The Amazing, Inspiring Berlin Porn Film Festival 2011

Berlin porn film festival logoI’m home again, jetlagged but also bursting with inspiration and motivation after my visit to this year’s Berlin Porn Film Festival. All up I may have spent about six days travelling to and from Berlin but it was totally worth the time, effort and money just to be there and be surrounded by so many fascinating ideas and creativity. And, of course, I got to meet some wonderful people and reconnect with old friends like Petra Joy and Jennifer Lyon Bell.

The festival was a huge success this year with over 5000 visitors attending, more than in previous years. Many of the sessions were sold out well in advance and the cinema always seemed to be packed. It feels like the Berlin Porn Film Festival is set to become something of an institution in that city, which is fabulous.

Opening night party
Pic: Opening night party in the cafe at the back of the Kino

I was thrilled to meet Jiz Lee and honoured to get a hug from one of the best-known queer porn stars. Jiz was there to judge the short films and I got to chat with Jiz a few times, although my hopeful attempts to snag an interview were lost due to Jiz’s busy schedule.

Jiz Lee and Adrianna Nicole discussing the films of Tristan Taormino
Pic: Jiz and Adrianna discussing Tristan’s films.

I also got to meet adult stars Adrianna Nicole and Aiden Starr, two incredibly talented and smart women who are really switched on to the possibilities of porn. Both of them are “typical” looking porn stars – blonde, beautiful, sexy. They were actually rather an unusual sight at the BPFF (look! mainstream porn stars!) and I could well imagine that they are perhaps dismissed as being lightweight because of their looks. Not so. I had some wonderful conversations about the politics and problems of porn and they had plenty of interesting points to make during the discussion panel about the future of lesbian porn and at the screening of Tristan Taormino’s films.

Unfortunately, I missed out on seeing a few other porn directors. Tristan couldn’t make it – she had to cancel at the last minute due to ill health. Nica Noelle had also pulled out the week before and Anna Span also changed her plans. It was disappointing to miss out after coming all that way but I guess I’ll meet them another time.

I saw some amazing films although I would have loved to have attended more sessions. Perhaps my favourite short film was the mini musical Skallamann (Bald Guy) which is about a young man who makes out with a bald guy. His parents are horrified, mainly because said guy is bald. The song is an earworm and I found myself singing it for the entire week I was there.

I also adored the documentary Orchids: My Intersex Adventure. It’s by Phoebe Hart, an Australian woman who was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome which meant she had testes inside her abdomen (since removed) and female genitals. The doco was so moving and intensely personal, depicting first-time conversations about the issue with Phoebe’s family. She was there to answer questions about the film and I found out that her parents live very close to me. Small world. The doco received an extended ovation and has received multiple awards at festivals around the world. Phoebe found out that the film had won an award in Copenhagen so she flew out to the screening of it the next day. Here’s an article on the film.

There’s always a few “over the top” films at the festival. The winning short film Gang Bang Barbie (video here) packed a punch. It involves Barbie dolls “raping” a man’s penis with mini dildoes. It was funny but also disturbing and I’m not sure I liked it due to the issues of consent involved.

Meanwhile, in Stuffed we were treated to the rather strange (and amusing) sight of a man inserting a fake vagina masturbator into a stuffed fox and then fucking it. I sat there wondering what the good moral arbiters at the Australian Classification Board would make of it; no doubt I was being forever corrupted and harmed just for watching it. Afterwards the film’s creator and star, Rudy West Junior smiled and said that the film was not about bestiality at all. “The fox is dead, so it’s necrophilia,” he said.

I’m going to do a separate post featuring some of the films on offer (update: post is here) so you can get an idea of the diversity of content on show at the BPFF. Sure, there was plenty of on-screen fucking but there were also films that dealt with relationships, sexuality, religion, fertility, death and even incest. The entire festival shows just how differently and creatively filmmakers can approach the topic of sex.

There were also workshops and panel discussions. I attended Jennifer Lyon Bell’s discussion of DIY Feminist Porn which was really interesting and informative. I couldn’t get into the fisting workshop as it was booked out (indeed, many of the workshops and films had waiting lists, thanks to the popularity of the festival this year). The panel discussion about the changing depiction of lesbian sex in mainstream porn was fascinating, with contributions from Jiz, Judy Minx, Adrianna, Aidan and Emilie Jouvet.

Aiden Starr, Jiz Lee, Judy Minx, Adrianna Nicole and Emilie Jouvet
Pic: Aiden Starr, Jiz Lee, Judy Minx, Adrianna Nicole and Emilie Jouvet discussing lesbian porn

One of the more fascinating sessions involved playing around with Chatroulette – the random webcam site that many people use to anonymously masturbate with strangers. A purely experimental idea, the session turned out to be hilariously successful. The organisers rigged up a laptop and webcam so that it could be seen on the big screen. They then turned the cam towards the packed audience. Most of us were clothed but a few brave souls got naked, including Maria Llopis, who was one of the organisers and whose film Chatroulette screened in the Female Porn session a few movies after mine.

Chatroulette session at the Berlin Porn Film Festival
Pic: Meat/ing on the internet session with Maria Llopis

To begin with we weren’t sure what was going to happen. I’d heard of Chatroulette but pretty much dismissed it as an exercise in developing low self esteem. Random strangers can look at you and dismiss you in a second… it sounded rather depressing to me. But the introductory video by Ariel Efraim Ashbel showed that Chatroulette is actually a cunning way to play practical jokes and mess with people’s heads via presenting a weird performance to said random strangers. I like that.

In this case, we were presenting a cinema audience and nude women to whoever was lucky enough to click “next”. Suddenly, we were all feeling rather thrilled and giggly. It was an excellent jape and we all started waving and yelling at anyone who appeared on screen.

Early on we encountered a woman who was masturbating and eager to have fun. She didn’t baulk at the idea that she was exposed to a big audience and happily showed us her boobs and pussy. Cue the applause. She then started asking guys at the front to get naked. Things got really interesting when Maria asked if anyone wanted to help her put on the show. A guy stepped up, started kissing her, got nude and suddenly he was giving her cunnilingus, right there in the middle of the cinema. Everyone became deadly quiet until Maria had an orgasm and then we all clapped. Meanwhile, the girl on the screen was typing orders demanding certain types of sex which ended up being ignored. She was rather unappreciative and pushy, to be honest!

After that we cruised through Manroulette, the gay site and saw various nude men and erect cocks but very few of them stayed to play. A lot of them hurriedly reached for the NEXT button when they saw what was going on.

All up, the session was a fun experiment with this new area of online sexuality and I’m glad I was there.

I also ended up chatting to the guy who got it on with Maria. Turns out he also appears in Petra Joy’s film The Female Voyeur. I asked him if he’d perform for me and so we shot a solo scene with him on the Monday, winging it by buying a cheap halogen lamp from the hardware shop and filming in our hotel room. I’ll be editing it in the next few weeks.

I didn’t get to many of the after parties this time around, partly because we were too tired and partly because smoking is still permitted in clubs in Germany I just can’t handle breathing in cigarette smoke anymore, it makes me physically ill. So I missed the various performances. Still, I loved the simple process of sitting in the back bar of the Moviemento Kino, drinking wine and chatting with fellow filmmakers, performers and porn lovers.

A few other things that happened:

* I went up to director Bruce La Bruce and apologised on behalf of all Australians for the stupid banning of his film LA Zombie.

* I introduced myself to cute queer porn actor Pau by giving her a Freudian compliment. She was wearing black angel wings affixed with black gaffer tape, applied in a “cross your heart” pattern over her lovely bare boobs. I said “I like your things… I mean, your wings! Your wings!” Laughing helplessly, I told her I liked her boobs as well. They were just asking to be tweaked. Pau later gave me a great interview about her experiences in porn.

* Some of the cinema staff got into the spirit of the porn festival by wearing very little clothing. Gorgeous Valkyrie Francesca made waves by announcing the waiting list for films wearing only Gerbera flowers on her breasts and a feather fanny covering, held on by I don’t know what. And the guy selling beers in the cinema (I have forgotten his name, dammit) had me drooling with his various shirtless sexy outfits.

Sexy beer guy

* I had more great conversations with veteran Dutch porn director Willem Van Batenburg who was there with his original star Diana de Koening. I also saw his film ‘N Schott In De Roos (Bullseye) which is a delightful 70s classic full of discussions about “free love” and hilarious retro situations. Interestingly, I found it turned me on more than most porn.

* I caught up with Liesbet from Dusk, the cable erotic TV channel for women and found that the station is growing and in need of more good content. I also met Ellie from Dutch adult store for women Mail and Female.

* I met Ena, the editor of Bend Over Magazine, a sexy journal of “feminism, sexuality and queer art” that features great photography.

* I met and chatted to Katharina Szmidt who made Cum Different, a documentary about the growth of feminist porn, made mostly at the 2009 BPFF. There was also a feature length doco about feminist porn called Mutantes (Punk Porn Feminism) but the session was sold out and it only screened the once so I couldn’t review it.

* I spoke to BPFF curator Manuela Kay about her contribution to Fucking Different XXX, which debuted at the festival. Manuela’s film shows the romantic side of anal fisting and – I must admit – had me feeling a little clenched thanks to its two-handed extravagance. She told me that she’s fascinated by fisting because it’s a universal sex act. Everyone has hands and everyone has an ass. I think it’s a very good point.

* I also chatted briefly with queer director Courtney Trouble about her great short film What Makes Us Queer. She also had a short in Fucking Different XXX that finished the film and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen an audience applaud an orgasm. It made me laugh.

There’s plenty more I could write about but I’ll leave it for now. I’m going to be editing another little doco about this year’s festival so keep an eye out for it, I’ll put it on Youtube.

All up, I loved it. The festival has given me so much confidence about my filmmaking and the possibilities. I can’t wait to go back next year, especially now that I’m determined to make my feature film, come hell or high water.

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