Director: Barak Heymann and Tomer Heymann
Duration: 90 min
Country: UK, Israel
BBFC Certification: 15
Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? follows Saar Moaz, a gay Israeli man living with HIV, on his emotional journey to reconcile with the family who rejected him due to his sexuality. This documentary is incredibly personal and intimate, to the extent that it’s difficult to separate Saar’s life from the film itself when critiquing it. As a film, it achieved its purpose of presenting the emotions in a realistic, naked way. The downside to this is that the film occasionally drags. However the intensely personal nature of the topic kind of makes technical quibbles seem irrelevant.
One topic that is looked at in depth is the intersection of faith and sexuality. Saar’s family’s negative attitude to his sexuality is heavily influenced by their strict Jewish beliefs. Saar, by contrast, appears to have left the religion. This suggests that the two are incompatible, which I think is unfortunate, though of course this is a documentary about one man’s life and not a statement about the world in general.
Some scenes are shocking in their raw honesty. The scene with Saar and his mother cooking in the kitchen is especially brutal when juxtaposed with the maternal task they share. She speaks of how she feels about the whole thing, some of which is extremely hurtful; much of it is about how hard it is for her to be ‘burdened’ with an ill, gay son. It’s important that the documentary gives a realistic and even depiction of the situation, and I understand that this scene shows clearly the conflict that runs throughout the film. Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel angry. The film seems to ask us to give credit to Saar’s family for trying, but watching Saar’s eyes fill with tears made this extremely challenging. How hard is it really to show your child love?
In contrast, Saar finds a positive and empowering community in the London Gay Men’s Chorus. We begin with Saar in London, literally taking us on his journey to a rehearsal. The film is intercut with flashes of performances from the Chorus; this is the pillar of strength that holds up the often painful narrative. Perhaps because of this, the end of the film feels bittersweet; Saar’s return to Israel is a homecoming, but he leaves behind another family, one for whom acceptance is a given.
As a document of Saar’s journey, the film is very effective. It maps out Saar’s relationships honestly, from his partners to his family to his relationship with his illness. It also raises awareness of life with HIV and the homophobia that can accompany it. For a straight audience, the film humanises gay HIV sufferers, offering an insight into one man’s life. For a young LGBT audience, it seems slightly bleak. The answer to the question, Who’s gonna love me now? would seem to be your family and your home, but this is unconvincing given the suspicion and hostility that Saar experiences from his relatives. Some would say that a true family is one who genuinely accepts and supports you, whether you’re related or not.
This aside, Saar’s personal journey to self-acceptance is inspiring, and there is a hard-won triumph in the way he begins his new life. In the end, the real answer to the film’s title question is: I am.
Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? is being live streamed today (April 2nd, 2017) as part of a Q&A screening event, hosted by Julian Clary and featuring a performance of The London Gay Men’s Chorus live from The Barbican. You can see a full list of participating cinemas here.