New To Blu: Pornocracy (2017) - Reviewed

Pornography; Noun: The explicit literary or visual depiction of sexual subject matter; any display of material of an erotic nature. (by extension) the depiction of (non-sexual) subject matter so that it elicits feelings analogous to erotic pleasure; any such depiction. 

Now that the lecture is over, we can discuss Pornocracy, the brainchild of the French feminist filmmaker, author, and former adult performer Ovidie. In her shocking documentary, which premiered at SXSW, she explores how the Internet changed, not only our ability to access porn, but also how a group of multinational companies swooped in and bought the majority of websites related to porn. Exacerbating the issue, is the prevalence of free porn, and this is something that Ovidie examines during the first two chapters of her documentary. 

The unique nature of the events takes us across Europe from Luxembourg to Germany to the Czech Republic. She makes a point to show performers in their real environments, while she shows how the industry shifted from DVD to digital distribution, which was the impetus for the proliferation of free porn, decimating wages and production houses that played by the rules. 

Ovidie’s subjects also include producers as they discuss how they have been able to survive while striking a very strong chord with piracy and the ‘Wild Wild West’ nature of the Internet, where there are no laws protecting minors from being able to access porn as well as those performances so scandalous that even when there were tighter distribution controls, the producers would never dream of putting them out. It was quite revealing the lengths producers would go to protect their content from falling into the wrong hands. 

Her third chapter focuses on the investigation of the face of modern porn, Fabian Thylmann who owned Manwin, the digital platform with subsidiaries in tax-friendly countries. In a The Big Short – like tale, Ovidie explores the journalistic investigation into the company’s finances and how they were able to acquire so many websites and production houses. While the documentary doesn’t implicitly call out Manwin was a monopoly, but it does suggest it. Strongly. 

Her investigation takes her to the United States and Canada as well. In one of my favorite sequences, Ovidie used the stacks and microfiche at the Atlanta Library to understand why and how Mr. Thylmann was under investigation for tax evasion. This leads her to Mike South, a porn blogger who drew attention to himself. Their candid conversation ties together the ‘wild wild west’ nature of the internet in a very fascinating way. 

The fourth chapter discusses the future of porn, specifically live web cams. As it has become more expensive to produce professional porn, companies have started to look at other opportunities, and for the poorest of citizens in Romania, this is an opportunity to make cash. An interesting comment suggested that while Romania is the largest area of talent, the next wave of talent is based in Columbia, where the majority of the populous is poor. 

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” came to mind several times. The documentary does an excellent job of laying out the facts, but leaves a number of questions unanswered. Part of this is because no one really wants to talk about where the money comes from to produce porn. One thing is clear, is that porn is still a stigma and its participants are only too well aware of that. In the end, the best quote about the nature of the film and the future of porn is clear: “And this is how our suffering became a big part of pop culture: with a little bit of cynicism and a lot of lube.” Now on video on demand, Ovidie’s documentary is eye-opening. 

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Ben Cahlamer