Since my last update from Berlin, Lucie Blush and Ms Naughty have both posted reports from the Porn Film Festival which are well worth reading.
On Friday I felt much better slept, and I had tickets for five screenings, but I’d already decided that only three of them were ones I really cared about: XConfessions by Erika Lust, LOVE HARD by Sensate Films, and the Female Porn Shorts screening in which Instructed was playing.
I got to the cinema at midday to meet Lora, a journalist doing a documentary on feminist porn who had asked to interview me. As I arrived in the Moviemento lounge the film-makers’ meet and greet was just starting. So I got to hear everyone introduce themselves, and to stand up and say a few words about my work too – which seems to have been valuable, as a couple of times after that people came up to me and said “Ah, Pandora – the spanking lady!” It’s good to have an identity at these things, I feel.
Lora and her colleague interviewed me, snapped a portrait, and then it was already 1pm, and I had to run to squeeze in to the screening of XConfessions. In my rush I left my water bottle behind, and I also didn’t have time to pee. This turned out to be an error. XConfessions was listed in the programme as as being 104 minutes long, but (perhaps due to delays at the start) it didn’t finish until nearly 3pm. Two hours of non-stop porn is a long time to go without a drink, a snack, or a toilet break. Note to self: plan better.
Still, I enjoyed XConfessions (particularly the first few, before I started getting fidgety). I think if I’d watched these one at a time, I would have been spellbound. Each of the ten short films is based on a submission from a viewer about a favourite sexual fantasy or experience. They tend towards the sweet and vanilla, but not always; themes include a woman’s first time pegging her boyfriend (pictured); another first time – going down on another woman; wanting to be bound in shibari; and trying to keep typing while your boyfriend distracts you. A male confession included being made to watch while his girlfriend slept with another man.
The first scene of all got my attention – it started with a behind the scenes documentary which then kept cutting back and forth between the beautifully shot porn scene and the more reality style, behind-the-scenes view of events. It was an interesting technique, one I’ve been considering using myself. At first I thought this was an introduction to Erika’s mode of shooting – but later I realised that “getting to be in a porn film” was the confession. It was an interesting way to open the collection.
The most memorable scene, and the kinkiest, was the last one. It’s called “The Sadistic Trainer” – but it’s not what you think. Ten men and women get increasingly fed up of being aggressively shouted at and pushed beyond their limits by a fitness trainer. Eventually, they gang up on him, tie and gag him with pilates straps, and have an orgy in front of him – all while he is forced to watch, straining against his bonds and unable to escape. Hot!
Erika is Swedish and filming in Barcelona for an English-speaking audience, mostly with Spanish porn performers. As a result, the majority of the scenes are non-verbal. Her work is polished and stylish, with beautifully lit cinematography in breathtaking high definition, any screengrab of which could look like a glamour or fashion photograph. The non-stop beauty of her work is extraordinary. But the lack of dialogue combined with her taste for slow, dreamy pacing and soft music makes for a mood that didn’t hold my attention on the big screen. But I would definitely recommend watching XConfessions at home, with a partner, one scene at a time.
After 104 minutes of sensual, stylised fucking I felt a bit porned out, and spent the rest of the afternoon adding tickets to my skip pile, eating food and socialising in the film-makers lounge. I also took the time to go shopping for water and snacks. The next unmissable screening on my list was Sensate Films’ documentary about BDSM and intimacy, LOVE HARD.
Sensate Films is the collaboration of Gala Vanting and her partner Aven Frey. This was the first of their films I had seen in full, and it took my breath away. I have never been in an audience that was so quiet. LOVE HARD is a raw, honest, articulate, affirming depiction of BDSM. It combines interviews, docu-portraiture and films of unscripted kinky play, featuring three couples, one poly triad, and two individuals. The interviewees talk about their kink, how they play, the psychology and emotion behind it, and the role kink has in their lives.
We see lesbian high-D/S protocol, asexual hard S&M bloodplay, dreamy shibari, and corporal punishment – both sexualised partner play and self-contained ecstasy. There’s an F/M couple, a couple of M/F pairings, another male bottom and the aforementioned lesbian D/S triad.
Watching LOVE HARD, I felt both seen and represented. I found myself nodding and thinking yes, yes, that’s true, yes, I know how that one goes. One theme is the role of masochism or submission in developing your sense of self – once you are stripped down to your core, without any of your social or cultural trappings, just a shaking, crying, bleeding body – and yet you are still here, you know that you exist, and you know that you can endure. That kernel of self gives you a sense of identity that doesn’t depend on anything external. It is entirely yours. I’ve never seen this truth told in film before, and it made my heart ache. Actually, I’ll be honest: it made me cry tears of recognition.
LOVE HARD is not kink 101. I wish I could show it to people who don’t get what I do, but the level of the play is too extreme in some places for it to be an entry-level discussion of BDSM. It is, however, an excellent kink 201. If you have already dabbled in – or witnessed – BDSM, if you already know about consent and negotiation and safewords, if you already know that healthy power exchange is based on the collaboration of two equal partners, and not a genuine power imbalance, then this takes the discussion to the next level. I want to show it to everyone I know. It’s available to rent or buy from Sensate for only a few dollars, and you should watch it.
After LOVE HARD it was time for the Female Porn Shorts – and the first screening of my collaborative film with Ms Naughty, Instructed.
I saw the female porn programme twice over the weekend, and the second time I got a lot more out of it, so for now I’ll just tell you about the experience of seeing myself in rather intimate close-up on the big screen.
In ‘Instructed’, my lover orders me to undress, get on all fours on the bed, finger my own arse, slide a butt plug in, touch my cunt, spank myself with a clothes brush as hard as I can, and finally bring myself to orgasm with the plug still in place and my bottom red and marked.
I was extremely nervous about watching myself on a screen ten feet high and more than twenty feet across. But in the end, it felt completely normal. I’ve edited this film (although it was Ms Naughty’s edit that we were watching, as she was the one organised enough to submit before the deadline), and so I’ve spent many hours staring at these images. I am no stranger to seeing myself on my computer screen. As the film unfolded, my nerves evaporated. In fact I felt weirdly detached. I knew how it went. I was interested by Ms Naughty’s editing choices, and impressed with the pacing – she had cut a 16 minute film down to 10 minutes for the screening, and the timing felt exactly right. Once I was there, it didn’t feel like a milestone moment after all. It felt normal.
That said, I must have been more keyed up than I realised, because when the credits rolled and Ms Naughty and I were invited up to the front for a Q&A (our film was the last in the programme) I practically bounced up to the mic and proceeded to gabble excitedly into it for as long as the curator would let me. I think I was a bit hyperactive. Not my most professional composure! But I felt like it went well: people stayed quiet during the important bits, they didn’t talk amongst themselves or leave, and Ovidie (the feminist porn director of ‘Pulsion’, sitting next to me) whispered to me that it was hot. Which is all the accolade a budding film-maker needs, really.