During the climax of Eytan Fox’s groundbreaking 2002 film about the romantic relationship between two gay Israeli soldiers, Yossi & Jagger, Yossi cradles his lover as he dies, the result of a botched ambush. Adding insult to injury, at Jagger’s funeral, he stands by silently as the grieving parents mistake a female soldier for their late son’s girlfriend.
Ten years later, Fox gives Yossi (Ohad Knoller, reprising his role) a shot at redemption in Yossi, premiering this Friday in New York.
“I had left Yossi in such a difficult place, maybe even a tragic place, that I had this need to go back to him, to start a process of healing,” Fox, 48, told The New York Times. “It was a way for me to go back to not only where Yossi was 10 years ago but to go back to who I was 15 or 20 years ago.”
Depictions of gays in Israel have changed drastically since Yossi & Jagger, with Fox being heralded as a central figure in the cultural shift.
“He situated gay characters and gay issues at the heart of Israeli life,” said Nir Cohen, author of Soldiers, Rebels and Drifters: Gay Representation in Israeli Cinema. “At the same time he’s one of the most popular filmmakers in Israel.”
Fox’s films, including Walk on Water and The Bubble, have paved the way for works such as Eyes Wide Open, a 2009 Israeli film about two Orthodox Jewish men in love, and Mom and Dads, a TV show about a gay couple raising a child with a single mother — which just happens to be created by Yossi & Jagger scribe, Avner Bernheimer.
In Yossi, the protagonist meets a young, openly gay soldier who leads him on a journey similar to one taken by Fox and many gay men in Israel.
“Yossi was a victim of the Israel he grew up in,” Fox said. “He fears there’s a contradiction between being an Israeli man and being gay. That was the world I grew up in.”