Nearly midway through its seventh season, the erotic CineKink film festival made its first ever stop in Las Vegas recently for its inaugural Vegas event. While best known for its New York screenings, the festival nonetheless tested the waters in Sin City to see if the city could live up to the hype all the commercials espouse. After holding its Opening Night party within Vegas’ own Erotic Heritage Museum, the screenings themselves began on a sunny Thursday afternoon in the Onyx Theatre. A fitting venue given that it is located in the back of an S&M boutique next to not one but two swingers clubs in one of downtown Vegas’ somewhat seedy commercial centers.
While I unfortunately missed the opening film, Waxie Moon, I am told it is a fascinating look at one male dancer’s foray into the world of burlesque. Both filmmaker and star were on hand for this Audience Award winner as well. My first screening experience though belonged to the “Bring It!” short film showcase; a sample of hardcore pornographic scenes from today’s alt-porn world, this section was bracing at first not only for the deluge of raw sex but also compounded by the fact of watching it within a proper screening room with a regular audience. While most porn in the past was indeed viewed this way, home video and the Internet’s ability to allow one to watch such material in complete privacy left many off guard from this fact. Nonetheless, selections from performers April Flores, Madison Young, and Tristan Taormino provided equal turns of playfulness, education, and dirty fun.
Following this showcase, the evening took a mellower turn with My Sexuality: A Sensory Experience, a student documentary following the journey of five separate women as they connect with their own sexuality and boost self-esteem through a series of confidence-building exercises. Following its screening, a brief panel was assembled consisting of CineKink founder Lisa Vandever, sexologist Dr. Carol Queen (featured in My Sexuality), Chicago filmmakers Julie Keck and Jessica King, and UNLV professor Lynn Comella. Day Two of CineKink Las Vegas 2010 was a bit intensive with more screenings stacked up containing some interesting, provocative fare.
With much of the program featured around S&M-related content, I was curious to see how much of the community’s own dommes and subs would come out and check it out. While no one openly appeared so, I did overhear some conversations here and there to know that Vegas represented its local scene. Perhaps my favorite short film showcase of the entire event, “Yes, Mistress” provided a plethora of BDSM shorts that dispelled the overblown, Hollywood notion of danger in this world by highlighting the playfulness within it while still reminding one of the responsibilities inherent in pursuing these activities safely. Two favorites stand out in my mind, the first being Anti-Samaritan Hotline.
A delicious black comedy, it follows the last day of a down-on-his-luck English professor as his professional and personal lives crash around him, culminating in his bondage-inspired suicide via assistance of a pro-suicide hotline. The setup is solid and cringe-inducing funny however it takes a far more serious turn into genuine despair as we discover the real depth of this man’s personal agony. Another favorite of mine,Libidoland, produced by Keck and King, mixed sweet comedy with Hitchcockian suspense tricks as a loving couple experiment with S&M role-play only to court genuine danger from unknowing recklessness. Featuring a bevy of kink, i.e. a fun cake-smashing scene starring one of the filmmakers, to rope play, the film’s overall theme suggests enjoying one’s self freely but responsibly. Having a chance to meet both filmmakers personally, I can say they were as enthusiastic and interesting as the work they produce for the screen and I cannot wait to see what they shoot next.
Following the day’s first shorts showcase came a pair of back-to-back fiction features,Swingers and S&M Judge. The first, a look into the lives of two swinging couples contending with swapping and its emotional consequences, was a straightforward relationship drama that nonetheless gave equal attention to the emotions involved in swinging besides the sex itself. S&M Judge though proved to be the event’s strongest feature film as it unfolded the real-life tale of a Belgium judge’s foray into BDSM with his submissive wife and the professional fallout that resulted from it. Anchored by strong dramatic performances as well as vividly visceral scenes of intense bondage play, the film elicits your sympathy for these people while testing one’s own personal boundaries and beliefs over what constitutes pain and pleasure.
CineKink Las Vegas 2010 came to a formal wrap with the Best of 2010 showcase featuring a number of this year’s award-winning shorts like Erika Lust’s Handcuffs, perhaps the most aesthetically rich and tantalizing film alongsideCoverage, without doubt the most emotionally involving and disturbing film of the festival. Following a listless New Yorker whose fascination with 9/11 footage leads to an unhealthy sexual dependence on it is a mixture of comedy, tragedy, and genuine discomfort as we watch this man attempt to have a normal, sexual relationship with his well-meaning girlfriend while growing ever more consumed with this disturbing obsession. All in all, I would call this screening series a reserved success. While attendance was low to moderate for most screenings, the very fact that CineKink came out to Vegas at all is a victory, given the city’s dearth of cinematic events. And one can only hope that a future event will arrive next year with even greater attention and another batch of fascinating yet non-exploitive examples of cinematic sexuality.
To learn more about CineKink and its upcoming events, go to www.cinekink.com