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Arts and Entertainment

Dan Savage's Amateur Porn Film Festival Returns To Los Angeles This Weekend

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If watching hardcore porn in a theater with a bunch of strangers is something that appeals to you—but the selections at Tiki Theatre or Studs aren't your thing—HUMP!, the film fest full of amateur porn and surprises, is coming back to Los Angeles. This year's program consists of 22 films for every persuasion. If you go, you will see performers of many gender identities and sexual orientations. You will see people fisted and peed on. You will probably laugh a little, and maybe you will be shocked. You might learn something, and you might become aroused. These blue films do not conform to played-out porn tropes unless there's a twist, and few of the participants are affiliated with the adult industry outside of their submissions. You can check out this curated collection of homemade skin flicks when the fest—originally founded in 2005 by author, podcast host, and advice columnist Dan Savage—hits Los Angeles on March 18-26 and Long Beach on March 24.

For instance, the program begins with a woman trying to read a Mike Huckabee book while something curious seems to be happening beneath the table, and ends with an 80s-style ode to penises. Some of the films give you the impression of being a voyeur into the real sex lives of two (or more) people, while others are highly stylized and shot like music videos. Others are not pornographic, per se, but comedic films that deal with sexual topics: like a man who collects semen, or a working collar guy who turns up at an orgy. Another film explores hardcore BDSM with candle wax and rope. Yet another features people in animal masks fisting each other and using a bound man's spit for lubricant. One of the most interesting films might be Blown in which two transmen discuss what it's like to receive oral sex following their transitions.

Ultimately, this means that people may be watching porn that doesn't hit their buttons, whether it's their orientation or a kink that they don't possess. But according to Savage, the audience's awkwardness generally fades.

"At first, all they see is differences, but about a third of the way through [the festival], suddenly everyone can see what's the same. The lust, desire, vulnerability, sense of humor—all of a sudden people flip. The same people who were closing their eyes or rubbing their noses are laughing and cheering, and nobody is freaking out anymore," he told LAist.

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He also noted that people who typically dislike porn oftentimes find they love the films played at HUMP! A woman who once told Savage she didn't care for porn until HUMP! ended up submitting a film she made with friends the following year.

"I think what people perceive is how different porn can be. People think porn is dehumanizing, but this is really humanizing, even if it's kinky and edgy. It's about their own self-expression and about being themselves," he said.

The films are chosen from submissions, which filmmakers submit without an entry fee. Filmmakers win cash prizes and receive a percentage of ticket sales when the fest hits the road. Savage told LAist that they do not choose based on production value, but rather the content of the film.

"It has to be good and interesting, or funny," he said. "Something has to be going on that makes it compelling."

To that same end, Savage said they also don't choose films "because it's ticking a box." The diversity of gender identity and orientation this year is seemingly serendipitous, but hasn't always been.

"We had one year where there were no films with any same-sex stuff featuring women, and that was because we had no submissions," he said.

Savage's favorite film of the lot, which is also the fan favorite, is Level Up, which takes place in a video game world and follows a feminist fighting the patriarchy. She faces monster bosses like a catcalling bro and a proselytizing street preacher, and the film culminates with a well-shot orgy with few boundaries.

"Sometimes one of the complaints we get is that there's not enough bi stuff," Savage said. "You don't really know if someone is straight, gay or bi if there are only opposite or same sex partners. And [Level Up] is a film where [the sex] was bi and you could tell, and it wasn't just girl-girl in the end," he said.

Savage did admit that while there are people of color to be found in the selections, one area the fest needs to work on is racial diversity.

"For the first ten years, HUMP! had been almost exclusively Seattle and Portland films. Our little part of the country is depressingly white, so when the films were just coming from Seattle and Portland, they were overwhelmingly white. Now that we're opening [submissions] up nationwide, we're seeing more racial diversity," Savage said.

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HUMP! does not—and we will not—reveal the names of its performers and filmmakers, and the films will not screen online. So, the only way to see them is to go to HUMP! in person.

"We say you can be a porn star for the weekend, but not forever on the Internet," Savage said.

However, he also thinks someday having a nude photo of yourself on the Internet will one day be destigmatized, like smoking pot.

"If you didn't smoke pot in high school or college, you're the weirdo and I think it's going to be the same thing with pictures or images," he said.

HUMP! screens March 18, 19, 25, and 26 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. at the Downtown Independent, located at 251 S. Main Street in downtown Los Angeles, and on March 24 at Art Theatre, located at 2025 E 4th St. in Long Beach. Tickets are $25.