Antarctica (2008): Yair Hochner’s Provocative Israeli Gay Film (LGBTQ)

Yair Hochner’s Israeli movie Antarctica follows the physical, spiritual and emotional journeys of a group of gays and lesbians in the non-stop city of Tel Aviv.

Reminiscent of the multi-plot storytelling style of Robert Altman (Nashville, Short Cuts) and protege Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights) director Yair Hochner investigates coincidental convergences and adds a cosmic twist!

The movie opens with an unrelentingly graphic multi-screen visceral and visual assault as it depicts a week or month in the nocturnal life of Boaz (hunky Ofer Regirer), clean-cut businessman by day, one night stand sex-maniac by night, who prides himself on the line: You know how many guys I bring back here One hook-up, in particular, jars him. Danny (Yiftach Mizrahi), a sweet, troubled teen, stops Boaz mid-petting and asks if they should talk first, or have coffee.

3 Years Later the mosaic-like plot kicks into high gear as we meet the wonderful cast of characters: Omer (Tomer Ilan), a shy librarian about to hit a milestone: his thirtieth birthday; Omers harried lesbian sister Shirley (Lucy Dubinchik) and her on-again/off again girlfriend (Liat Ekta) who owns the local bar; Omers slutty friend Miki (Yuval Raz), who cyber-connects with smoldering journalist Ronen (Guy Zo-Aretz) and best-selling author and past-alien-abductee Matilda Rose (Rivka Neuman).

All the characters are hoping for a change, waiting for the light – the light that will thaw their frozen hearts.

Written & Directed by Yair Hochner
Produced by Eitan Reuven
Starring Guy Zo-Aretz, Lucy Dubinchik, Tomer Ilan, Liat Akta, Yiftach Mizrahi, Ofer Regirer, Yuval Raz, Oshri Sahar, Yael Deckelbaum, Dvir Benedek, Miss Laila Carry, Rivka Neuman
Running time: 110 minutes

Directors Note

“Antarctica” is an independent film that follows the lives of a young group of 20 and 30-year-olds in Tel Aviv, a city that never stops. People have asked me why I chose to make a romantic comedy while the world around us is ridden with war and madness and our small state faces new dangers by the minute.

Why is there no reference to the fragile political state or security Do we not deserve a moment of sanity Do we not deserve, instead of thinking of Iranian nuclear bombs, raging Hamas in Gaza, scheming Hezbollah in Lebanon, or the Haredi and religious community attempting to legislate anti-LGBT laws, in the crazed Israeli reality, do we not deserve one moment of serenity If that’s not a political stand in itself, I don’t know what is.

The characters in Antarctica seek exactly this type of moment, where they can lay their heads down beside someone they love. This is a universal need. There is not one person in the world that does not search for their soul mate, a loving home, a daily quiet routine, the light that brings internal salvation.

In essence, the ensemble cast reflects familiar characters we all know in the queer community: the confused youngster who’s unclear about his life; the stud who only has one-night stands with a different guy every night; the mature lesbian who wants to have a baby and create family; the shy boy who prefers reading books to going out on the town and thus will never meet anyone. We even meet a Jewish mother (actor Noam Huberman, aka stage name Miss Laila Carry), who constantly nudges her kids at their jobs. She wants grandchildren, she match-makes, and behind everyone’s backs she…well, you’ll have to watch the film to find out.

If my first film was influenced by both critical realism and neo-realism, Antarctica is heavily inspired by Michael Winterbottom’s Wonderland; which attempts to capture the solitude of bachelorhood in the big city. I am also an avid admirer of John Waters and Divine, and so decided to fill the role of Shoshana, the Jewish mother from hell, with Noam Huberman one of Israel’s most talented drag artists working today.

The lesbian character Shirley contemplates marriage with her partner Michal. She fears settling down will change her life and prevent her from dreamed after travel adventures to Antarctica. Same sex marriage remains illegal in Israel today, where all marriages are conducted only by the acceptance of the official Head Rabbinate. To have a civil union of any kind, Israelis must wander off to Europe or Canada.

In this film no one comes out of the closet, no lesbian commits suicide, no one carries a flag or goes out to demonstrate. People just live their lives.


If you want to know more about LGBTQ cinema, please read my book:

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, hardcover and paperback).