If there’s one thing that Berlin has remained throughout the 21st century, it’s turned on. And nowhere is that more apparent than in its beloved long-running PornFilmFestival Berlin, now in its 14th year. If you’re new to the scene, you may be disappointed to find out that it’s not six days of hardcore in-out; others will know it’s the city’s showcase of the best international cinema dealing with sexuality, explicit (yes, there’s plenty) or not. The fest opens with a European-American co-production of sorts as San Francisco porn performer and director Madison Young returns after a five-year hiatus with Unraveled Intimacies (Oct 22), produced by Barcelona-based Erika Lust’s Lust Films.
As for the rest of the features, it’s as diverse as ever, from festival-budget productions to renegade no-budget screen screams. The fest brings a couple hits from said big(ger) cinema circuits, so if you missed them the first time around, here’s a chance to see them in a very fitting context. Coming out of France is Yann Gonzalez’ Knife+Heart, a nod to William Friedkin’s Cruising and an array of 1970s European exploitation flicks, in which a lesbian director of cheap gay porn has to figure out who’s murdering her cast. Also from France is Bertrand Mandico’s deliciously intoxicating Wild Boys, about an island’s forbidden fruits that turn unruly young men into the women bent on taking over the world.
Although not a focus, the festival takes a queer trip to Brazil this year with three notable films (the first two from this year’s Berlinale): Gustavo Vinagre and Rodrigo Carneiro’s The Blue Flower of Novalis, Armando Praça’s Greta and André Medeiros Martins’ Alfredo Doesn’t Like Goodbyes, a cinematically and sexually adventurous exploration of family relations. For those wanting something a little schizophrenic, there’s Dracula Is Not Dead – Luizo Vega’s follow up to Madonna progeny mockumentary The Material Boy – an industrial medium mish-mash (music videos, YouTube, late night b-movie film screenings on TV, silent film) take on a futuristic and very sexualized Dracula. Another worth seeing is Hari Sama’s This Is Not Berlin (and it’s not), a coming-of-age story set in 1986 Mexico City about a group of post-punks who’ve overdosed on Blixa Bargeld. And if you want a primer for the fest, catch it onscreen in the form of Ron Hex’s Volunteers Wanted, a hardcore (sexually and emotionally) documentary deep dive into what makes the festival so appealing for some, capturing both the festival in previous years and one woman’s quest for romance within it.
Shorts play a big role in the festival as every year, taking a broad focus on sexuality through sections like Experimental, BDSM, Lesbian, Gay, the homegrown Berlin, Political, MILFs, Fun and of course the Competition Shorts. This year also adds lessons for newbies and longtime festival goers alike: Educational Porn Shorts. Yes, sex ed in the cinema. With everything from how to celebrate your cunt to riding bikes in latex to blowjob tutorials, head to see what you can learn this year.
Aside from the usual features, docs and shorts teasing all the sexual flavors of the rainbow, this year features a new focus: Classic Porn. One is Michelle Handelman’s 1995 documentary Bloodsisters, an exploration of the lesbian BDSM scene in San Francisco in the mid-1990s that is a playful and informative slice of lesbian visibility from another time and coast. Arthur J. Bressan, Jr.’s 1976 Forbidden Letters remains on the same coast but goes further back in time as one gay man narrates some artfully shot hardcore black-and-white sex with the letters to his lover in prison. Two films in Classic Porn focus on geographies, or at least political geographies, that no longer exist: Frank Ripploh’s 1980 Taxi zum Klo is an absolute must for Berlin-kenner, explicitly portraying gay life in West Berlin behind the Wall, while the devastating, yet fascinating, non-narrative Sto dnei do prikaza (100 Days Before the Command), released in the final days of the USSR, gives us a bleak look into the homogeneous, and often homoerotic world of the young Soviet soldiers in training.
Not to be confused with Classic Porn, the Retrospective looks at a specific set of classic pornography, this year: a look at hetero French porn of the 1970s. Now’s your chance to see seldom seen classics like Max Péca’s 1974 The 1001 Perversions of Felicia. The retro films all screen in dubbed German versions, but if your German isn’t up to scratch, take consolation in the fact that some genres, like Italian giallo, somehow just work better dubbed.
Aside from the sex, this festival truly is for cinephiles. If you’re a fan of analog, this year sees more films being screened on celluloid than ever before, with five original 35mm and two 16mm screenings for those who find a flicker sexy.
The fest continues to honor contemporaneous filmmakers in its Filmmakers in Focus series. Among others, this year sees Nan Kinney, filmmaker and founder of lesbian erotic magazine On Our Backs, and Jake Jaxson of New York-based gay porn company Cocky Boys. And, as always, there’s sexy afterhours to match the sexy days in Germany’s oldest cinema, Moviemento (as well as adjunct cinema Babylon Kreuzberg). Each night, hit up Ficken3000 for networking, good times or… ficken. The lounges are followed on October 26 by the PornFilmFestival Party, this year in a new location: Burg Schnabel, next to Arena on the Spree in Kreuzberg. The whole thing climaxes on the 27th with Meow Meow Collective’s first feature, The Sad Girls From the Mountains, a Bruce LaBruce-esque trip into radical feminist politics with a wicked sense of humour. Finally, find out who’s the porniest of them all at the closing night awards at Monarch, Kottbusser Tor.
14. PornFilmFestival Berlin | Moviemento and Babylon Kreuzberg, Kreuzberg. Oct 22-27.