This film by Markku Keikkinen is an expose of the Eastern European gay porn industry, focusing on a minor porn studio based in Prague, one of many that sprang up in Eastern Europe in the mid-90’s. It’s a brutally fair and unforgiving look past the fantasies, at the actual business of selling sex and the people who make it work.
What we’re seeing is, mostly, pretty messed up people and dysfunctional relationships. Of the three performers who were interviewed, two left the business after a couple of years and seem to have built a life on their own (but say they’ll never go back, and don’t want to talk about it much), but a third really went downhill, ending up homeless and tweaked out of his gourd. To be fair, he never seemed that together in the first place, but the sudden fame, money, and a 3-year relationship with the director (a man twice his age, with issues of his own) probably didn’t help.
Intentionally or not, the documentary serves as a deconstruction of the porn itself. In a few instances, viewers are treated to short clips of the interviewees in action, mostly the scene-setting and foreplay parts. To me this was not a turn-on, instead highlighting just how silly and artless these fantasies are.
During the Q&A, the director revealed that he’d shot a lot more footage, and was planning to release it on DVD to paint a broader picture. Also, that he couldn’t get access to larger studios like Bel Ami or William Higgins, specifically because his work would shatter the fantasy.
When asked if he had any interviews with young men happy in the industry, Keikkinen said yes, but only Berliners. They’re much more aware of their choices and the politics, but the culture in Eastern Europe is very different.
One scene in the movie (plus shots of several DVD covers) brought up the increase in bareback porn, but there was no subsequent discussion on HIV or other STIs, and what the studios are doing to stem it. That may be material for the subsequent DVDs. Keikkinen did mention something about a syphilis epidemic in Prague in 2006–2007, which may have been the final blow to the local porn scene, though economic realities meant it had been imploding for a while anyway.
Jason Karman hosted this movie so that, just as we buy fair trade coffee, we should also make ethical choices in the porn we consume. People are being exploited, and our dollars shouldn’t go to supporting that exploitation. Great point, and well taken. This documentary painted an incomplete picture, maybe, but was excellent food for thought, and though some hated it I found it a great addition to the VQFF lineup. Kind of an odd choice to pair it up with the ultra-fluffy Violet Tendencies, though…