Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land (Breaking Glass Pictures, NR)

UndressingIsrael 75Instead, you get a lot of eye candy and a glimpse into the lives of some friendly, pleasant people who seem to be pretty blessed by life. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is the film for you.

UndressingIsrael 5000

Everything and everyone is remarkably pretty in Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land, Michael Lucas’ documentary about gay rights and gay life in Israel, with a particular focus on Tel Aviv. There are tidbits of information thrown in, particularly at the beginning of the film—Israel recognizes same-sex marriage, the army does not discriminate against gay people, same-sex couples have the right to adoption, politicians line up to be associated with gay pride month, and over 100,000 people came to the last gay pride parade in Israel in Tel Aviv—but most of the film is made up of interviews with good-looking young men and footage of them doing happy things like playing with their children, enjoying the nightlife, and getting married.

Much as I’m glad that life is working out for these gentlemen, I often I felt I was watching an infomercial (and at 47 minutes Undressing Israel is debatably feature length anyway) meant to increase gay male tourism to Tel Aviv—along with all those beautiful men, we are informed, the city has lots of gorgeous beaches and lively nightclubs just waiting to be enjoyed. The fact that Michael Lucas made his name in pornography (he directed Men of Israel, billed as the first Israeli porn film shot in Israel with an all-Israeli cast) might have tipped me off as to what to expect, because this film is partly a celebration of male beauty (although not a sex film—the most you get are shots of some really hunky guys in tight swimsuits or underwear) of a particular type.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you’re looking for a serious examination of issues regarding gay people in Israel, you won’t find it here. Questions such as what’s it like to be gay in the country’s rural areas, for instance, or if you’re not Jewish, or if you grew up in the Orthodox community, are given a wide pass. Instead, you get a lot of eye candy and a glimpse into the lives of some friendly, pleasant people who seem to be pretty blessed by life. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is the film for you.

Extras on the DVD include a photo gallery, a selection of interview clips with Michael Lucas (not really a feature commentary as the DVD jacket suggests), a montage of Q & A sessions from film festivals, and the film’s trailer. | Sarah Boslaugh

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