James reviews a film about a very odd group of “environmentalists” in Berlin who use sex as a tool to save the planet.
I had expected this brand new ‘hot doc’, Fuck for Forests, doing the European circuit to be more sensationalist, funny, perhaps even poking fun during its portrayal of a radical group based in Berlin who produce pornographic material to raise money for environmental causes. Ultimately, though it didn’t sensationalise, it did disappoint, and I’m frustrated at its lack of coherency and structure.
I had heard of ‘Fuck For Forest’ a while back, and enjoyed their website, which has plenty of free images, perhaps defeating the point – although images of human beauty draped in foliage and enjoying their naked bodies in natural spaces is a great thing.
I certainly support that message and hope that their work, with its stated noble aims, might go some way to promote healthy nudity and sexuality in a shaming society.
The film, made by Michal Marczak, picks up on what clearly is a great story.
However, it becomes a semi-psychological profile of the individuals involved in ‘FFF’, yet I felt afterwards it doesn’t clearly portray their vision, or it slowly unpeels that they have little coherent vision, and the camera actually starts to pan between the characters, not allowing a central figure to emerge and dominate the narrative.
One of the main characters is Danny, newly arrived and in possession of a wonderful voice and eclectic dress sense. He has deep personal issues of estrangement, and an other-worldly sense of commitment to his cause, as seen in the closing shot where he asks a group of disaffected Palestinians to come and protest naked with him outside the German Parliament.
However, he isn’t given the central role of the film, and I feel the narrative lacks a structure to hang around, perhaps as the group is composed of strange characters who ebb and flow with their wavering energy levels.
It is clear that ‘FFF’’s philosophy is well intentioned but not so well thought through.
Standing round, smiling either inanely or looking either hostile or vacant, the film does include sex scenes, including a public copulation, where the male, Tommy Hol Ellingsen, smears his sperm mingled with his partners menstrual blood over his face, and declares it “organic”.
It is a rare documentary that leaves the viewer wondering is it the style or the subject that is discordant and under-developed? A few hours after viewing I realise it is actually both. It is a tough proposition to make a documentary about sexuality, without being either gratuitous or academically distant.
The most interesting parts of the film are when the group approach people to come join them and be photographed naked, or filmed having sex. They share the statistic at about 1 in every 10 they approach agree and shed their inhibitions. That is a fascinating study, which the maker could have explored a bit more, including an early scene where a chap with a lot of emotional baggage gets photographed naked in an inner-City park to try to heal.
Naturally enough, they manage to raise a huge sum of money to take to donate to Indigenous groups in the Amazon region, but here is where the well intentioned plan beaches.
When they arrive there, they are welcomed, taken into the forest and the heart of the human community, even given a traditional herb to create hallucinations and open up parts of the mind to a more enlightened state.
But in an excruciating scene, where the group attempt to articulate their vision to the locals, and offer up their overflowing wallet, the community want specifics from them like jobs or self-directed job creation, not idle hand-outs from oddly dressed Westerners.
The group leaves bruised, mis-understood, their vision in tatters, for want of poor research and naïve ambitions. The group splinters, and they all go off on separate journeys.
I’m curious where they all are now, and if they have abandoned the lofty ideals that created ‘FFF’.
A follow up film, going deeper into the individuals involved, finding and following a central point of tension that shifts the narrative down a different course, and more of a challenge to the ‘us against bottled-up society’ as well as how the group might attempt further outreach to the peoples living within the forests, would be welcome.
Fuck for Forest trailer:
::Fuck for Forest website (warning – the site is loaded with explicit images (eco-porn) that should not be viewed by people under 18)