Yearly, we cinephiles are blessed with many documentaries and, as a film critic, these really get me excited. Of course, I love the many different movie-centric and music docs, as well as other subjects the line up with my interests, but when one comes along involving things I’ve no knowledge about whatsoever, it presents an opportunity to learn. No matter what narrative driven film you see, you won’t be educated as much as you will by a well put together documentary. This was definitely the case with Israeli writer and director Tomer Heymann’s new film, Mr. Gaga.
This documentary immerses you in the world of dance choreography through a very original innovator named Ohad Naharin. Opening with him teaching his latest creation, which involves a dancer dropping her body to the ground in a seemingly painful fashion, the film starts with a look at young Naharin. Unconventional and almost alien looking, his dance movements as a young man in Israel inform the not only the dancer he would become, but the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company – leading to creating his own style, Gaga. The story of Ohad Naharin is one of a driven artist who never compromised what he wanted to make no matter how abstract or political it became.
No better way to put this, Mr. Gaga is a documentary that went a bit over my head in certain parts. Delving into a subject like interpretive dance and choreography, I’m at a loss understanding wise, and this film is not for the casual layman. The relatable things I got. Naharin’s insatiable thirst to create without boundaries, the selfless pain of his art resonates, as well as the love story between him and his wife Mari Kajiwara, a popular New York dancer – another heart beat beneath the main thread of the film, a connective lifeline between Naharin and his career.
Unfortunately, this love story is a little piece that leads to a problem in this film and something that is a bit of a documentary faux pas. Dealing with a true subject, the objective should be to remain loyal to the truth in order to get the best direct line to the audience. So, when Tomar Heymann decides to pull a bit of story swerve in the second act, it hits us completely wrong because it deems an establishing part of the movie with Ohad Naharin, his beginnings in dance, to be completely fabricated for the purpose of the movie. It’s hard to move on from a point of obvious story manipulation but Mr. Gaga has enough going for it visually and with documented proven facts to keep you on the path. Naharin may be on a different wavelength from us creatively and existentially but in the dance world, who this movie is made primarily for, he is one of the greatest. 3/5