By Joel Dossi
“Walk on Water” director Eytan Fox was joined by his producer, Gal Uchovsky, during an interview in Toronto last fall. That’s not unusual. But Fox introduced the casually dressed man by saying, “We make films together, and Gal is my spouse, as well. We’ve lived together for the last 16 years.”
While the openly gay couple’s partnership isn’t secret, it’s not widely publicized, either.
“We usually don’t give interviews together,” Fox said. “He has his own public life, which is journalism and music, and I have my life.”
Uchovsky simply stated, while waving his hand Queen Elizabeth style, “We don’t want to give the image of the royal couple.”
Their professional and personal union has produced some of Israel’s most thought-provoking films, including “Yossi & Jagger,” which remained on the New York TimeÕs recommended list for over a month.
“Before we started working together,” continued Fox, “we both had these agendas – consciously or unconsciously – about bringing our gay world to the mainstream. To put ourselves out there and say, ‘This is us and we want to have a dialogue with the world.'”
“Walk on Water” is one of their most personal – and politically charged – dialogues. The film centers on Eyal, who’s a hit man for the Mossad, Israel’s version of the CIA. His mission is to assassinate an ex-Nazi officer. Pretending to be a tourist guide, he befriends the Nazi’s gay grandson, Axel, who is visiting his sister in Tel Aviv.
The two men set out on an extended tour of Israel, and they experience many of country’s political ideologies first hand. Axel’s frank and open attitudes challenge Eyal’s rigid, clichd values, while a loving bond develops.
Fox asserts that Israel’s prevailing political attitude is fear. “We’re frightened, paranoid Jews who believe the world is against us. ‘We have to fight; we have to be strong against the Palestinians and Europe, because theyÕre so anti-Semitic,’ they say.”
“What this movie is saying,” continued Fox, “is to be careful. We’re going backwards. We need to go forwards. We need to change.”
It takes Axel’s close, male and gay friendship for Eyal to open himself up to change. “To let go of all the strict codes and rules of behavior that straight men have. It’s an idea that’s never been explored before.”
Uchovsky added that relationship was also extremely controversial. The Israeli Film Fund received numerous complaints about the film’s gay-straight theme. “‘This is a homosexual propaganda film,’ they said,” Uchovsky said tersely. “Of course they didn’t have problems when we were doing strictly gay love stories.”
“In Israel, it’s very hard to ignore politics or conflict,” stated Fox. “You go to an espresso bar and you have the possibility of being exploded or hit by a terrorist attack.
“Or you have brothers and sisters going into the army. You also have friends who are Palestinians, and you are very worried about them. So it’s difficult to avoid politics, or not include it in your films.”
According to Fox, the filmmaking couple use their movies to process their lives and the lives of their family and friends with the issues they confront daily.
“When we went to the Israel Film Fund for money, they didn’t like our movie, because it was very non-traditional,” said Fox. “They like films that tackle strong issues. They like to give money to films that will be controversial. But they have this frame of mind of what should be controversial.”
Uchovsky added with a sly smile, “We’re a little frightening.”
“I’m considered the Israel gay director, okay?” continued Fox. “People have [said] that I tackled too many subjects simultaneously in the film. ‘How can you put homosexuality or sexuality questions together in one movie alongside Jewish questions and Israeli and Palestinian questions?’
“Well, that’s my life. I put things together in a way which makes sense and shows how they connect and interact with each other.
“I am a man. I’m gay. I’m Israeli, but I was born in America. I have all these American influences and stuff. And I have friends who are straight. All of these things come together in my life, why shouldn’t they come together in the films I make?”
By Joel Dossi