Is it Porn or Not? Sexually Explicit Film Maker Says it is Something Else

The Portuguese filmmaker uses his camera to explore male sexuality.

Photo Credit: Facebook

There are a lot of ways we can interact with sex. Two of the most preferable are having it and watching it. If you enjoy the latter, you’re certainly familiar with the term “pornography.” But what is it about that word that seems so vulgar? And how far does the definition stretch? The question we’re really driving at is, can you watch explicit acts of sex outside of a pornographic space?

Of course, the answer will differ from person to person. But there is one individual who has more experience than most when it comes to merging sex with cinema. Antonio Da Silva is an award-winning filmmaker whose films been screened around the world. In the past three years, his work has been featured at festivals in Israel, Spain, Portugal, London, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil and more. From Daddies to Gingers, Da Silva holds a close lens to the male body while exploring the intricacies of male sexuality. Each film dedicates itself to a distinct theme. Some are light; some aren’t. Some take place in the bedroom. Some don’t.

On his official site Da Silva explains, “I have always been fascinated by male sex and sexuality. I became increasingly frustrated with how moving image explored this and have begun to make it the subject of my films over the last three years. I do not consider myself a pornographer but a filmmaker who use my background to choreograph short films with explicit sex themes.” 

So, can pornographic images exist outside of pornography? Where does art end and porn begin? And what does the following for this kind of thing look like? AlterNet reached out to Da Silva to help us sort through some of these questions. 

Carrie Weisman: On your site you make a point that you don’t consider yourself a pornographer. So how do you feel about the argument that your films help expand the porn genre?  

Antonio Da Silva: My films can be categorized as experimental documentary films about male sexuality. I will be very happy if someone tells me that my films help expand the porn genre but I do not do porn in the way porn is perceived today (by the average viewer at least). Over all I consider myself as an artist, filmmaker, ethnographer and sometimes a choreographer working with pornographic elements.

CW: Have you looked to other artists for inspiration?

ADS: I have found inspirations in other artists and filmmakers that definitely influenced my artistic vision, aesthetics and my way of expressing myself.

CW: How do you decide which films deserve a narrative? Daddies, Gingers and Mates, for example, all have really interesting and distinct dialogues. Why add that element in there?

ADS: My work is a good excuse to get close and talk to people. I try to have a sort of narrative in all the films. But in some cases it is possible only through “audio-visual narrative” based in actions, movements, interactions and sounds. My aim is to experiment and experience something new in each one of them.

CW: To what extent do you want to include yourself in the films? You obviously have a big presence in Mates and Cariocas, but are noticeably absent in others. Is this something you think you’ll experiment more with?

ADS: The camera has a dual role in my films; sometimes it serves the point of view of the viewer, sometimes it becomes the participant. My aim is to experiment with those possibilities to give the viewer different experiences while watching the film. My personal involvement depends on situations and the subject of the film.

CW: It seems like anonymity and privacy are really important to you. Have you experienced any backlash as a result of your work?

ADS: Anonymity and privacy are really important to me because I want people to be comfortable and genuine in what they do in front of the camera. There shouldn't be any negative consequences in someone’s private life by participating in my films. Sometimes it is also part of the excitement to not reveal everything about the person.

CW: What measures do you take to avoid vulgarity in your films?

ADS: In general when filming I try to not aestheticize too much. I use most of the time only natural light and I also avoid external music. Lots of the magic happens in post-production with the editing of the sequences and the sounds. After all, the penis can also take part in poetry.

CW: Is it hard to find subjects? In Cariocas you mention that you had to sneak around in the bushes for a few shots, and even admitted you felt scared. Is that the only time you’ve put yourself on the line for the sake of getting the shot?

ADS: No, that was not the only time. In films like Bankers, Beach 19 and Limanakia I had to be in the middle of the action and record without being noticed, and while this was very exciting it was also scary and risky. However, now it is becoming easier for me to find subjects thanks to the awareness of the people about me and my work. Many people have recently contacted me because they want to be in my films.

CW: One of your subjects suggests the term “polyamory” has come to replace “promiscuity” when applied to the gay community. Would you agree?

ADS: I don’t agree with the fact that polyamory is replacing the term promiscuity. Polyamory is about emotional connection and the acceptance of different ways of love or loving, and not only about multiple sex partners. I believe that “polyamory” is part of our natural evolution as humans, and yes, I aim to explore that in my future work if I get the chance.

CW: Did you expect your films to gain a following outside of the queer community?

ADS: When I produced my first short film, Mates, the target was definitely gay man, but as times evolve I can see that those films are more about “male sexuality,” not just gay men. “Men” and the male aesthetics appeal to gay and female audiences, and of course anyone who is open-minded to explore that, including straight men.

CW: Are there any other subcultures within the gay community you wish to explore?

ADS: For the moment I am focused on the male sexuality and I would really like to explore that from different angles; for instance, bisexual men, heterosexual men, etc. So to answer to your question, yes there are. I am also not excluding doing something with the female figure, women or transsexuals, but I need to have a better understanding of what I would like to achieve. You girls are gorgeous, but for the moment, the boys have stolen my heart.

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture. 

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