Mr. Gaga: Tomer Heymann Casts His Lens on Ohad Naharin

Posted on 16 December 2013 by Deborah Friedes Galili

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 Photo still from the film Mr. Gaga.

Filmmaker Tomer Heymann released Out of Focus the same year I arrived in Israel to research the country’s contemporary dance scene.  I still recall excitedly watching a DVD of the documentary, which offered an inside look at Ohad Naharin’s process as he worked with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet on a staging of Deca Dance.  Between clips of Gaga classes and rehearsals – which were themselves both revealing and compelling – Heymann interspersed footage of refreshingly honest interviews with his sometimes reluctant subject.

Heymann’s fascination with Naharin continued, and now, with his brother Barak as producer, he is completing an ambitious and far more comprehensive documentary about Naharin.  The title?  Mr. Gaga, a clever play on Naharin’s movement language and the pop diva of the same name (for those wondering, the choreographer chose the name Gaga years before the singer became an international phenomenon). In the trailer below, the Heymann brothers – along with special guest Natalie Portman and Naharin himself – discuss the film and the significance of this project.

Trailer of Mr. Gaga

As the brothers attest, this documentary is a major undertaking, and in order to fund the completion of the film, the pair launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Week after week during the campaign, the Mr. Gaga team has released tantalizing teasers that testify to this project’s great importance.  Not only has Heymann captured Naharin’s masterful choreography in performance, but he takes the viewer into Batsheva Dance Company’s studios and into Naharin’s personal life.  Some clips have highlighted humor, joy, and camaraderie during rehearsals; others have focused an unwavering lens on more challenging, emotionally fraught moments.

Beyond the scenes that Heymann and his team have filmed, the director has also amassed a veritable treasure trove of archival footage hearkening back to Naharin’s youth on Kibbutz Mizra, his stint as a performer in the Israeli army, and his early professional life.  The sneak preview below reveals what happened in 1974 when Martha Graham came to choreograph for Batsheva Dance Company, where Naharin was then an apprentice.

Sneak preview of Mr. Gaga

With more rare footage like this, Mr. Gaga stands to make a substantial contribution to the historical record while offering an intimate and in-depth look at one of today’s most acclaimed choreographers.

The Heymann brothers’ Kickstarter campaign is welcoming support from around the world through January 4, and they are rewarding contributions with a variety of souvenirs including either a download or a special-edition DVD of the finished film.  For more information, visit the following websites:

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