HRAFF Film Review – The Queen has No Crown

By Alexandra Kua

The Queen has No Crown is a poignant portrayal of a decade in the lives of filmmaker Tomer Heymann and his family. The film concentrates on Heymann’s relationships with his family, his sexuality, and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict that has become a stark reality in the background of their lives.

By expressing their feelings about what it means to be gay; to be married; to have a family, the children reveal a certain naivety that, for a moment, makes choosing a life appear simple and uncomplicated…

Shot in 8-millimetre film, the documentary has the aesthetic of a family film and includes older snippets from Heymann’s youth. The use of this type of film stock, with its faded and characterful appearance, helps to capture the essence of what Heymann is trying to portray – an ordinary family with real problems and emotions.

Heymann explores the significance of “being gay” with his young nieces and nephews, offering a touching and interesting insight into the influences parents and society have on children’s views of the world. By expressing their feelings about what it means to be gay; to be married; to have a family, the children reveal a certain naivety that, for a moment, makes choosing a life appear simple and uncomplicated – irrespective of who or where you are.

One niece shares a firm belief that there is nothing wrong with being gay if it is “who you are”, and being honest about your feelings is what’s most important. Heymann’s nephew has a more complicated idea of his uncle’s sexuality. He playfully asserts that being gay is “not right” because he feels all adults should be married and have a family, something he cannot reconcile with gayness.

Being a migrant child from a home that values family highly, I can imagine – at least to some degree – the confusion, excitement, sense of lost culture, and sadness experienced by the nieces and nephews in moving to a new country.

Heymann and his younger brother end up being the only siblings left in Israel with his mother, and they stay to take care of her. She expresses her sadness at not having her grandchildren nearby. A lingering close-up of Heymann’s brother and mother’s hands shows the family’s closeness. Whether through love or hate, they stay together.

The protests and increasing violence in Israel – part of the reason why three out of five sons moved to America – seem surprisingly distanced from the audience. The question of the brothers’ reasons for departure is raised in several interviews. But although their responses depict some of the tension in the homeland, they don’t convey the full impact of the violence.

Being a migrant child from a home that values family highly, I can imagine – at least to some degree – the confusion, excitement, sense of lost culture, and sadness experienced by the nieces and nephews in moving to a new country. Despite efforts to preserve their culture, such as continuing to speak Hebrew, the feeling of loss is palpable. The assimilation of the brothers and their families into an American way of life is clearly demonstrated, and the comparative isolation of their mother is especially well depicted.

Overall, the documentary explores very difficult moments in life … with great delicacy, covering ground not often traversed in film.

Despite the raw and touching emotions evoked by the film, the probing questions Heymann asks of his family – while recording their sometimes quite emotional responses in close-up – feel invasive at times. The representation of these family members also seems somewhat one-sided, and their characters are not given their full spectrum, which is a little disappointing considering that the film revolves around Heymann’s relationship with his family almost as much as it does around his sexuality.

Overall, the documentary explores very difficult moments in life – such as Heymann’s episodes of depression; the homophobia he faces amongst some people in Israel; and the widening culture difference between the family members in Israel and those in America – with great delicacy, covering ground not often traversed in film.

The Queen has No Crown is screening on Saturday 26 May 2012 at 9pm, at Melbourne’s ACMI Cinemas. To purchase tickets, click here.

For more on our coverage of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, click here.

To visit the HRAFF website, click here.

Latest

Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.