For years now Midnight programmers have created their own little microcosm that has become renowned for its ecstatic audiences and mind boggling on screen content. This year’s Midnight selection offers the usual grotesque assortment of dark comedies and horror flicks, but of all of the films programmed this year, perhaps none will be quite as startling as the James Franco produced doc kink.
kink tells the story of real life BDSM powerhouse kink.com, the largest producer of bondage and S&M content in the United States. For 89 minutes, audiences are granted the rare opportunity to take a look behind the leather curtain of the pornographic industry and to explore a sub-genre of material that is oftentimes misunderstood and misconstrued. Through a series of behind the scenes shots and interviews with popular Directors and Models, kink gives viewers a seldom seen inside look into one of the world’s most taboo industries, given to us straight from the content generators themselves.
The real challenge of a film like kink lays in finding a way to accurately document the inner workings of the world of pornography, without compromising the objectivity that such a film requires. Thankfully Brooklyn based Director Christina Voros had the good sense to take a more ‘fly on the wall’ approach to her Documentary, letting the content and its producers speak for itself, without any of the agenda fueled 3rd person commentary that has become ever so popular in documentaries these days.
For some audiences, the graphic sexual content captured here may cause them to simply dismiss this film as pornography itself, however this really isn’t the case. Sure, it can be kind of awkward to see women hung upside down while being stimulated by giant industrial sized machines, especially in a crowd of a couple hundred festival goers, but the subject matter covered in kink make these kind of shots almost requisite and at no point did Voros andFranco compromise their educational directive.
Personally, I found the subject matter of this film to be extremely interesting, yet by the end I felt quite deprived. It is apparent that the primary goal that the filmmakers had when making this was to both educate audiences, and to perhaps even break away the “deviant” label that is many times attached to BDSM. For the most part they did just that. My main problem with the film was that they really seemed to skirt some of the harder questions that I felt a film like this should have asked.
The world of BDSM, and indeed sexuality in general, is such a prime place for psychological discussion, yet the film tended to shy away, mostly ignoring the deeper questions that I felt a film like this should have been asking. What causes a person to derive such pleasure from these acts? If it’s just about endorphin release and total freedom to do what you will with your own body, then does that make self mutilation OK; Or what about suicide? Is this lifestyle one that is always therapeutic, or are their occasions where a sexual act only offers a temporary fix, while extenuating and re-enforcing other long term psychological or emotional damage that may or may not exist? How do we separate in our minds that it is OK to be abusive in the bedroom, but not in the outside world? These are just a few of the questions that the film seemed to ignore all together.
In the end, kink wonderfully achieves its goal of lightly educating and demystifying the world of BDSM, but for people that are already familiar with this world, you may find yourself left wanting. If you get a chance to screen the film either here at the festival or elsewhere, I highly recommend you do so. Regardless of any issues I did have with it, it is nonetheless a beautiful character study and one that should rightfully be noted for the things it did do, more so than the things that it did not.