If there’s one unifying force that brings together female porn makers on either side of the Atlantic, it is a commitment to thinking through the process of making porn before diving in headlong. Maybe that seems kind of dull – why spend all this time thinking when you could be coaxing local hotties into stripping down and showing their stuff in casting sessions? – but the proof is in the pudding. Erika Lust runs her ever-growing Lust Films out of Barcelona, while Julia Ostertag’s independent filmmaking projects are based out of Berlin – both women work against the grain to create unique films that showcase male and female eroticism in a carefully considered way.
Though neither director shies away from the hardcore nature of porn, both of them reject the absurdity of the beauty standards and simplified sexuality presented by mainstream culture and pornos that are typically aimed at a male audience. Lust observes that, “One of the most repeated clichés is the fact that male porn directors like to portay slutty lolas, horny teens, sex maniac nannies, desperate milfs, hot nurses, nymphomaniacs hookers, and gangbang heroines – these women are THEIR ideal sex partners. And the guys in the movies are almost always mafia guys, pimps, dealers, multimillionaires, afroamerican mega sized sex machines – (these are the THEIR sex heroes.” Instead of these overblown, eye-roll inducing stereotypes, Lust prefers to watch normal looking people having sex they enjoy under circumstances that most viewers can identify with. Ostertag concurs and takes this one step further, saying, “There definitely should be more real cool strong hot women in front of the camera that I as an ‘intelligent hot girl’ can identify with.”
Lust and Ostertag both forgo casting agencies to find performers for their movies – it’s a much more involved and personal process than that. Lust searches for talent who are good looking but don’t look like porn stars throughout Spain and also in the Balearic and Canary Islands. Ostertag doesn’t do casting sessions at all, choosing instead to trust her intuition. “I watch people and try to find out if they would also work in front of a camera,” she says, “So I talk to them to find out if the chemistry is right and arrange a test shooting. Berlin is a good place to work that way as there are a lot of people around who are curious and open.”
Although the two directors have a common vision and share a critique of the way most porn is made, the execution of their concepts is very different and very much linked with their personal tastes. Lust directs her films for a female audience and tries to appeal to feminine – and feminist – sensibilities. Her short film “The Good Girl,” which has now become a part of her most recent feature-length movie, “Five Hot Stories for Her” (http://www.cincohistorias.com – only in Spanish at the moment), has a tongue in cheek approach to the typical porn set-up -there’s a hot pizza delivery guy- but a heavy focus on the woman’s fantasy and pleasure. The man in the film is very much a prop, but not in the ugly-man-with- only-his-cock-in-the-frame way that is prevalent in so much mainstream porn. The characters interact with a lot of playfulness, and the film is shot to give the viewer visual pleasure in looking at the sex as well as the filmmaking. Lust asserts that porn made for men and porn made for women are different kinds of products, and says that, “Women have the right to have our own explicit movies.”
Although Julia Ostertag finds sex in film compelling and thinks of her films as visual experiments or research studies about human desire, identity and sexuality, she doesn’t exist entirely within the realm of pornography. She films explicit sex in her movies, and considers herself to be a female director working with the language of eroticism, but calling her work porn is a bit simplistic. And though she is indeed a female director, she doesn’t see this as a compelling reason to focus exclusively on a female audience.
Ostertag’s first experiment with sex and film involved her own body and sexuality as the subject. The 10 minute short, entitled “Sexjunkie,” is very revealing both physically and emotionally – it’s haunting and sexual, and not at all a commercial porn film. The director has also brought her aesthetic to the commercial porn industry in Germany, where she had to curtail her artistic vision a little bit to give the company what it required. She is currently working on a gritty, independently-produced experimental feature-length narrative film tentatively called “Wasteland,” which Ostertag says is, “About a girl in a post-apocalyptic wasteland area who kills her lovers in different ways after having sex with them.” Though she says that the film is experimental rather than pornographic, it certainly toes the line and won’t shy away from explicit depictions of either sex or violence.
Both Julia Ostertag and Erika Lust have spent the last several years honing their craft, but the results have been very different. Each of the women supports female empowerment for women in erotic films, but the aesthetic and the content of those films ranges from Lust’s tender and playful to Ostertag’s rough and intense. But these visions of sex and sexiness aren’t mutually exclusive – they are part of the fabric of new erotic cinema that is being woven in both Europe and the United States.
Learn more about Erika Lust’s work on her website, http://www.erikalust.com
Learn more about Julia Ostertag’s work on her website, http://www.julia-ostertag.de
Check out her directorial debut, The Bi Apple!