Gay porn documentary wows Berlin Film Festival

BY admin

February 12 2005 12:00 AM ET

A documentary about the lives of aging porn actors that throws a harrowing spotlight on the gay film industry in Los Angeles opened the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival on Friday to an enthusiastic reception. One of many films at this year's Berlinale examining sex and pornography, Cycles of Porn--Sex/Life in L.A. Part 2 by German filmmaker Jochen Hick takes its audience on a riveting journey into the world of low-budget sex films. It tracks a group of young gay actors hoping for stardom in their industry who live together in an apartment filled with omnipresent Web cameras, contrasting their wide-eyed ambitions with the lives of three men now retired from making porn films.

Hick said he was hopeful that Cycles of Porn, a follow-up project to his heralded 1997 documentary Sex/Life in L.A., which had a 15-fold return on its $30,000 budget, would find even more buyers, including television networks in Europe. "We found that gay actors do it more for the adventure or to do something really wild, because it's ridiculous how little they get paid," said Hick. "By contrast, I think there are very, very few women doing porn films for fun."

The Berlinale, one of the world's leading film festivals after Cannes and Venice, has made the vastly profitable pornography industry one of its major themes this year. Gay directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's documentary Inside Deep Throat--about the 1972 film Deep Throat, which shocked many and is estimated to have grossed $600 million after costing $25,000 to make--will be screened in the Panorama section on Sunday. Hick won the Berlinale's Teddy gay film award in 2003 for his documentary The World of Rural Queers, which portrayed the isolated lives of four gay men in rural southwestern Germany.

Hick, who got half of his $80,000 budget for Cycles of Porn from German state film board subsidies, said segments of explicit gay sex scenes may shock some viewers but that hardly anyone has walked out of screenings. Viewers cheered on Friday. Women and heterosexuals have especially praised it, he said. He has a less explicit version for public television buyers. "People say that once they're into the film they love it," Hick said. "Women have told me they love this film."

Not without its moments of humor, as when actors are momentarily unable to perform as required, the film shows actors collecting their modest $150 per film paychecks. It illuminates a world where drug abuse is prevalent and men die young. "The percentage of those doing drugs is huge," Hick said. "You feel sorry for the poor film actors, but then you think, My God, you are old enough to decide what you're doing." While Cole Tucker, a hard-bodied former porn star in his mid 40s, has found a new career in real estate, Kevin Kramer toils as a clerk, renting videos rather than starring in them.

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