On 10 February, feminist pornographer Erika Lust is coming to the Babylon Kino in Berlin to screen XConfessions, films she made based on your sexual fantasies. (Details here.) Our contributor Saskia Vogel caught up with Erika before her trip to Berlin
In 2004, Lust burst on the scene with The Good Girl, a porno that also attested to the power and potency of the female gaze in adult cinema. As ID magazine put it: „Erika Lust’s pioneering feminist pornography gives women a dignity that’s been lost in mass produced commercial porn.“ Her unique sensibility has gained her a loyal following and mainstream media attention around the world.
For her crowdsourced XConfessions project, which launched in 2013, fans submit their erotic fantasies, and each month Lust chooses two submissions–ranging from mermaid fantasies to borrowing your roommates sex toy–and turns them into short films. We chatted about sex-positivity, Girls and what you can learn from other people’s X-rated confessions…
We’re excited to have you in Berlin, Erika! Have you screened your films here before?
Indeed I have! Back in June 2012 my film Cabaret Desire was screened at my one of my favorite places in Berlin, Soho House. It went great and the audience really engaged with it as everyone there is very open minded to my work, but it was only on a very small scale compared to my event next week at Babylon Kino!
So this time I am very much looking forward to showing a much bigger audience the films I am most proud of from XConfessions.com. This project is sourced from people all over the world, from their fantasies and kinks, so to show it in a cinema, sharing the experience with a room full of people, is just wonderful. It’s a very engaging project, so I look forward to opening up the conversation even more with Q&A with the audience afterwards to hear their feedback.
I’ve visited Berlin many times and now work with a number of performers and stores in Berlin, so it will be great to come back to a city that has always been so supportive of my work in many way.
How did this collaboration with the Berlin Film Society come about?
Jack Howard from Berlin Film Society actually reached out to us after reading some the features in the mainstream UK press. As they specialize in unique cinematic events they wanted to do an extra special erotic one!
This is actually the third XConfessions Theatrical Cut screening event I have done in the last six months. I did one at Raindance Film Festival in London in September and then Chicago International Film Festival in October. I feel like it’s very important to keep spreading XConfessions across the world, but in a way that lets me engage with more and more people on a human level. Berlin was just the next natural best fit. With the project growing more and more, it’s now ready to be part of a stand alone independent event with support from a wonderful independent company like Berlin Film Society. So on the tenth February it’s a brand new Theatrical Cut, with ten new short films from the XConfessions series, some yet to be released online.
Since you started working in the XConfessions series, what has surprised you?
I am pleasantly surprised every week by the project. Seeing all the amazing creative and hugely diverse ideas and fantasies that people have inspires me constantly. I honestly wish I could make more films to do more the justice they deserve. So it has made me realise just how diverse peoples sexual fantasies can be. Especially for women. Something that I never thought I would hear though was when a women who came to a private screening last year tell me: “I’m jealous of the sex the characters are having on screen.” It was a real moment of realisation that I was making erotic cinema that was inspiring people to have better sex. To explore, to learn and to grow sexually.
I can imagine that working from anonymous confessions might facilitate a different kind of playfulness when you’re thinking about the aesthetics of a film, or that working from other people’s stories might inspire you to think about your work in a new way. As a filmmaker, how has this project influenced you work?
It influences me in many ways. To be more creative, more open-minded, more adventurous, more kinky, more taboo. The creativity of from the users makes me push the boundaries of every new film I make. To think outside the box, to be different and make cinematically beautiful films on a budget. Because of course, as much as I might want to film in front of the Niagara Falls or in the Amazon Jungle it’s just not possible! That challenge I love the most. To find ways of creating a certain aesthetic with limited resources.
Thinking about the landscape of pornography: I remember speaking to some indie female filmmakers after the Berlin Porn Film Fest a few years ago – incredible filmmakers – and they said that finding distribution and monetizing their work was one of the biggest challenges. I’ve also heard statements along the lines of “the market for female-driven porn just isn’t there,” which just seems untrue. There seem to be more and more kinds of voices that have been making themselves heard in pornography in the past years, from Trenchcoatx to Jiz Lee to Ovidie. What do you think has changed since you started working with sex films in 2004? And what tips do you have for viewers of pornography who want to find more work like yours?
In the last ten years, there has been a huge serge of women speaking up in the porn industry. Women who strongly believe that female sexuality and pleasure should have a discourse in pornography and erotica. There has been a huge shift in more open minded people and people willing to stand up for there rights. Then feminism in particular has had it’s fair share of media coverage and exposure in the last few years which has blown up the conversation and put it in the minds of the mainstream. It all began with the greats like Candida Royal and Ovidie, now we have our Vex Ashleys and Nimpho Ninja’s. It’s amazing to be part of such a sex-positive movement.
And for tips, I actually wrote a piece for The Independent specifying nine easy steps!
Who are your favorite artists, writers or filmmakers exploring sex and sexuality (pornographic or otherwise)?
L’amant, (The Lover) by Jean Jacques Annoud, is probably the one film that impacted me the most to start making erotic films, I saw it when I was a teenager and was spellbound – the attention to the female perspective in that story really resonated with me. And I think that was when I realized how often that aspect was missing…. and I love the Swedish director Lukas Moodysson. For beginners, Fucking Amal is a good one to start with. A beautiful love story that I could watch over and over again. I love his sensitivity, his attention to details, the grainy footage. I really like Bitter Moon by Roman Polanski and Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrik. Kubrick’s hypnotizing photography will always inspire me. I watch and re-watch Girls constantly and am intrigued by Lena Dunham’s story-telling.
Then in the erotic world, I love the work of Ovidie and Candida Royal of course, but also Jennifer Lyon Bell, the kinky from Madison Young, and the more experimental films from Vex Ashley and Fours Chambers and those of Nympho Ninjas who make very realistic and spontaneous sex in amazing settings.
All photos courtesy of www.erikalust.com