For most of us, erotic film is more a means to an end than an event unto itself not to mention something to be enjoyed in private. This month, Good Vibrations offers a prime opportunity to break free from that conception and celebrate erotica in a thoroughly public way. On Sept. 17, the Good Vibrations Independent Erotic Film Festival returns to the Castro Theatre: two hosts, 11 finalists, and countless displays of kink, fetish, and good old-fashioned perversion.
According to festival director Camilla Lombard, Good Vibes received 50 submissions from all over the world. What was once regional has become international, and the formerly one-night event is being spread out across an entire week. Starting Sept. 12, Good Vibes is hosting a series of events, including a "Blue Movie Night" and a screening of the classic The Devil in Miss Jones (1973) with Miss Jones herself, Georgina Spelvin, in attendance.
The climax (no pun intended) is the Sept. 17 Castro Theatre screening, hosted by Peaches Christ and Dr. Carol Queen. Audience members will vote on the short films, which range from softcore to hardcore, sexy to sexier. The linking characteristic of these pieces is their objectivity it's not about what the mainstream porn industry says is hot. It's up to the filmmakers and, naturally, their audience to decide.
Travis Mathews' In Their Room finds its eroticism in the reality of male sexuality rather than in the act itself. Mathews interviewed a group of BUTT magazine readers in their bedrooms, getting his subjects to uncover themselves literally and figuratively.
"I think we're so desensitized in the traditional realm of what's erotic and what's pornographic that it just becomes not sexy," he explains. "The things that are interesting to me in porn are the little glimpses of things that are real or are authentic or mess-ups."
Though more explicit, Let Me Tell You John Cameron Mitchell by Paul Festa is equally unconventional. His piece was edited down from his audition tape for John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus (2006). A "remix" of the original, Festa's short fits with the festival's theme of subjective appreciation. As he puts it, "When you remove what you thought was the heart of it, it actually gives the reader or viewer something to do."
And then there are films with no nudity at all, like Nara Denning's Neurotique No. 4, a strange silent movie that hints at the erotic but remains essentially chaste. Denning shares a sentiment similar to Festa's: "I left it kind of open for [the audience] to interpret."
Unless you're an open-minded pansexual hornball, there's a good chance you won't find all 11 films arousing, and there's nothing wrong with that. Good Vibes intends their fest to be about choice and diversity, not about getting off though standing O's (pun fully intended) are not discouraged, of course.
GOOD VIBRATIONS INDEPENDENT EROTIC FILM FESTIVAL Sept 1217, various venues and prices, www.gv-ixff.org/film