Ready, set, blow! The 11th Pornfilmfestival Berlin was off to a bangin’ start yesterday evening and the season’s greetings of “Happy Pornfilmfestival” were to be heard all around the lounge and cinema halls of Germany’s oldest cinema, Kino Moviemento. For the uninitiated, the Porn Film Festival is the 11-year-old fest dedicated to films from all around the world on sexuality and gender, which we Berliners never get tired of talking about. The flicks don’t necessarily have to be explicit “pornography” per se. But that doesn’t hurt and is in abundance too.
If you haven’t been, don’t be shy. It’s open to the public and the mood is intoxicating. People don’t bite... unless you ask.
Having seen the opening film ahead of time, I made sure not to take up a precious seat (The Bedroom is worth checking out and people who haven’t had the chance to see Anna Brownfield’s playful film should). I started my night off with Chemsex, the film, which I also had the pleasure of moderating (I’m moderating several this year, so I’ll keep you posted on anything scandalous – hopefully). Straight filmmakers William Fairman and Max Gogarty’s take on the London gay scene of unending sex and crystal meth consumption may be highly sensationalised, but it broaches an uncomfortable topic – one that needs to be discussed here in Berlin, too.
And clearly, Berliners are interested. The sold-out screening had to be moved from the smallest Kino to a larger one to accommodate demand. To address the topic, instead of the filmmakers, Pansy from discussion series Let’s Talk About Sex and Drugs, Jens Ahrens of Berliner AIDS Hilfe and two in-recovery users joined us at the front of the stage. I recently wrote in a column that chemsex isn’t really a thing here. But it’s naïve to think that it doesn’t happen at all. It does. Is it a full-blown crisis? Most likely not on the scale portrayed in London in the film, but according to Ahrens, numbers are hard to get here at the moment. As proof of the interest in the topic, the conversation ran until the hooks came out and we had to make room for the next screening. If you’re interested in seeing the film, it repeats on Friday, October 28 at 15:30.
I trundled off to Ficken 3000 for the lounge afterwards to make sure I woke up with at least some sort of headache.
The next day, after walking through the throbbing crowds on the sidewalk even at 12:30 in the morning, I got to soothe that headache with Todd Verow’s excellent and poetic This Side of Heaven, tying together aging femininity, loneliness, gentrification and sanity in a beautiful narrative thread starring a Norma Desmond-esque Philly Abe and legendary performance artist Penny Arcade. The Q&A I moderated with Todd after the film revealed that while a classic Hollywood filter was put on the situation, most of what’s on screen is/was happening in New York City. A real must-see.
You can catch it again on Saturday, October 29 at 11:00 at Spektrum, the Pornfilmfestival's new adjunct venue for workshops and extra screenings. As a bonus, it's wheelchair accessible, finally providing access to everyone for the fest.
Before allowing myself to breathe, I wrapped the afternoon up with Gay Porn Shorts 1. The excellent and hysterical “Folsom Street” put a Singing In the Rain spin on the famed San Francisco fetish event, and even if it was made as a promo piece for the fair, you've got to tip your hat to the agency that got that one together. The other notable short was Ceven Knowles and Emre Busse’s “Landlords”, a doco on S&M apartment renting in Berlin. Not exactly shocking, but an interesting look into Berlin’s other AirBnB (although all sublets featured in the film are legal).
And this is just the beginning. Now I'm off to see a performance that scandalised left-wing housing project Kopi last year. Has Berlin's left scene grown up since then? Check back here to find out.