POSTED ON Oct 7, 2013 BY Keith
One week from tonight, DICK: THE DOCUMENTARY makes its World Premire as part of the 18th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, presented by Xfinity. Following the screening, a "Cock Talk" panel discussion will include Jim Duvall, Board President, Foundation for Sex Positive Culture; Jeff Hedgepeth, GayCity Health Project; and "Doctor Dick" Richard Wagner, M.Div., Ph.D., ACS in what will surely be an interesting and revealing discussion.
Sadly, filmmaker Brian Fender suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a debilitating disease that will prevent him from attending. We connected with Brian over email -- he’s too ill to speak on the phone -- to talk about DICK, how it was made and what audiences might take away from the film.
The premise of DICK is fascinating. It reminds me of a Finnish documentary called STEAM OF LIFE which filmed a group of Finnish men in saunas talking freely about a wide range of revealing and emotional subjects they would never touch outside of the sauna. In DICK, these men of varying backgrounds and ages speak honestly and candidly and they celebrate their dicks. They let loose in a way not normally seen. How did you go about making these men feel comfortable and willing to expose so much?
I think as an interviewer your comfort level is going to dictate how comfortable the subject is. I turned what would be considered a dining room into the studio where I filmed the men. Since it was in my apartment my dogs were often sitting at the subject’s feet looking up at them, so I am sure that put them at ease. I had only one pervy guy show up in a Lone Ranger mask.
One of my subjects, David, had a great answer to your question. He said, “I think on some level, given the opportunity, most men have a constant awareness of their dicks as the source of their manhood and a symbol of their masculinity - which men, peacocks that we are, like to display. Yet societal taboos and strictures limit the opportunities men have either to display or to talk about their dicks. You (Brian) presented us with such an opportunity, stripping away those taboos -- and clothing as well -- and in a relaxed, safe and comfortable environment, engaged us is conversation and dialogue that lifted the topic out of the shadows and into the light, giving us a rare opportunity to share and to "celebrate" our dicks. I'm glad to have been part of this project and hope that the film will be enjoyed and will be a source of lively discussion not only about "dick" (as the film is provocatively named), but also about manhood.”
Ultimately I wanted to confront the audience with all these taboo appendages -- I made the decision to chop the subjects’ heads off with the camera. So headless meant there would be no visual escape and every single person in the audience would know that the person next to them, knows that they are staring at all these dicks. Discomfort is something that I was aiming for with the idea that after a period of time the audience will be desensitized and more comfortable looking at a body part that has so much anxiety attached to it. I also wanted to keep the final documentary as bare bones as possible and try to create something that would keep the audience engaged without all the bells and whistles that are expected.
How did you come up with the concept for the film and what were your ultimate goals? Did the final product look the same or different than what you had originally imagined?
I knew going in that we would come out with some compelling narratives so the final product was as I expected. One line of questioning that I did pose to all of the subjects was how did they get their information about their dicks, about their burgeoning sexuality. We don’t directly address it, but what I was trying to get at was why men using their dicks as weapons against women, sometimes men, is so prevalent. I realized that the group of men that volunteered were all open to exploring their sexuality, and each felt it was about time that someone put the attention on men’s sexuality. So even though it doesn’t directly address that, this is an attempt to start a dialogue and hopefully a wake up call that most boys get their sexual identities from a series of fragmented negative religious messages, on top of self-consciousness and hormones. This is not the basis for a healthy sexual development. A conversation needs to start happening no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.
“I want to thank SLGFF for being brave enough to premiere DICK,” Brian added. We think it’s a film well-worth seeing. DICK - THE DOCUMENTARY screens Monday, October 14 at 7:30 p.m. (Harvard Exit Theatre). Visit www.threedollarbillcinema.org for tickets and to learn more about the 130+ films and programs you can see only at the 18th Annual Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.