Review of the 1999 Sundance Film Festival

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Film critic David D'Arcy was widely quoted in the NY Times as saying the trend at this year's Sundance Film Festival is porn. Well, having seen D'Arcy in the pink at the morning Filmmakers Forums at the Starbucks Cafe, I can say that he is probably attending a different festival from the rest of us. Slipping the word porn into an article may sell papers, but regrettably there was very little in the way of sex or sensuality at the Festival.

The festival does feature several new films that will be of interest to our SHS readers. The 'trend' consists of exactly three films, all documentaries. All three were also sell outs, with not even standing room available for all the people who wanted to see them. Hopefully, more showings will be scheduled before the Festival ends this weekend.

"The Girl Next Door" features Stacy Baker aka Stacy Valentine, an Oklahoma housewife who gives up her miserable white trash life to become a porn actress. Directed by Christine Fugate, the film follows Stacy as she enhances her body for the screen, and finds love and lust in the porn industry. Note that this film is woman made and directed (Fugate is also one of the producers.)

"The Girl Next Door" was shown at the Slamdance Festival Sunday night. Tickets sold out within twenty minutes when the Slamdance box office opened Saturday morning. The film will probably get distribution, although there was no clear word on this when I was at the Festival. If it does make it, it will probably be in the video aisle.

At Sundance, the new documentary "Sex: the Annabel Chong Story" also played to sold out audiences. Annabel Chong aka Grace Quek, was a twenty-two year old student studying for her masters degree in gender studies, when she decided to break the record for fucking, with 251 men in ten hours, ranging in age from 18 to 78.

This film is a more serious attempt to look at the political and social implications of the sex industry, through the experience of one woman. Grace, a native of Singapore, embarks on a strange journey around the world. The camera follows her to porn shoots, school, and back to her home when she comes out as a porn actress to her parents.

An SHS exclusive: I had the pleasure of speaking with Grace at the Festival, when she sat next to me in the Screenwriters Coffeehouse. Grace said she is going through personal changes now as she becomes more involved in the academic aspects of human sexuality. I found her to be intelligent, funny, serious, and cute. She's interested in learning what kinds of academic paths others have used to become sex researchers and therapists. I gave her some information, and of course directed her to the SHS web site. Grace was familiar with the organization (she lives in the San Francisco area.) Grace also hopes to produce porn from a women's perspective ala Candida Royale.

Grace explained that for the gang bang, she had about 5000 entries, which she personally narrowed down. She sees this act as political; she wants her work to help take back and 'own' female sexuality. She endorses rough sex and believes women should have the right to have the kind of sex they want.

The film is a more complex portrayal than I am able to describe here. Its not all positive, and its definitely not a puff piece for sex positivism like say a Nina Hartley or Annie Sprinkle film. The director Gough Lewis had the final cut, and Grace says she respects his editorial decisions.

The film was being negotiated with distributors at the festival, and it sounds like it will possibly receive at least a limited theatrical distribution in the US. It will be an X rating, which obviously limits the theatres that will show it.

The third film forming this new trend was "American Pimp" by the Hughes Brothers, Allen and Albert (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents) I didn't get a chance to see this because it was totally sold out and there was a riot among people trying to get in Saturday night! But, I did get to sit in on their hilarious interview with David D'Arcy Saturday morning.

According to the twins, they set out to make a movie about pimps and "ho's", and eventually decided to make a documentary of the guys they were meeting. They said the pimps were crazier than anything they could make up. Many of the pimps didn't take kindly to being on screen, so those interviews didn't make it in the film. Many of the pimps in the film are now semi-retired. There is a whole pimp industry and hierarchy described in the film. There is also the facade, of the fake hollowed out pimp jewelry, and pimp mobiles that look great but lack floor boards and working windows. And their mama liked it, so you know its got to be good.

This is not a explicit porn film, although its obviously raunchy. It may be able to get an R rating. If it does, it may get a theatrical release, based on the reputations of the directors. It was getting huge 'buzz' at Sundance. Nothing like a riot to set your film apart from the rest!

I'll be looking out for these films for a possible SHS movie night at the Seattle International Film Festival or another time. See you at the movies!

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