October 20th, 2006
Independent Filmmakers Alliance Newsletter
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The IFA presents Darryl's Hard Liquor and Porn Film Festival 2006 which was held on just last Saturday, October 14th, showing short funny films about sex.

Experiments in Film -
The Hard Liquor and Porn Film Festival

by Anya Wassenberg

You know it's no ordinary film festival when the most visible media coverage are the crews from SexTV and the Naked News, and you know for sure you're not in Kansas anymore when the executive producer's assistant is a tall guy in a spandex devil's suit, complete with red wings. Welcome to Darryl Gold's Hard Liquor and Porn Film Festival, a celebration of film like no other - on more levels than the obvious.

Contrary to many first impressions, HLP is a showcase for short, funny films about sex – not “real” pornography. “The few times people have brought real porn, against the other films, it was boring!” laughs Robert Pincombe, a longtime friend and associate of Darryl Gold. One day several years ago, film maker and digital effects whiz Gold (Earth: Final Conflict, High Tech Noon,) invited friends over to his Toronto apartment and told them to bring funny porn films to watch for an evening's entertainment. The following year, he invited them to make their own comedic takes on the form, and the nucleus of a film festival was born. “No genre is as open to reinterpretation as porn. It appeals to both our baser instincts and the intellectual. It's a chance to have fun with (sex) - people don't get to actually celebrate it,” Pincombe remarks. It also lends itself to satirical treatment. As Jeff Richards (MadTV, and Drunk Girl of Saturday Night Live,) the Festival's bona fide American-celebrity-who-flew-up- all-the-way-from-LA-to-attend quipped “Sex is funny! What's funnier than people groping around, having sex??”

From its spontaneous beginnings, the Festival has grown every year. Organizers say it's HLP's 7th “official” showing, the 4th time it's been open to the public. It's the first year the Festival's been shown in a theatre rather than a bar, with a respectable crowd filling Toroto's venerable Bloor Street Cinema (www.bloorcinema.com>). There are no committees, and no office hours. Pincombe is one of a group of core friends of Gold's who sometimes help curate, sometimes help organize without any official titles. But, despite HLP's fun and informal feel, the panel of judges (another 1st for this year,) included industry notables like Frank Predergast, producer at Bravo, Sean Farnel, Director of Programming of Hot Docs (www.hotdocs.ca>) Sara Gregorash, Programming Coordinator at Movieola, and Michelle Melles, Senior Producer at Chum TV/SexTV, along with media types like newspaper columnist Jim Slotek and the nation's sexpert, Josey Vogels (www.joseyvogels.com>). Several on the judging panel were in attendance, tarted up to the “porn” dress code along with most of the audience. Film goers, film makers, actors, and VIP judges, mingling in their best faux porn finery.

It's not uncommon for the categories to blur, with former fans becoming future film makers. “People leave the theatre with an idea,” says Jill Rosenberg, the Festival's Executive Director. Status counts for little in the judging, here all the emphasis is on the film, and whether it fits with the Festival's premise. “The Festival is really a living thing,” Pincombe says, “it changes with the (mix of ) films.” Previous year's entries have come from France, and noted film maker Guy Maddin, but there is also room for unknown's like Toronto animator Wade Vroom, who studied, as he says with a laugh “Nowhere!” and together with partner David Pratt produced an animated film drawn with pencil on lined paper. The result, T-SEX, is quite lyrical and very funny. This year's entries included animated extravaganza Krazy Kock from Bill Plympton (www.plymptoons.com>), a noted animator whose work has been Oscar nominated and is popular on MTV, Ron Eigen and Jeff Richards' rap video- esque What's A Motherf** Got To do (To Get His Ass Eaten Out Around Here?) and the ironic musings of Lev Yilmaz (Tales of Mere Existence), with others hailing from as far as Australia and the Ukraine. One of the films, Toronto based Art Litwell's (www.artlitwell.com>) Faking it for Art, includes about a minute of yours truly (unpaid, naturally,) along with several others in a montage of (fully clothed) people faking orgasms.

In keeping with the spontaneous mood, entries were encouraged up to the last minute, with Gold feverishly screening and selecting films as the Festival got warmed up with a party at a pub across the street. The programme itself began with entries from the 69 Hour Film Challenge that launched HLP a few days before. On the evening of Wednesday, October 11, would be film makers and audience alike met in the cavernous basement of the city's chi-chi Drake Hotel in a launch event teamed with the Neutrinos (www.neutrinotoronto.com>) . The Neutrino Video Project, with several active groups all over North America, was a natural choice of collaborator. The troupe blurs the line between video making and live entertainment in a spectacle where teams of actors, technical crew and director are given set props or lines and sent out to make a video while the audience is treated to stand up comedy. The inventive results of the evening's sexy theme – delivered after about 15 minutes - included a hilarious story about a former gay porn actor turned pizza delivery boy, taking a delivery to what turns out to be a former colleague.

While the Neutrinos did their thing, HLP's prospective film makers were given their own series of items and lines – like any combination of lingerie/underwear and fruit, or the word “funt” - 3 of which had to be included, and given from Wednesday evening up till the afternoon of the 14th to complete a film for entry into the programme. Of 12 teams, 6 submitted films that ranged from computer animation to a side splitting send up of German art house. “It's immediate film making – porn is low budget,” Rosenberg notes. “We look for good film making and entertainment value.”

From its beginnings in Gold's apartment, the Hard Liquor and Porn Film Festival is now available in two cities, with a couple of road trips to Montreal every year. Interestingly, audience reaction in both cities points out some of Canada's familiar cultural landscape. “The audience wasn't as surprised,” Pincombe says with irony. “(In Montreal), they're expecting a little more hardcore sex,” Rosenberg observes, adding “In Toronto, some people are still nervous – they don't want to go because they wonder what they'll see!” So far, invitations have been received to take HLP to Calgary, Edmonton, and Australia.

The Festival's rising profile makes its future something to anticipate. Among the growing number of entries, however, Rosenberg reports an equally growing number of unsuitable films – perhaps an inevitable result of success.

The Hard Liquor and Porn Film Festival is also showing November 11, 2006 in Montreal at the Society of Arts and Technology (SAT).


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