Thursday, December 4, 2014

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”: An Interview with Director Mary Dore

If your idea of the early days of the women’s movement is limited to NOW and the ERA then Mary Dore’s eye-opening “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” has got another acronym or two for you. (Ever heard of WITCH – the Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!? Didn’t think so.) An exhaustively researched portrait of feminism circa ’66-’71, Dore’s doc will both enlighten (delving deeply into the movement’s internal rifts related to race and sexual identity) and surprise (Hollaback!-style tactics ain’t nothing new).

I spoke with award-winning producer/director Dore prior to the film’s NYC opening on December 5th and its LA debut on December 12th. To read my interview visit Global Comment.

The U.K. Crackdown on Porn – And Why It Hurts Independent Producers

If Britain’s recently enacted legislation – specifically, the Brazil-sounding Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 – wasn’t on your radar, you can be forgiven. As an American it wasn’t on mine either. Basically, this is an amendment to the U.K.’s 2003 Communications Act, which now requires that those producing online porn in the U.K. must come under the same BBFC (British Board of Film Censors) scrutiny as those producing DVDs for the sex shop market. Innocuous enough, right?

Think again. To read my take on the anti-fetish, misogynistic, anti-indie production ruling visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Quickie with Michael Lucas: The Gay Porn Mogul Discusses Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda

“Michael Lucas is the most mainstreamed, provocative, and controversial figure in gay adult entertainment” according to his website, and it’s hard not to believe the hype. A sort of David O. Selznick of gay porn – if Selznick had also directed and starred in his lavish talkies – the Russian √©migr√© lawyer turned porn emperor is the founder of Lucas Entertainment, one of the biggest studios in the blue movie game. Back in 2006 that NYC-based company produced Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita, a record-setting adult remake of the Fellini masterpiece that took home all 14 of its AVN nominations. (In comparison, Gone with the Wind only nabbed 10 of 13 nominations at the vanilla Oscars in 1940. Take that, Selznick International Pictures!)

But recently the GayVN Hall of Famer returned to the motherland to set his sights on a less sexy subject. Co-directed with longtime TV news producer Scott Stern, Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda is Lucas’s latest film, a thoughtful examination of Russia’s heinous, anti-LGBT propaganda laws via one-on-one interviews with those most affected by them (including the noted activist and anti-Putin journalist Masha Gessen).

Lucas took time out of his notoriously busy schedule to speak with Global Comment shortly after the doc’s release on iTunes and DVD.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Director Kitty Green on Ukraine is Not a Brothel

In (coastal) America the line between performance art and pornography has long been walked by a plethora of female provocateurs, from Annie Sprinkle right up to Sasha Grey. So in this sense Femen – a loose knit group of mostly model-figure feminists who stage topless, flash mob-style protests – aren’t doing anything that would create uproar in New York or San Francisco. But in their native Ukraine, a country with an especially misogynistic mentality that doesn’t take too kindly to any citizen intent on upending the system, they cause a stir and then some.

Luckily there’s Kitty Green’s Ukraine is Not a Brothel, a documentary that goes beyond both politics and T&A hype to bring us a complex portrait of a movement seemingly riddled with contradiction. From its anti-patriarchal male founder, who claims paradoxes are part of history (citing Marx and Lenin – anti-bourgeois figures who were both bourgeois themselves), and who acknowledges he may have started the whole thing in part to be around sexy chicks, to a member who views her decision to work as an exotic dancer as a means not to be dependent on a man, Green’s inquisitive intelligent filmmaking is far more subversive than any bare-breasted sloganeering could ever be.

Global Comment spoke with the Ukrainian-speaking Aussie director prior to the film’s Canadian premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs. To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hot in the City: Previewing the 11th Annual CineKink NYC

This year’s edition of CineKink NYC, now in the final day of its Kickstarter fundraising drive, wastes no time heating up, opening on February 26 with a cinematic bang in the form of Wiktor Ericsson’s The Sarnos: A Life in Dirty Movies, a stellar pic about softcore pornographers with a love story at its heart. (The festival’s gala kickoff party is the day before, February 25.) The titular elderly couple at the center of this doc are the legendary porn director Joe — the “Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street” — and his longtime wife and support system (and sometime actress) Peggy. (No surprise the film had its U.S. premiere at DOC NYC in November and is being given a theatrical release by Film Movement in the spring.)

To read the rest of my sneak peek visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What’s Gender Got to Do with It? Coming Out Genderqueer

Personally, I don’t go around trumpeting that my female form doesn’t match my (gay) male soul. I’m a biological female who identifies as genderqueer – so what? Yet it’s also no secret that I spent years in a relationship with a gay-for-pay escort (and even wrote a memoir about it), living as close to a male homosexual experience as my biology would allow. That defines my POV. So when I’m asked about being a female writer or filmmaker – or female anything – I take that as an opportunity to clarify that I can only speak on my response to society’s treatment of someone it sees as female. (As is expected since I staunchly refuse to alter my outsides to match my insides simply to make myself fit in with the population at large. Or, as my hero(ine) Eddie Izzard says, “I didn’t jump out of a not-wearing-dress box into a have-to-wear-dress box.” As for what women want? Ask Izzard.)

To read the rest visit Global Comment.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Girls Interrupted: Juliet Lammers and Lorraine Price on Last Woman Standing

When I met Canadian director Juliet Lammers during the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival – where we served together on a sprawling panel – her film Last Woman Standing, which made the Hot Docs 2013 Netflix Audience Award top five, wasn’t even on my radar. But it certainly should have been. Co-directed by Lammers and Lorraine Price, Last Woman Standing is more than a riveting sports flick (though it’s that as well). Unique in approach, the doc focuses just as much on the relationship rift between Ariane Fortin and Mary Spencer, two of the world’s best boxers, as it does on their unavoidable rivalry – when the longtime friends are forced to literally fight one another for a sole spot on Canada’s Olympic team. Filmmaker spoke with the Montreal duo prior to the doc’s January 28th VOD release.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jonathan Harris Peeks Inside the Lesbian Porn Industry in I Love Your Work

A three-time Webby Award winner and a 2009 World Economic Forum “Young Global Leader,” who has exhibited at MoMA and built the world’s largest time capsule with Yahoo!, Jonathan Harris can now add the firestarters IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling – for his latest interactive project I Love Your Work – to his esteemed CV. In it Harris invites us on an online journey not to the Arctic Ocean with Alaskan Eskimos – as he did in his previous piece, The Whale Hunt – but into the lives of nine women residing in a much hotter climate, that of the lesbian porn industry. Filmmaker spoke with Harris, whose guiding mission is to “make projects that reimagine how humans relate to technology and to each other,” right on the heels of his IDFA win. (Both I Love Your Work and I Want You To Want Me, in which Harris tackles online dating in similar form, screen in the New Frontier section at this year’s Sundance.)

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Director Sydney Freeland Discusses Drunktown’s Finest

I’ve been hearing the praises of Drunktown’s Finest director Sydney Freeland being sung for some time now. The 2004 Fulbright scholar and Sundance alum – whose long list of awards includes a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellowship and a Sundance Institute Directing Fellowship in 2010, and a 2009 Sundance Institute Native American Lab Fellowship – has also long been a fixture on the cozy New Mexico filmmaking scene. (Since I programmed the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival 2012 it’s not surprising the Gallup native and I even share mutual friends.) That said, as a jaded critic it’s second nature for me to simply roll my eyes at hype. Yet after watching Freeland’s debut feature, it’s safe to say I now understand exactly what the film’s executive producer Robert Redford sees in Freeland.

An authentic voice with a refreshingly nuanced vision, for one. Drunktown’s Finest follows the interweaving struggles of three young Indians – a soon-to-be father days away from the start of basic training, a college-bound adopted daughter of Christian missionaries, and a transsexual beauty pageant contestant in the running to become one of the “Women of the Navajo.” In other words, novel characters I actually haven’t seen on the big screen before. Even more remarkable, Freeland eschews easy villains in favor of creating believable people just doing what they can to get by. (And what they think is right, however misguided that may be.) And like with Patrick Wang’s similarly subtle In the Family, Freeland’s characters don’t dwell on their marginalization – be it Native American or trans or gay or any combination thereof – which is how real people, with much more weightier issues to tackle than simply defining themselves, behave. (Only in antiquated movies do LGBT folks’ lives revolve around identity 24/7.) And in addition, Freeland gives us a poignant bonus insight – that as bad as it can get on the rez, a spiritual sustenance is lost when leaving it.

Filmmaker spoke with Freeland prior to her Drunktown’s Finest debut in the NEXT section at Sundance.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.