Ten years ago, syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage launched HUMP!, a film festival designed to challenge his Pacific Northwest readers to "get their hands dirty" and create "good, old-fashion homemade porn." The results ran a wide gamut and represented straight, gay and transgendered shorts made by amateurs from the area. Until last year, HUMP!'s screenings were limited to the Pacific Northwest.
But last year, the Best of HUMP! Tour hit the road and played to sold out audiences in 16 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. This year, the tour features an all-new program that mixes the recent winners from the 2014 Festival with past crowd favorites. It screens at 7:30 and 9:40 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. Savage admits the festival has become more popular than he initially suspected.
"The first year we did it, we weren't sure we would be doing it that year," he says via phone. "There was skepticism whether anyone would attend an amateur porn film fest showing films that were made by people who live in that city. Even after we booked the theater, we weren't sure if people would come to a movie theater and watch porn like their grandparents do. We learned that they would. A lot of them. It's become a big arts festival, if you can call it art, which I can and I just did."
The only real criteria is that the films are "sex-positive." That's a tricky word that means different things to different people. But for Savage, it's almost easier to define what "sex-positive" is by explaining what it isn't.
"Our culture has a sex-negative attitude," he says. "The thinking is that sex is a problem and the world would be a better place if we had less of it. That's just not true. Sex is more powerful than we are. Sex is a quarter of a billion years old and our species is 200,000 years old. Sex positivity means you have an open mind and you regard it as a potentially wonderful and positive thing in someone's life and in your own life and you think constructively about sex as pleasure, which is almost all the sex we have."
The current touring festival culls the best of the 2014 festival and includes a few of the more popular titles from previous years.
"It runs the gamut from hardcore porn to erotica to musicals and animation and comedy shorts," Savage explains. "It's all over the place. Sometimes, you don't even think it's porn. We had a film featuring people getting hit in the face with pies. It was a fetish. It was their special thing and they shared it with us and it was super interesting and cool and sexy."
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