Keola Racela: The Understanding of Sex & Sexuality

Sex and sexuality is something that all people will experience in their lifetime. Additionally, Director Keola Racela talks about his latest film Porno, where a succubus is meeting the sexual desires of women and men. The film is being featured at SXSW, which will World Premiere in the Narrative Feature Competition.

ATM: Sex has become more prevalent in shows and films in entertainment, but there is a gender bias in sex scenes. You only see mostly the female parts more than the male’s body parts. I would assume there might be some rule for this, but this needs to be evaluated. This is not coming from an explicit point of view. There should be equality in all facets of entertainment for women.  In this film, you showed both. So, how does this different perspective make your film different?

KR: This is a good question. The film starts with a location. This sets the tone for everything. We felt we were making this film about a sex demon. There is a lot of build in mythology around this. You see so often in horror films that women are the victims. They are punished for being sexual, and we wanted to turn this around. If we are going to show naked women, then we should show naked men.

ATM: How do you feel legal pornography could be an art form as seen in one of your character’s eyes?

KR: This line is kind of a joke, but it is not to say this film could not be art. The inspiration drew from a super artistic and queer filmmaker. The idea is that they do not know what they are watching. The film is the thing that summons this monster. It is a panic and ritualistic film. These are kids who do not have an experience with pornography. So, they are not sure what they are watching. Is it pornography? Is it art? Or is it somewhere in between? This is the discussion that is happening.

ATM: Do you believe your film gives a softer side of how legal pornography is represented in our culture or society?

KR: Wow. This is an interesting question. The film is not supposed to be pornography in a traditional sense. There is a whole backstory to the origins of film that did not make it into the cuff. It is a ritualistic and summoning film. It was not making a statement about pornography, but more to the subjectivity of the characters who have a limited experience to sex, sexuality, and pornography. They are using their own personal lens trying to decipher this film.

ATM: If some films show sex and sexuality, then why is the talk about sex and legal pornography still taboo?

KR: Yes, this is a great question. I feel today we are having a much more open conversation about it. Pertaining sex in the United States there is a conservative view of sex and sexuality. And its representation in film. You can watch a Marvel movie, and it can be extremely violent. It will get rated PG-13. Whereas, as soon as you show any form of sexuality, it becomes Rated R. The idea is to protect people from exposure to this, but there is kind of a little mix understanding around the conversation.

ATM: There is a respectful and non-conservative way without offending anyone. You can still respectfully show awareness of what if sex was an art form.

KR: There are plenty of films where sex and sexuality were seen thoughtfully and artistically. Historically, you see it a lot with European films. You see a pure botanical view of sex. Yes, if treated thoughtful, then it can be artistic.

ATM: For example, everyone would take the form of a painter. The ones who were emotional would be a Picasso and the ones who are less emotional would be Van Gogh. He was very emotional about his art. Not even in an explicit way, but the bodily movements of humans are no different than Picasso as he moved his brushstrokes up and down repeatedly. There is no difference. It is all art.

KR: Right. If you are not exploitative, then you can see it this way. Even the discussion of it – have you seen the film Eighth Grade?

ATM: Yes, I have.

KR: This movie does not really have an explicit sexual stuff in it. Except for the talk about it. This made it Rated R. Like what? It really spoke to my experience being this age and to a lot of kid’s experience being this age. They are not allowed to talk about it. This has to do with the views. Yes, if sex and sexuality are done about responsibility, respectfully, and non exploitative, then it is totally a part of art and the human experience.

ATM: The artistic nature is no different than how Picasso created his paint. Or how Michelangelo created the Dome. All this art derived from humanly motives and passion. Or how Van Gogh kept painting and painting. I do not see any difference.

KR: Absolutely. The only difference are the ratings. There are government bodies who sit and determine what is or is not inappropriate.

ATM: In the beginning, there is a character who was uncomfortable about it. He was much older. Whereas, the people who agreed tended not to be. If these things are not talked about in school, then you do not learn about the reality of sex or sex education. This could be the reason people go out to do what they think is the reality of sex. The characters in the film went back to watch it, so they could learn.

KR: Yes. There is a natural curiosity especially when you are young. This is because of your lack of experience.  The whole idea would be these kids living a closed off and sheltered life. They are naturally curious about these things. They are in a community and environment where these things are not talked about. It is deemed inappropriate. The film about showing these things to people who do not have access to them.

ATM: Did you pull from the religious backing of a succubus or a societal view of this term?

KR: We pulled from both. There has not been a tone of succubus films. The film Jennifer’s Body is the most recent one I can think of. Have you seen this film?

ATM: Yes. Half of it.

KR: It is great. The idea of the film is about the location. We needed to determine the version of the monster. Like our version of Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. It seemed like a perfect fit. We shattered a lot of places for the different mythology and stories around what a succubus does. We wanted to cut from there and make an amalgamation. The religious idea of it succumbs – do you know the tradition of what a succubus is? I am not sure how many people are aware of it.

ATM: Yes. It is the female sex demon who appears in dreams to sleep with people. This is the definition that is represented in your film. In the Bible, there is a succubus. The other side of it is an incubus. It comes to destroy through sex while someone is sleeping. So, I just wondered did you pull from the Bible or from society.

KR: Definitely. In reading it feels like these kinds of things were mythologically, but it is based around the human experience. It is this idea that a man would be turned on and have sex with a being through his will. There would be a monster that forced him into having sex. It is trying to explain the desire of having extramarital relations. What is an incubus? It impregnates?

ATM: It is the opposite of a succubus. It is a male sex demon that comes to have sex with women while sleeping.

KR: They impregnate women outside of marriage or traditional relationships. It pops up not just in the bible. Sometimes it is horrible with explaining how human beings act. We pulled from all these sources.

ATM: Explain the seductive power that comes from a woman in this film.

KR: The idea is that it uses powers of seduction. She appears to each person in different forms and venues preying on the thing that desire. This is her special power. Heavy Metal Jeff likes smoking cigarettes, so she appears with smoking cigarettes. Chaz is in love with Ricky, so she appears as Ricky. Abe has a thing with spying and peeping on people. She appears in this form.

ATM: Andy Warhol’s Blue Movie was a very sexually content explicit movie during 1969. This movie came out when there were theaters publicly showing sexually explicit content to moviegoers. This is a part of cinema history, regardless of the taboo nature. What does your film say about the time period when we publicly showed legal pornographic films, vs. it not being the norm anymore?

KR: Right. I am not sure, but this is interesting. The theatre where they worked used to be a theater where they showed pornography. It is in the back story of the film. It was a change in community. They became more conservative. They shut down the place down and tried to erase the history. It is interesting because yes there are not porno theaters anymore like they were. They used to be prevalent. This has to do with technology. People who had to seek or get these things out can access them on the internet. It is more about the transformation of the community. Particularly in this community to hide the fact that this place used to be a porno theater.

ATM: What is the difference when a film has an opening scene of sex compared to exposing it during the middle or toward the end?

KR: This is interesting. What is an example of a movie that moves it to the middle or the end? Do you mean with most films that have sex?

ATM: No, I do not. Okay, so this film opens with two people having sex. Whereas, other films show some guy walking out of some door or some woman getting dressed, etc.

KR: Okay. It is about the journey of these kids and understanding their sexuality and their relationship with sex. It is not the journey for them having a sexual experience. It starts with the sex, but it is so beyond their understanding. It is things they do not know about it. The climax of the film is not about them having sex but understanding their relationship to it. This was an interesting conversation and my first one for this film.

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