Kink, a new documentary from director Christina Voros and executive producer James Franco that premiered as a special selection at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, will get a limited theatrical release beginning this weekend.
Franco shared a new trailer for the film this morning via social media, and a surprising number of mainstream film critics have been reviewing the documentary, including this morning's review from The New York Times' Jeannette Catsoulis.
The film provides an inside look at Kink.com -- "the Internet’s largest producer of BDSM content," according to the film's official synopsis -- and The Armory, the company's massive film studio and production facility in San Francisco. Voros profiles Kink.com founder Peter Acworth, a number of adult performers, and adult film directors Princess Donna, Van Darkholme, Tomcat, and Maltrese Madeline.
Here's more, via kinkdoc.com:
"In a particularly obscure corner of an industry that operates largely out of public view, Kink.com’s directors and models strive for authenticity. In an enterprise often known for exploitative practices, Kink.com upholds an ironclad set of values to foster an environment that is safe, sane, and consensual. They aim to demystify the BDSM lifestyle, and to serve as an example and an educational resource for the BDSM community.
In kink, we discover not only a fascinating and often misunderstood subculture, but also, in a career far from the mainstream, a group of intelligent, charismatic, and driven people who really, truly love what they do."
Chanel Preston, a frequent performer for Kink.com productions, responded to the new trailer in an email interview for Examiner.com this week via her publicist, Christopher Ruth.
"I loved it! I got very excited watching it," Preston says. "The undertone of the trailer is very erotic and, at times, light-hearted. I think some people see BDSM as a very dark, scary, and tortuous thing, but viewers should see that it does not have to be dark and scary if you don't want to experience it that way. Overall, I think the trailer did a great job of associating BDSM with pleasure and eroticism vs. fear."
Preston says working on Kink.com shoots was an early goal of hers, and explained some of the allure, both for her personally as a performer and for the broader mainstream audience showing interest in this documentary.
"In the beginning of my career I remember begging my agent to book me with Kink," she says. "Initially, I was interested in BDSM, not because it was particularly arousing to me, but rather fascinating because it was different than anything I had seen before. At first it was simply, 'Ouch, that hurt or 'I feel kind of stupid doing this,' which I like to call 'thinking on the surface.' Once I stopped thinking on the surface and allowed myself to be vulnerable and experience BDSM this way, I realized how deeply pleasurably these experiences could be. It's common to reach catharsis after experiences that cause intense emotions. Unfortunately, this could be a result of unfavorable circumstances such as being physically or mentally hurt in some way. When participating in BDSM I can experience this same catharsis but in a controlled and trusting environment. When I can reach a state of pleasure from a place in my mind that is not easily accessed then it can be incredibly powerful. And besides all the deep stuff, it can be really fun."
"Kink.com is the most professional company that I work for in the adult film industry," Preston says. "They really set the bar for the rest of the companies out there. It's such an ironic state of mind when you work for them the first time because in front of the camera you are experiencing something so intense, aggressive, and painful. Yet, off camera Kink goes out of their way to make sure you have everything you need and are 100% comfortable. I feel like there is no company that is as attentive to the performers as Kink.com. Because of this respect for the performers, those who are new to BDSM are better able to experience this practice, even if it's only as a performance. This gives the performer the ability to gain a certain respect for BDSM that they may not have gained in an environment that was less devoted to their comfort.
Sociologist Chauntelle Tibbals, an expert in gender and sexuality studies, also weighed in on the new documentary for Examiner.com based on this week's trailer.
"It looks like it has the potential to be a great, insightful exploration of an adult content production company that specializes in various forms of kink and BDSM," says Tibbals. "I saw key players in the KINK organization being interviewed, as well as several scene performers. Taking the time to speak to people actually involved in a community and/or organization is a key step in getting an accurate picture of what’s going on. This is especially true when talking about smaller niche and/or marginalized populations. Though there’s no way to tell what story’s being told just yet, the trailer alludes to a solid exploration. I’m excited to see the full feature... I think the documentary has the potential to shed some like on the production of some BDSM and kink porn, which is definitely a dimension of BDSM (and porn) in general. It may be a fine point, but my concern is that folks might assume this account tells the full story of the BDSM community. Though the trailer never claims to do this and though its emphasis is likely clear to anyone familiar with porn and/or BDSM in general, your average person likely only has a relatively superficial understanding of BDSM. Consequently, some folks may regard this as *the* picture of BDSM, verses *a* picture of one production aspect, which is what it actually is."
"In terms of the sexual and social world, BDSM covers a diverse and nuanced spectrum, and ever since that one series of books came out -- you know which ones I’m talking about -- cultural awareness of the existence of BDSM in some form or function has expanded dramatically," Tibbals says, referencing the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon that has also put a mainstream spotlight on BDSM in the last year (a film version of 50 Shades of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, is due out on Valentine's Day in 2015. Both the book and the film have been criticized as inauthentic representations of BDSM. "BDSM is a very significant niche within adult entertainment, both in terms of 'authentic' BDSM content and in terms of BDSM themes and tropes that can be found in more mainstream erotica," Tibbals says. "In other words: you can find plenty of content that may appeal to BDSM lifestylers, and you can also find light touches of BDSM in conventional porn. Though they don’t always look or feel the same or appeal to the same audiences, bits of BDSM are essentially ubiquitous."