I decided to make it out to New York for the CineKink/NY film festival this year with our new film Adorn. It’s always a treat to be in New York when I live so far away in Amsterdam, because I miss my New York friends and there are so many things that I can only enjoy in the USA — deep-fried mozzarella sticks being at the top of the list!
USA Premiere + Artist Spotlight award
This seemed like an especially good year to come for the festival. Not only was Adorn invited for its USA premiere at CineKink, but the festival director quietly let me know that CineKink had decided to award me their first ever Artist Spotlight award, designed to recognize excellence across a body of work. I honestly was gobsmacked to hear this, because so many great filmmakers have screened at CineKink over the years I’ve been attending. It’s also an honor because I kind of “grew up” with CineKink as a filmmaker. They selected my first film, Headshot, and every single film I’ve made since then. So I’m especially touched to receive it from them.
Adorn – In a historical documentary program
The Adorn premiere was on a Saturday afternoon, and for the first time ever, my programmed sexy film was NOT in a lineup of other erotic-porn film. This was kind of exciting. Rather, the “Work It!” program “profiles the passion – and work – that goes into making sex-positivity one’s mission and business.” Certainly that description matches my experience of directing movies, so I went into the screening perfectly happy with that. (And this is the kind of creative programming selection that CineKink is known for – I liked that too.) The lineup turned out to be a selection of documentaries placing us in a historical framework of filmmakers and erotic artists (like latex fetish outfit designers) who help make the world a better place by creating an atmosphere of sexual freedom, enlightenment, and sex-positivity. I particularly liked “Sex Tapes: Lessons from a 7ft Penis & Friends,” following the career of underground star performance artist/actor Norman Nawrocki over his 20+ year career of extremely popular goofball comedic performances. His shows promoted sex-postivity, safer sex, consent, LGBTQI+ education, and more – at a time in the 80’s when this was all pretty unusual. I also loved Ms. Naughty’s “I Am Lucie Bee,” a portrait of a very poised Australian porn performer, sex worker, cosplay artist, and self-defined nerd. I’ve seen Lucie in Ms. Naughty’s films before, and I think she’s wonderful, so this documentary actually took me a bit by surprise by making me like her even more. I won’t lie, I got happy tears in my eyes during the part where Lucie tries on all her cosplay outfit outfits for us. It’s hard to describe why – just go see it for free on YouTube!
Finally, it was time for Zoe D’Amaro’s short documentary “What’s Your Policy On Orgasms?” (Godmother Films) which is kind of preview of her feature cinema documentary in development, “Naked.” Zoe is a talented filmmaker and friend who asked to come to the Adorn set to document the experience– something I rarely agree to. But with the permission of the cast & crew, and knowing that Zoe is a gentle person who would stay in the background, I let her come to the Adorn set and follow most of our preparation, with the exception of the actual shoot itself (which is closed-set for the performers’ privacy, of course.) Zoe also interviewed myself and the stars Sadie Lune and Parker Marx about our thoughts on sex and film, and feminism, and about why we specifically were interested in making this kind of film. “What’s Your Policy On Orgasms?”ended up as an 8-minute short documentary that, for me, uniquely captures the experience of working on one of my movies. You can see we’re having tons of fun and we genuinely like spending time together, but we’re also respecting boundaries and getting stuff done.
And after that great setup, Adorn played. It was the only sex movie in the lineup! I have to admit it was really enjoyable to watch Sadie and Parker’s chemistry bloom in front of us while I was still feeling fresh. Plus, seeing Zoe’s film first created a lot of fun anticipation. The audience members who I talked to afterwards told me that they were really curious to see Adorn after seeing the backstory! It was a great pairing.
Zoe D’Amaro’s documentary about Adorn wins
At the Sunday awards ceremony, when they called the winner for the Best Documentary Short award, I was so happy to hear them announce the winner was “What’s Your Policy On Orgasms?” Naturally I love Zoe’s film, but it’s a real treat to hear that other people liked it too. Since Zoe couldn’t make it from Amsterdam, I took the stage and accepted the award on her behalf.
Adorn wins Best Dramatic Short Film!
At that Sunday awards ceremony, I honestly thought that Adorn was not eligible for an award given that I was receiving the big Artist Spotlight award. But as soon as I sat down from accepting Zoe’s film for her, I was called to the stage again – Adorn actually won the jury prize for Best Dramatic Short Film! I was thrilled, for myself as well as for our fantastic cast and crew who made the film what it is.
CineKink Artist Spotlight award: Jennifer
Finally I was brought to the stage to receive CineKink’s very first Artist Spotlight award. I gave a speech and got a little teary. It was quite wonderful.
The best thing about erotic film festivals is meeting the other filmmakers and performers. Everyone’s work is so different, so I especially enjoy hearing about their artistic process and what they care most about. This year I spent a lot of time with the Spark Erotic team: Co-founders Urvashi and Kama, and performers Angel, Remy, and Rogue. Remy and Rogue are the adorable couple who won for the very cute retro porn “PSA,” and I had noticed Angel in a film from Porn FilmFestival Berlin two years ago – he has the kind of eyes one doesn’t easily forget! I also hung out and sang karaoke with Maggie Bailey, the director of the animated Sweet Sweet Kink: A Collection of BDSM Stories. By everyone’s accounts this is an amazing film, and I intended to be there..but due to a rainstorm, a broken subway line, and a midtown dinner engagement, I was terrifically late. Dang it! I will get a hold of it later. But I did manage to see Transcendent Bodies, the first-ever film of tantric expert and sexologist/educator/author/performance-artist Barbara Carrellas – it was so interesting to witness one of her sessions.
Though the filmmakers all weren’t there, I very much also enjoyed pretty much everything in the erotic Taking Flight film shorts program, like Jo Pollux’s and Sadie Lune’s As You Wish, My Lady, the very charming Orgy #1 by Aorta Films, and Goodyn Green’s Second Shutter. In fact, I’m just gonna list them because they were all so good:
As You Wish, My Lady (Jo Pollux and Sadie Lune)
Patron Saint (Georden West)
Make Me Fly (Morena Barra)
NÄKKI – Spellbound (Luna Kuu & Lynx Ymi)
Plastic & Fur (Maria Blah & Kay Garnellen)
Orgy #001 (Aorta Films)
Second Shutter (Goodyn Green)
I also loved the In The Dark film shorts program, a “masterful set of shorts that cruise through dungeons, parks and porn booths, exploring a bit of Leather pride and history along the way.” Every one was good. Some favorites included the eponymous In the Dark, a stop-motion darkroom animation (with surprisingly queer and trans-friendly characters, too!) seemingly made with figures held together by those little brass paper fasteners we used in grade school. Tribute is a film I saw at Pornfilmfestival Berlin already in the autumn, but I never tire of it – it’s a lush black-and-white masterwork homage that “reimagines the idea of a lesbian cruising ground in London, enacted in the same historic spot.” With The Tide was creepy and lovely fiction, about a grieving man in an empty house. The understated documentary Lasting Marks by Charlie Lyne uses a spare archival interview track and photographs to recapture a travesty of justice. Intoxicate Yourself by Candy Flip, Jo Pollux and Theo Meow was a slow and liquid dance of bodies in sexual communion. I always enjoy Charles Lum’s and Todd Verow’s films, often with a historical bent, and I was pleased to see a sweet intergenerational sex romp play out in a 1980’s gay video shop in their cute movie this year, davy and GOLIATH.
Also great: Alberto Ferreras’s Lesson #1 and Lesson #8, little interpersonal dramas shot in black and white and all revolving around sexuality. The topics were great (on a Tinder date, how much sexual past “should” a woman admit to? What happens when your gay app hookup leads your date down the wrong sexual path?) and the acting was sensational. Lots of very believable awkwardness, which I always love. He mentioned in his Q&A that one had already been picked up by Netflix – nicely done! And last but not least, the sneak hit of the festival was Me Time by Iyabo Boyd, in which a woman determines to relax with masturbation grapples with all her internal voices — independent characters all simultaneously played by the same actress, Adenike Thomas! Honestly, it was quite impressive – I even forgot at times that I was watching a trick of cinema. But it was a trick full of heart.
Jennifer’s “From Fantasy To Film Workshop”
On the last day of the festival, Sunday, festival director Lisa Vandever invited me to reprise my workshop “From Fantasy To Film: Design your Own Porn Film.” So far, I teach it every time I come to CineKink. It’s a nice diverse crowd because usually half are visitors of of the CineKink festival, and half are just unrelated New York folks who care about erotic movies and want to expand their personal horizons. As usual, our participants were awesome. We had over 20 people who worked very nicely together in small groups, very supportive and helpful towards each others’ erotic and kinky ideas. I can’t share any of the ideas with you, because “what happens in From Fantasy To Film stays in From Fantasy To Film” (!), but they were diverse and intriguing and I kind of hope that some of the participants actually make their film someday.
Closing kink party
Every year’s festival ends with a BDSM-friendly “play party” in a local sex club. This year it was at Bowery Bliss again (thanks to the nice owners), and with the twinkly lights on, it was almost cute. And it speaks very well to the friendly vibe of CineKink that it’s easy to come to the party and go either way — play or not-play. No pressure, just fun. While some of us took advantage of the kink equipment and closed private spaces upstairs to fulfill our weeklong crushes, others of us just hung out, drinking and laughing.
Daytimes in New York
When we were not attending film screenings, Blue Artichoke Films’ project manager (and Adorn crew member) Julia ter Horst and I managed to squeak in a bit of New York fun. We walked the renovated High Line old subway line and saw the controversial new building “Vessel,”, we ate delicious yet slippery soup dumplings in Chinatown, and I got a chance to finally see the teenage-audience-packed Broadway show Mean Girls (highly recommended.) I wish we had longer in New York to see friends and hit some contemporary art museums, but Amsterdam was calling me home. However, I did get those deep-fried mozzarella sticks I craved – at three different restaurants – so with a full belly, my awards, and some great new friends, I went home happy.
Thank you, CineKink!
Big love to Lisa Vandever and the dedicated CineKink volunteer support staff for taking such good care of us!