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Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (2 out of 5)
Friday, 10/22/2004, 6:00 PM
Feature presentation, $0 at Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC
Hebrew with English subtitles
IN THE LAST 20 years, more than 50 gay men have been killed in Israel, according to Cause of Death: Homophobia. Director Ran Kotzer examines the commonalities of these murders in a way that may hold a viewers interest for its 51 minutes, though it falls short of compelling. Most American gay audiences are all too familiar with the subject matter.
Concentrating primarily on the murder of Eli’ezer Levi, a prominent, closeted Israeli psychologist, Kotzer interviews other victims, the young men likely to prey upon them, police, gay activists and friends of Levi. The resulting documentary illustrates a culture where affluent men are not comfortable being publicly gay. Instead, they find anonymous sex in parks populated by impoverished young men whose desire to make money — and perhaps explore their own sexuality — via sex with these men conflicts perilously with their encultured sense of masculinity.
It’s a story that has played out in many parts of the world. Gay American audiences are certainly familiar with murder cases involving the infamous “gay panic” defense, wherein young men brutally murder older gay men. Kotzer’s film just informs us that Israel is no different. The ethnicities might be a little different than the stories usually heard in America, but not much else.
Cause of Death has value, but primarily for straight audiences who are less familiar with the violent potential of internalized homophobia, or the dangers that are inherent with trying to hide in the closet while seeking sexual release.