kenan covers “On the Way Home”

During the film, we are exposed to Andreas Merk, a German dancer whom Heymann meets in Berlin, where he went to promote his film “Paper Dolls”. Heymann falls in love with him after a brief encounter and a year later, this same Andreas Merk becomes the hero of his next film “I Shot My Love”.

The German Connection: I Shot My Love

In his film “I Shot My Love”, Heymann’s romance with Merk turns into a real relationship and Merk even moves to Tel Aviv to be with him. Their relationship is described with the complicated background of Merk being a German in Israel and the involvement of Noa, Heymann’s mother, in their lives. Noa is a daughter of immigrants who escaped Nazi Germany before the war, and her concerns about their relationship come up throughout the film. The three-way relationship with all its complications creates a personal love story but with universal feeling. Through this movie, his mom becomes the protagonist whom Heymann focuses on in his next film “The Queen Has No Crown”.

(photo caption): Filmed his partner, Andreas Merk

(photo caption): From the film poster of “The Queen Has No Crown”

And so, in his last film “The Queen Has No Crown” his mother is the one who almost forcibly becomes the main protagonist. Through footage that he documented and was partly seen in his last film “On the Way Home”, Heymann brings us his family story and the story of his mother in light of her sons leaving Israel.

Her Zionist dream is shattered, and so is her dream about a complete family. Next to his maturing process in the film, his relationship with partners and with his nephews that slowly lose their Israeli identity, Heymann successfully describes the growing pains we all have when life sometimes takes us to places we didn’t expect. Heymann successfully describes all of this next to his constant discussion about sexuality, coming out of the closet, and life as a homosexual.

(photo caption): “The Queen Has No Crown”, Noa Heymann, the real star of his film

In one of the memorable scenes in the film, Noa’s two sons who have remained in Israel install clocks on her wall, which show the time in the various states her migrating sons live in, and her house becomes an image of a Foreign Ministry operations room.

An unofficial ambassador of Israel

During the festival, Heymann and Merk will answer questions from the audience. It’s easy to assume that besides interest in the film itself, some of the attendees will ask more difficult questions about the relationship between Israel and Turkey, holocaust wounds, and other difficult political questions.

Heymann will have to bravely carry on his back the weight of being a proud Israeli, a Jew with a German partner, and a visitor in a tense Muslim country that is dealing with a proud festival for the first time. However, Heymann, a festival veteran, doesn’t get nervous any more. “As an unofficial ambassador of Israel, every place that I go and show my films, I also have to deal with negative feelings of the audience and prejudices towards the country. Only recently, I participated in a panel in Norway that dealt with cinema in the Middle East, in which I was forced to deal with harsh accusations from the local audience. But I’m not afraid to present my political stances, which are also reflected in my films, and I’m glad for every dialogue with the audience and every emotion that is awakened from watching my films.

(video caption): Ivri Lider performs “Back Home” from “The Queen Has No Crown”

On the other hand, and especially in light of the personal materials, Heymann is excited about the personal-social dialogue that is created with the viewers at the end of each film. Maybe more than the expected political side, it will be interesting to hear the same dialogue come up with Turks about this subject. “The revealing footage makes the viewers connect with me and my family and many times they share their personal experiences with me after the screening. After almost every screening mixed couples come up, Arabs, Christians, Jews that live together, and the film opens up something powerful in their hearts and gives them a chance to identify. It’s one of the most beautiful feedbacks to receive immediately after a screening”.

It’s amazing to think how such personal materials about the complexity of an Israeli family are chosen for a screening in a proud festival in a country such as Turkey. Heymann explains. “I can give you an example. The organizer of the Turkish festival, despite the cultural-social difference and the language barrier, told me that he felt these films were really about his family, the crises and dilemmas that they experience, and that’s why it’s very important for him that these will be the central films in the first gay festival in Ankara.

So, is this the beginning of a proud campaign in Islamic countries? Heymann may first wait to see how the Ankara experience is, but in the meantime, he is not rejecting such plans for the future. “I’m probably going to an underground festival in Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world. I’ll go anonymously and present my films there. I’m nervous and looking forward to it. The ability to bring the films to as many places as possible in the world and show that there’s a chance for real human dialogue, which our governments are trying to destroy in every possible way, that’s the real reason in my opinion to make queer social documentary films”.

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