The Good Son
© By Shirly Berkovitz
It’s not often in life that we can say we are the only person who is able to tell a particular story, but this is one of those cases when I truly can and must. Not only because I’m the only one in the world who knows it, but because I immediately realized that this story raised critical questions that hadn’t been brought to the screen before. As a filmmaker, I am committed to telling intimate, challenging stories that provoke audiences to confront crucial and often overlooked issues in our society.
So, when I received an email from Or who had seen one of my previous films, confiding in me that he was secretly planning to have a sex change and that no one else knew about it, I instantly took an interest. From my first meeting with Or, I was riveted by him and his story, but I was also deeply troubled by certain aspects of it. I saw a desperate young man committing completely immoral acts, and debated whether it was ethical as a filmmaker to document his journey. However, as my relationship with Or deepened, I realized that he wasn’t an immoral person, but rather it was our society that lead him to commit such immoral acts and tap into his primal need to survive. For all these reasons, I felt that Or’s story had to be told, and I was the only one who could tell it.
I believe it’s crucial that the film reaches as wide an audience as possible in order to create a dialogue that can open people’s hearts and minds around this pressing social issue and creating a dialog for change for a better future.
Shirly Berkovitz’s mid-length contender The Good Son tells the poignant story of a young Israeli man named Or Bar, who takes the radical step of changing his gender: without telling his family first.
The story literally fell into Berkovitz’s lap, the filmmakers recalls, in the form of some 40 video tapes that were delivered to her front door by Or in person. “The footage in the first part of the film was all filmed by Or himself,” she says. “He really created the plot of the film.” Filming himself in the emotionally gruelling build-up to his sex-change operation, including the subterfuges and deceits needed to arrange and fund the operation without his family finding out about it, Or’s video footage is a compelling insight into his inner struggles – with his own identity, his family and society at large. “Or knew what he wanted to do and just started filming himself,” Berkovitz says. “But then he realised he wanted to have someone involved who would not just shoot the story, but could also act as a friend to him throughout the whole process. He had seen a previous film I had made on this subject, so he thought I could be this person. I watched a couple of his tapes and realized he was really serious about it. Then all I had to do was buy a plane ticket and follow him.” (Or had booked himself into a sex-change clinic in Bangkok.) The filmmaker had about two weeks to raise some finance and make all the arrangements for the trip. “I sold my car and dropped my dog with the neighbors,” she says. “I just knew I had to tell this story.” At first, the filmmaker was ambivalent about her protagonist’s plan. “I actually tried to talk him out of it at first,” she says. “I felt bad for his parents – but at the end of the day Or is not a child and it was his decision. I tried to convince him several times to tell his parents, but he was so determined. He had already paid half the money for the operation. So the only thing I could do was go along with him.” A bond developed between the filmmaker and her subject as she “slept on couches and spent a lot of time with him in the hospital as he recovered from the operation. Not only was I filming, doing the sound and everything, but I was also Or’s confidant.” The film’s final denouement, it which Or returns to Israel to confront her family with her “new me”, is as dramatic as it is emotionally charged. “In the end, I think she did the right thing. She is one brave young lady,” the director says.
See more at: https://www.idfa.nl/industry/daily/2013/interviews/shirly-berkovitz-discusses-the-good-son.aspx#sthash.u33hLhje.dpuf