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pornography with difference

megan garrett-jones: perv film festival


One Night Stand One Night Stand
THE INAUGURAL PERV FILM FESTIVAL, HELD AT THE NEWLY POPE (PLACE OF PUBLIC ENTERTAINMENT) LICENSED RED RATTLER “CREATIVE PLAYGROUND” IN SYDNEY’S MARRICKVILLE, SHOWCASED CUTTING EDGE, INFLUENTIAL QUEER EROTICA REVEALING A RANGE OF SEXUAL PRACTICES AS DIVERSE AS THE QUEER COMMUNITY ITSELF. ASSUMPTIONS THAT CAST THOSE IN SEXUAL MINORITIES AS ‘PERVERTS’ ARE TOSSED ASIDE AND UNDERMINED BY THE PERV PROGRAM AS AUDIENCES FACE THE REALISATION THAT THERE REALLY IS NO NORMATIVE APPROACH TO SEXUALITY AND DESIRE. INSTEAD, THE THRUST OF PERV IS INCLUSIVE, CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AND DIFFERENCE.

The festival was programmed with a refreshingly international scope shown in the inclusion of work from American and European filmmakers, but also provided by the keynote of festival guest, New York filmmaker Katrina del Mar, who presented a retrospective of her short films and music videos.

Del Mar subtly suggested that we don’t search for too much meaning in her work: “Just because”, she reasons when introducing Punchin and Cussin, a rock-video style clip in which tough looking girls box, play drums and swear in many languages. It’s fun, driven by the sheer revelry of girls doing things that girls aren’t supposed to, with a punk F-you attitude.

The cult Gang Girl films are the main attraction in del Mar’s retrospective. In Gang Girls 2000, fictionalised New York girl gangs—The Sluts, Ponies, Glitter Girls and The Blades—pick allegiances when a dispute over a run-over push-bike and a kidnapped pug dog escalates into all out gang warfare. In the Q&A that followed someone asked del Mar about the violence between women in her films. She shrugged, “It’s just things that I think about.” Surf Gang, the next instalment, also offers lashings of violence, but this time more nihilistically, the girls filling a void in their lives with senseless brutality. There are some stunning shots of the iconic New York Rockaway Beach while a Ramones song about the same beach plays. Shots of real surfing cutting away to the girls doing Gidget style ‘blue-screen surfing’ drew knowing chuckles from the audience.

In the Q&A, one bold viewer actually suggested that del Mar should work a bit more on script development. This prompted the filmmaker to talk about the often ad hoc way that her films come together. “I once found these girls in a gas station”, she recalls, “and just asked them, do you want to be in a film?” Of the plot holes in Surf Gang, del Mar says that some people had to go home and the rest had to keep working, so they just “made up an ending.” The underlying DIY-ness of her work sees del Mar unpretentiously assume the voice of a subversive culture, while the use of Super 8mm film lends a warm, nostalgic quality to her fusions of punk-rock iconography and girl on girl fantasy.

The relationship between sexual performance and real sexual conduct is brought into question in One Night Stand/Pour Une Nuit (France, 2006). In making this gritty ‘dyke and trans’ porno, director Emilie Jouvet solicited performers from Paris’ queer community to basically do what they wanted, and in this sense the film approaches sex as it ‘really is.’ Players met and discussed their desires and fantasies, and then were left to play out the intimate scenes ‘naturally’ in front of the cameras. Interviews with the actors shown before the film reveal a sense of collaboration and their involvement with issues raised in One Night Stand.

One actor suggests that “sexuality shouldn’t be dramatised, it should be experienced.” Another talks about the film depicting “the reality” of their “trans body.” The result is something revolutionary, at least when viewed in terms of conventional pornography. The diverse collection of encounters plays out in almost real time, with editing kept to a minimum. There are no staged ‘money’ shots, and the audience is left to cope occasionally with a few seconds of awkward camera adjustment rather than have scenes interrupted. This certainly leads to a voyeuristic feel, as if we are being let in to a world that exists whether we watch it or not. It’s hot too—the players are confident in their own bodies and in sexual interactions. They are free to explore and certainly without the appalling or coercive conditions for which the mainstream porn industry has been criticised. Artifice occasionally asserts itself in the attempts at romantic narrative and, ultimately, in the knowledge that this is, after all, a performance for the camera. Yet, in making the so-called ‘private’ public, One Night Stand moves away from contrived representation, encouraging us to stand back and appreciate unique sexualities without taboo.

The final session of Perv was given over to its short film competition. The 10 finalists constituted a promising mix of local and international up-and-coming filmmakers working loosely in the queer erotic genre. This was a site for experimental erotica, shown in films such as Kym Farman’s pastoral Devil’s Dairy Maid (US, 2008)—a black and white silent film that sexualised the churning of butter. Was this a comment on women’s domestic work, the historic repression of women’s sexuality or the vilification of women as witches? Or it could have simply been echoing del Mar’s “just because.” Catherine Corringer’s This is the Girl (France, 2007) was another experimental piece involving a disjunctive series or images featuring a female boxer, an ambiguous coach/doctor, and a man who is a sex toy. Worth a mention is Tory Blow’s giggle-rousing Hole in the Wall (Australia, 2008)—a two-minute sequence in which a gender ambiguous ‘glory hole’ moves unpredictably of its own accord.

The judges’ award went to Virginia Barratt for Boy Inchoate (Australia, 2008), a whimsical documentary-style film that looked at the beginnings of transing from female to male through the lens of the filmmaker’s relationship with the transer. The film succinctly and cohesively fused domestic snapshots, interviews and wordplay. The Audience Choice awards also went to locals, tied between Tonnette Stanford’s queer Bold and the Beautiful parody, The Vicious and the Delicious (Australia, 2008), and True L.O.V.E (Australia, 2009) directed by Jackson Badger, in which a split screen is used to show a gender ambiguous ‘boy’ and a forceful ‘daddy’ playing out a slave and master fantasy. I’d like to add to this a commendation to the Perv organisers for giving a platform to these works where perhaps there wasn’t one, and for getting this exciting and thought-provoking event up and running.


Perv Film Festival, Red Rattler, April 23-26, Marrickville, Sydney, www.pervfilmfestival.org; www.redrattler.org

RealTime issue #91 June-July 2009 pg. 27

© Megan Garrett-Jones; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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