Tristan Taormino Reports on First Int'l Feminist Erotic Filmfest

MEXICO CITY—The first International Film Festival of Female Directors of Erotic Cinema was held last week in Mexico City, featuring seminars on erotic film and the adult industry in general, and showcasing hardcore offerings from American directors Tristan Taormino and Candida Royalle, plus American/Dutch director Jennifer Lyon Bell, Swedish directors Ingrid Ryberg and Marit Ostberg, Australian director Liandra Dahl and Spanish director Erica Lust.

We spoke with Tristan Taormino, who offered to give AVN readers some of the festival's highlights.

"It was actually amazing," she said. "I'm still kind of blown away that this thing happened in Mexico. Obviously it's the first of its kind in Latin America, but the people who organized it were really on top of their shit. There were like 50 members of the media at the opening night press conference, including lots of television crews—all local media—and there was a handful of protesters. One night they handed out flyers that said we were all awful and pornography was horrible and ruined families and spread STDs. But for the most part, there was overwhelming support.

"Almost every screening was sold out," she continued. "Each of our films were screened four or five times during the festival, and several times, we had Q&As afterwards. They screened my Expert Guide to Female Orgasms that I did for Vivid, and then as part of it, I did a screening of the Expert Guide to Anal Sex, but that was at a film school, so it wasn't a public event, but it was organized by the same organizers because one of the schools was a sponsor. But at one of my events, it was sold out, and there were 250 people there. It's a really big deal!"

"Along with the film screenings, there were these academic panels on topics like—there was one about sex education, there was one about women reclaiming sexual images on film, and there was one on freedom of speech."

Taormino couldn't be too specific about the seminars she attended because not all of them had translators for the non-Spanish speakers, though they were available for the question-and-answer sessions after film screenings—but, she said, "I got to meet with several professors from some of the local universities whose academic and scholarly work is about pornography, and they're doing some really cool, cutting-edge academic and scholarly work, but they still are very much on the fringe within their universities."

One of the things that surprised Taormino was the large number of attendees who apparently had never seen a hardcore movie before—or perhaps just not those of the caliber presented at the conference.

"There were people who stood up who said, 'I've never seen a film like this before and it's totally changed the way I think about myself as a sexual person and that I think about porn,' so there were some moments where people were really moved, and that was really exciting and thrilling," Taormino reported. "They were just like, 'I had no idea that all of this stuff was out there.'"

"And people were really, really interested in, of all things, in my movie, the Hitachi Magic Wand," she added. "Apparently no one in Mexico knows about the Hitachi Magic Wand, and once they saw it, they're like, 'Wait; what is this Hitachi Magic Wand because it seems to make everyone cum?' And what I explained to them was, what's funny is that if you take the Hitachi Magic Wand to Europe, it will blow out the circuits, because even if you have the right converter, there's something about that vibrator that just blows the circuits. That won't happen in Mexico because we have the same electrical system, the same voltage. I could have sold a hundred Magic Wands at the conference; I seriously could have, right on the spot."

But while Taormino noted that porn is readily available in Mexico, it is almost exclusively American-made.

"It's in the hotels, and there have recently popped up—and this is within the past five years, according to the organizers—some higher-end boutiques, adult stores, and we went into five or six of them; we did a little tour," she chuckled. "There's a chain called The Love Boutique, for example, that has some pretty high-quality stuff, and they have porn, but all the toys and all the porn is American. I mean, from what I can tell, there's no straight porn made in Mexico. There's one gay guy making some gay porn and that's it, but his stuff is impossible to find—trust me, I looked."

Attendees at the conference were as international as the films presented, and reflected a wide diversity of ages and ethnicities.

"It was a really interesting mix," she said. "There were students there, a mix of straight and gay, but there were also married couples in their 40s, plus single men and women from their 20s to their 60s, and the questions were really thoughtful and provocative and—I don't know; I kind of thought they would be on a one-on-one level, like 'So what is this feminist porn?' but it wasn't; it was as if they knew all that background and their questions went deeper and were really intelligent, and the whole conversation was really amazing. It was so clear they were ready for this. People were ready to talk about sex and sexuality in these explicit ways in public when they obviously don't have other chances to do so. Mexico is a very Catholic country, very conservative, but those at the conference were really hungry for this stuff. The support was really overwhelming."

Besides Candida Royalle's Eyes of Desire, as noted in AVN's previous article, and the two Taormino offerings noted above, the sex-positive filmmaker was pleased to see what her European counterparts were doing, film-wise.

"There was this compilation of films from Sweden called Dirty Diaries," she noted, "which was famously funded by the Swedish government, and it had multiple filmmakers in it; 12 filmmakers. Two of those filmmakers were there: Ingrid Ryberg and Marit Ostberg. Then Jennifer Lyon Bell—she's an American who lives in Holland—screened two of her films—one is called Head Shot and one is called Matinee. Head Shot is some sort of homage to an Andy Warhol film called Blowjob, so actually, it's a blowjob but you only see the guy's face. Then Liandra Dahl, she's from Australia; she screened a short called Sunset Fisting. One person who wasn't there but they screened her films was Erica Lust from Barcelona. They screened her Cabaret Desire, which Liandra is in, so she did the Q&A after that."

"I was just amazed at how well attended it was," Taormino summarized, "and I feel like there's a totally unexplored market in Mexico that I would not be surprised if they held a similar conference next year, and our hope is that there's a Mexican female porn director in the lineup, and I think there's talk of that now. People are really excited and interested to make porn."

"That last night, I heard rumors—people asked us about testing protocols and about payment and about model releases and some of the nitty-gritty stuff, so I feel like there's a groundswell and we're going to see some really fucking good porn coming out of Mexico. It was just so amazing, I can't even tell you. I've never experienced anything like it. It was crazy—and it all happened in Mexico!"