July 25, 2014
When Yony Leyser wrapped his first film, the documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, Leyser indulged TNB with a round of 21 Questions. Now, Leyser’s back with his second film, Desire Will Set You Free, a feature film he describes as “venturing into docufiction.” Starring Leyser, Amber Benson, Peaches, Nina Hagen, and other faces familiar to the Berlin underground, Desire Will Set You Free tells the story of the relationship between an “American writer of Israeli/Palestinian descent and a Russian aspiring artist working as a hustler, offering access to the city’s vibrant queer and underground scenes while examining the differences between expatriate and refugee life.” Leyser has completed shooting on the film and is now looking to Kickstarter to fund the rest as he’d successfully done with A Man Within. Leyser has blogged in-depth about the making of Desire Will Set You Free at Indiewire along the way, and as the Kickstarter nears its end I asked Leyser just a few questions about Desire Will Set You Free, a project based on his own experiences in Berlin.
I’m wondering how different it was for you, and how you’ve developed as a story teller, in moving from documentary to feature film.
For me it came pretty naturally. The lines between documentary and fiction are blurred more and more now at days. I guess this film lands in the category of docufiction, so we have real stories, often real dialog, and often people playing themselves, but in the end it is a fiction film. Look, I somehow have been part of such an interesting world, have been integrated in such an interesting time and scene here in the last several years, I had to write about it. I have been part of an interesting social artistic and political group and been through a lot here as my kind of coming-of-age, and I wanted to spread that to the world. We were lucky to get some funding as a result of people liking the script, but we spent our budget and now we need money to finish it.
Did it feel like more was at stake for you as an artist in telling something based on your own story?
Very much so. But that was the only way I could. The Berlin community would have never let an outsider make this film. Just as John Cameron Mitchell or John Waters made their films from the inside, I did too. I bared it all out on the line. It was the only way.
The film has a stellar lineup of artists [Nina Hagen, Peaches, Blood Orange, Rummelsnuff, Sookee, Jochen Arbeit, Wolfgang Müller] on the soundtrack. How important is music to the underground scene in Berlin?
Yes, our soundtrack is going to be incredible! Music is the lifeblood of most scenes in the world including here so I had to make it a huge part of the film.
You must tell me the story behind the multi-boob suit featured in the film’s trailer.
The boob-suit belongs to the electro musician Peaches who is a provacatour, activist, artists and now a good friend. She challenges sex gender roles and always has since her hit song “fuck the pain away.” Our film is also about the political situation in Russia for queers, which she has been very active with. She has been a staple to the Berlin music scene since she moved to Berlin 15 years ago. She is currently finishing her new album in Los Angeles.