I&I

Toronto International Porn Festival

Went to the Toronto Intl Porn Festival (fka the Feminist Porn Festival) last weekend and was pleasantly surprised. My chief criticism of some films from earlier years was how much of the porn was shot using the cinematic style of mainstream porn, i.e., low angle shots, constant closeups of genital penetration, framing that decapitates heads, etc. It’s a style that encourages the viewer to objectify porn actors, to override their selfhood with the viewer’s desires.

This wasn’t the case with the films I saw this year (both shorts and excerpts): basically we saw a lot of porn taking style cues from other cinematic traditions, e.g., BED PARTY, a cinéma vérité style film that was mostly handheld and included meta shots like a couple fucking while you can see the legs of a crew member.

Casting was diverse – it’s always been diverse – but it seemed like there were more POCs this year. Seniors, fat people and disabled people were also shot in a manner meant to be arousing and these films were very much about these people’s sexualities. In particular, larger actors were not represented as punchlines, which was my main criticism of Dan Savage’s HUMP! tour. So kudos to the curator for that.

My favourite scene was actually the brief party scene from embedded video above where everyone’s dressed up and dancing as they please. It’s like my ideal evening out: cram a bunch of people into a tiny bare bones space with a $5 cover, everyone is wearing what makes them feel good, everyone is into the music, everyone is enjoying their bodies and what their bodies can do. All social boundaries – esp those pertaining to gender, class, race – are relaxed. Power is unleashed and starts to flow in all different sorts of ways: erotic ways, creative ways, dangerous ways.

I digress. The fest also had a panel discussion with the filmmakers/actors afterward and there was a lot of interesting insights shared. But I’ll finish with a point made by BED PARTY producer Jiz Lee: that porn makers (and sex workers of all stripes) face discriminatory barriers regarding access to a financial infrastructure, esp with credit card processing companies, and yet, it is porn that has driven a number of technological advances that society has benefited from, especially online. Lee pointed out the hypocrisy in our willingness to allow the porn industry to invest in technological innovation and to let the industry absorb those attendant risks while rejecting porn as a legitimate field of labour and submitting porn/sex workers to all kinds of double standards.

Looking forward to next year…

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