A Word from the Director Markku Heikkinen
What am I involved in if I consume porn or gay porn on the net, DVD or a hotel TV?
I first presented this project to international financiers four years ago. It was somewhat awkward to discuss the lives of gay porn makers and actors in the Czech Republic for such an audience. And yes, I confessed to being a consumer of gay porn. It was not embarrassing, but it was definitely a weird experience. Yes.
I had watched gay porn produced in the Czech Republic in the late 90s. I developed an interest in the lives of these young men in the porn business. Where did these ordinary, seemingly heterosexual boys come from? As a gay man I was also curious about the impact of gay porn on the consumer, me, in the increasingly commercial market of sexuality. Are the makers and consumers of porn on the same page?
Porn certainly meets a growing demand, since it is one of the fastest growing fields in the entertainment industry. In Finland, porn movies account for 95% of all film imports. There must be an audience. Gay porn has never been officially produced in Finland. The thought of a heterosexual Finnish man watching a gay porn film seems impossible. The young men in the Czech films intrigued me. The lure of reality-TV with Big Brothers and Idols has shifted the line between privacy and bare it all. For the uneducated lower-middle class young, momentary fame seems like an opportunity to move on. I don’t really know where to. Most of the young men appearing in Czech gay porn have done so secretly, without their family and friends knowing about it. According to their contracts, the porn films were never supposed to be distributed in the Czech Republic, but local porn shops still carry them. Social confusion has been hard on the actors whose porn shots landed in the evening news thanks to Big Brother stardom.
The themes of All Boys – the impact of consuming and making porn on the sexuality of westerners, their identity and their ability to love themselves and others – are still as true and important as four years ago, when I started this project. This journey through the suburbs, hostels, studios and neighborhood bars in the Czech Republic, Poland and Berlin has been very exciting and rewarding. Further east in Europe – wherever “east” begins – I have gotten close to the lives of porn makers. Men both young and old have shared their stories and lives with me. I have met friends and families of the actors and I have also witnessed the close ties between the porn industry and prostitution with my camera. The world of porn is complex. Some porn actors move on to prostitution after a few films, while some self-proclaimed heterosexuals don’t.
Further west I have stared at the shiny commercial market. I have heard about the business side of market shares, brands and styles. In the course of four years, I have witnessed the downturn in Czech gay porn. Following the accidental birth of the “eastern boys” brand in the mid-90s, there were at best 30 small producers in Prague alone. Many producers have tried their luck there. Thousands of young men have attended castings and tried out modeling against fees that clearly exceed the country’s average income levels. The key Prague characters in the documentary, producer Dan Komar and Ruda Prohacka, have a long history of making films together and an intimate relationship of sorts too.
Czech gay porn is now past its peak. Serious epidemics of sexually-transmitted diseases were a harsh wake-up call, making many producers and models leave the market.
Morals entail contact to other people. Moral springs from life exposed to others. But with the globalized market threatening social structures, citizens – consumers – are becoming increasingly lonely and isolated from such traditional communities as families. If you have no contact to other people, you can take more liberties because nobody cares. Who cares how a homeless young boy with an orphanage background makes his living on the streets of Prague? Lack of social networks is the common denominator for the porn makers and consumers in All boys.
I do not think porn should be moralized. Porn shows what sexual culture in the west has become in the aftermath of the emancipation in the 1960s. Urban, lonely people turn to various products, such as porn, to satisfy their sexual needs. I can consume myself and others on the market, alone. And when I pay, I exchange money and seal the transaction, as if blessing my private deeds in the name of the market. But how private an issue is the commercial sexuality of individuals when it clearly involves exploitation?
Gay porn represents produced, manufactured fantasy that many yearn for. I am quite convinced that in consuming porn, we long for human touch and intimacy. In cities and in the depopulating rural settings, many people live without love and intimacy. The fantasy of porn can bring momentary comfort with its illusions. It does not work for everyone and some cannot or do not want to buy it. And porn cannot satisfy the basic human need for intimacy. It can bring relief, but it cannot physically touch you.
All Boys shows ambivalent, weird, great and complex moments of human life. The young men’s illusions about future meet the fantasies of their seniors. We are all human. We are all exploiting others and being exploited in the money-driven market economy. Even consumers are voluntary or involuntary members in the club of exploitation.
I hope that the film’s characters continue their lives with the viewers. That we won’t forget our responsibility as consumers and citizens. I am grateful for the time and the unforgettable moments I got to spend with these people in the alleys and backyards of Prague and Berlin. They are incredibly fine young and old men. So very human.
On this journey – and in the film – there were moments when I did not know what to do. Moments when I was both excited and disgusted at the same time. I tried to focus on the footage even when the unfairness of life made me furious. I am a documentary filmmaker and others have given me so much. With this film I can pass on the gift to my viewers.