A brief history of Amsterdam’s porn film festivals

Posted on January 30, 2024

By Jennifer Lyon Bell

Folks assume that Amsterdam's bacchanalian reputation means that porn film festivals abound. Untrue! There have been only a few in recent history -- and we need more.

 History of porn film festivals in Amsterdam

 

Writing about the new Amsterdam Porn Film Festival this year has made me realize: It’s about time Amsterdam got a real porn film festival again!

 

Finally: Amsterdam Porn Film Festival 2024

 

 

Now in 2024, Amsterdam is the proud host of the Amsterdam Porn Film Festival, and initiative of volunteers and of co-host cinema Filmhuis Cavia’s staff and archives  — along with the participation of Amsterdam’s excellent Uitkijk Cinema. Those of us in the sex-positive creative world are racing out instantly to get tickets.  (See our Events page for more info about the festival.) But doesn’t he city of Amsterdam host porn film festivals all the time? Not at all! A short history of the porn film festival tradition in Amsterdam shows that there was a more than 30-year gap between the first one and the subsequent few.

 

Rated X: Amsterdam Alternative Erotica Film Festival

 

 

As some of you remember, I was one of the organizers back many years ago of the Rated X: Amsterdam Alternative  Erotica Film Festival from 2007-2009. It was quite successful, particularly the last year at the renovated Kriterion Cinema, but it’s a heck of a lot of work to put on a great porn festival when so many theaters/vendors/sponsors are fearful of PORN. So eventually we had to stop, although we had loved it –and still today I hear from audience members who enjoyed it so much at the time. Not surprisingly, nearly all the screenings sold out  –including all 70+ films that we programmed!

 

Rated X  was originally created by Chris Pazzaglia and Bass Beek, and grew into our dream team — Chris and Bass, myself, and Marije Janssen, who took a special interests in putting together lectures and panel discussions so that the audience could deepen their understanding if the issues in sexual culture upon which our chosen films touched.

 

 

International porn filmmaker guests Maria Beatty and Anna Span:

 

UK porn director Anna Span and Jennifer Lyon Bell

 

International porn/art filmmaker Maria Beatty and Jennifer Lyon Bell

 

And I was fortunate to be able to premiere our Blue Artichoke Films film Matinée in the 400-seat hall:

 

Matinée’s Director of Photography ptrz and star Alicia Whitsover

 

Matinée: Alicia Whitsover, cameraman Stephan Brenninkmeijer, supporting role Teri Vakaki

 

The website is long shuttered, but our press and reviews live on.

 

Holy Fuck Film Festival

Filmhuis Cavia has long been supportive of porn, long before their Porn Film Festival Amsterdam. “Only” ten years ago, in 2014, Filmhuis Cavia was the home to the Holy Fuck Film Festival, wittily named to reflect that it took place on the Dutch holiday of Hemelvaart (Ascension Day.) The linked article in Het Parool includes an interview with co-organizer Yvette Luhrs (a friend of Blue Artichoke Films, and often a member of our cast and/or crew!) and explicates the value of such a festival.

 

Our trilogy film Silver Shoes screened there, and I also taught my “From Fantasy To Film: Make Your Own Porn Film” workshop there.

 

Wet Dream Film Festival

 

 

There was one, and only one, classic Amsterdam porn film festival. Long before Rated X and Holy Fuck, the only porn film festival ever to exist was Wet Dream Film Festival  in Amsterdam from 1970-1971.  Fun fact: Wet Dream Film Festival is often misspelled as Wet Dreams Film Festival due to the naming of the subsequent book about the festival .  Wet Dream was the first porn film festival in all of Europe, and it caused quite a stir. It was an outgrowth of the edgy  art-sex magazine, Suck, also based in Amsterdam. Suck organized Wet Dream, and followed up its success with a beautiful 4-color coffeetable book about the festival called Wet Dreams.

 

 

The EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam honored Wet Dream’s history with a Wet Dream “recap” retrospective during the EYE’s weeklong Cinema Erotica festival in 2017. Four important works were shown.

 

It’s a bit surprising to me that more than thirty years passed before the first serious film festival, Rated X, arrived in Amsterdam. Was it because Dutch popular culture was progressive and sexual enough that a porn film festival seemed unnecessary?

 

More information: Archives of Wet Dream and Suck

 

If you’re interested in the history of sexual culture in the Netherlands, definitely make a visit — as I recently did — to The International Institute of Social History (Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis) in Amsterdam.  They have a huge and valuable archive, and even without an institutional affiliation, you can look through the carefully archived materials if you put in a request enough days in advance.

 

Amsterdam needs modern porn film festivals!

 

If you happened to be in the audience of any of these festivals, maybe you already have some ideas about the specific films that opened your eyes to something new and interesting, or you noticed a sexual topic that you would love to see addressed in a future porn movie. Maybe you can start your own festival!

 

It’s recently come to my attention that sexual culture events, especially porn film festivals, are starting to slip through the cracks of our shared community history.  The websites disappear, and the film programs, panel discussion videos, and film competitions are lost to the ages. This especially true of our shared LGBTQIA+ porn/festival history.  It’s particuly poignant that many important issues in 2024 society — — trans rights, consent, the devlopment of the queer movement — were often formally discussed years or even decades before these issues entered mainstream popular culture.  If you still have materials from any of these festivals, or similar ones in Europe and America, please let me know and I will try to get them into the right hands.  (jennifer at blueartichokefilms dot com.)

 

And: Definitely come to the Amsterdam Porn Film Festival this February 8-11, 2024 at Filmhuis Cavia and De Uitkijk. On our Blue Artichoke fIlm website Events page, you can read details about their mission and see their film program. See you there!

 

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