Desire Will Set You Free
Desire Will Set You Free
Platinum Section
(Germany, 2015, 92 min)
Blu-ray, QuickTime Pro-Res, Other,
West Coast Premiere
Directed By: Yony Leyser

Director Statement

"I don't want to show people what the world is like, I want to show people what the world can be, for all it's dirty, sexual, crazy, campy and colorful potential." Yony Leyser

Berlin is a city of division and distraction, of death and depravity, of rebirth and rediscovery, and since Christopher Isherwood penned his first novel, the international capital has held a place of interest for those that feel alienated from the mainstream. I moved to Berlin in 2010 just after finishing my first film William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. As a child, I had heard stories about Germany from my grandparents who were German Jews narrowly escaping the Nazis, moving to what was then Palestine in 1937. The rest of the family was left to perish under the new dictatorship which squashed much more than the Weimar spirit. I never really felt safe to fully accept my identity and beliefs until I moved to Berlin. Here I feel at home.

I know the scene I was thrown into in Berlin is a unique one. It existed in sex clubs and squats, in all-night parties and drugs, in sexual expiration and activism, in excess. Just before December 2012, what we thought would be the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar, I was involved in LGBT activism and I was working to connect with queer people in Russia. One of the young men I was communicating with said he wanted to spend the end of the world in Berlin. I decided to invite him to stay at my shared queer artist flat. He arrived on December 15, 2012, seven days before the planned end of the world. I showed him my life in Berlin. He could barely speak and would watch quietly and scribble in his journals in his free time. He was totally overwhelmed. Six days later, one day before the end of the world he came out to me as Transgender. The world did not end but she did explain to me all of the things she had seen in Berlin, and for the first time I saw my life through her eyes. The craziness, hedonism and disparity, the life without consequences. We went to a screening of 1980's cult film Liquid Sky. The next night I started writing Desire Will Set You Free. She would later tell me that it was the greatest honor of her life to have been the catalyst of the film.

The name of the film came from the name of a flyer for a queer underground party we were invited to. On the flyer it showed the gates of Auschwitz but instead of the famous entrance gates reading "Arbeit Macht Frei" which translates to "work will set you free" it read "Lust Macht Frei" (which can be loosely translated to "desire will set you free") and showed people in concentration camp clothes dancing in front of the gates. I almost vomited when I saw the image. Had "my culture" really become so nonchalant about acknowledging the atrocities that occurred on this land? Had I become the alienator rather than the alienated? The Sodom and Gomorrah aspect of the city was instantly clear to me. I discussed what to title the film with my mentor, German film legend Rosa Von Praunheim (who also acts in the film) and he convinced me use the Lust Macht Frei (Desire Will Set You Free) as a title.

I drew influences from filmmakers like John Waters, Bruce LaBruce and Harmony Korine but wanted to also take my own approach. I wasn't interested in something overly processed, rather I wanted to investigate the raw, at times psychedelic, at times naturalistic feel as I blurred the line between documentary and fiction. To make the film as real as a dream of the city could be, we shot in all original Berlin locations and I cast people from clubs, and would chase after punks I saw in the street inviting them to appear. Along with a few known names, I also cast many original Berlin artists and nightlife personalities, including myself. I styled the film to feel like a dream, like Sasha's dream through this city and through their self discovery."
Screening Schedule
Sat, Jul 9th 9:30pm

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