Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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New documentary chronicles life of porn star Jonathan Agassi

Heymann Brothers Films is set to launch the US theatrical release of Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life, a film by Tomer Heymann.

Already the winner of the 2018 Ophir Prize (Israeli Oscar) for Best Documentary, the film has been screened at numerous international and LGBTQ film festivals including IDFA, Newfest and Outfest. The reedited version of the movie will open theatrically at the Village East by Angelika in New York on May 13, and at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles on May 20th. More cities will follow.

Jonathan Agassi

The documentary, filmed over eight years, follows Jonathan Agassi from his native home in Tel Aviv, Israel to Berlin, Germany, and chronicles his ascent to the top of the gay porn industry. The film begins during his relative early days as an exclusive Lucas Entertainment model. He is preparing for a live sex show at a club and the viewing audience is treated to an eyeful of what made him so revered in the adult industry in the first place.

With his passion and love for porn firmly established we quickly switch gears and are introduced to his mother Anna. Their relationship is at the very heart of this film. They have a unique relationship that defies traditional mother-son dynamics in that nothing is taboo or off the table to discuss. Jonathan talks freely with her about his work as a porn star, escort and live sex performer. Anna seems very at ease with her son’s line of work and is filled with all the love and praise we all hope to get from our mothers. Their devotion towards each other and Jonathan’s commitment to taking care of her is truly heartwarming.

Credit: Addie Reiss

Jonathan’s relationship with his father, on the other hand, is the polar opposite to that which he and his mother have. This is due to the fact that his father abandoned him, his mother and his brother when they were children and how homophobic he was with Jonathan as he was growing up. Whenever the subject of his father comes up Jonathan visibly withdraws and gets upset. It is painful to watch yet completely relatable.

Jonathan’s journey to reconnect with his dad and uncovering the truth behind why he left is, of course, a major storyline in the documentary. At one point he mentions that his grandparents would take photos and videos of him and his brother as children to send to their father. They would tell him to look at the camera and smile because daddy was in there. He said his dad for all those years was the little red recording light on the camera. Combine this sad memory with a history of homophobic behavior on the part of his dad and it suddenly becomes clear why Jonathan chose to assert his sexuality so graphicly on screen. 

Jonathan genuinely seemed to love being in porn. It is not presented to the viewer as a dark and seedy industry as it so often is by the mainstream media. Jonathan was taken to glamorous and exotic locations to shoot his films. As an outsider looking in, it appeared like a lot of fun. All the other stuff that comes along with being a porn star is another story. Many porn performers use their films as a form of advertisement for their escorting services. Jonathan was no different in this aspect, though it did not appear he relished the escorting aspect of his work as much as he did shooting the films. It definitely took its’ toll on him physically and emotionally. The film does a nice job of exploring this facet of his career, especially as it pertains to his livelihood and family.

Another theme the film explored was Jonathan’s drug use. While not linked to the sex work itself, the lifestyle of a porn star/ escort calls for lots of nightclub appearances and late nights. The film is careful not to lay blame or judgement here but does highlight some intense and somewhat shocking episodes of drug use. The only thing that definitively correlates with the drug use is Jonathan’s mood. We see him struggle through a few depressive episodes throughout the documentary and the reasons for these episodes aren’t what you would think. It defies the shame narrative so often fed to us about sex workers, which was reassuring to see.

Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life does a great job of presenting Jonathan as wonderfully dynamic and complex person. Getting a glimpse into the life of a hugely successful sex worker was fascinating. It’s a world most people consider taboo but at the same time are insatiably curious about. His commitment to the project and willingness be so raw and vulnerable in the film was impressive. His journey to stardom and his decline towards retirement from the industry is entirely engrossing, poignantly emotional and surprisingly relatable. Go and see it when you can!

For more information about Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life and ticket info click HERE.

John Hernandez

John A. Hernandez is a staff writer for Queer Forty with a focus on entertainment. He is also a writer for Vacationer Magazine and a contributor to Bear World Magazine and Gayming Magazine. He has a special love for all things horror and Halloween. He currently resides with his husband in New York City.

John Hernandez has 135 posts and counting. See all posts by John Hernandez

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