LA-based writer about movies, TV, and other assorted culture stuff. Work collected at http: Historically, art has played a tremendous role in rolling back such taboos and getting people to speak openly about sex and sexuality.
Documentary cinema is no different in this regard. It is an incredibly intimate art form, and it perhaps never gets more intimate with its subjects than when dealing with the topic of sex. These films feature people laid bare often literally before the viewer, to the cause of opening dialogues about sex.
Taboos are broken when silence is broken, and each of these documentaries explores a different aspect of sex or sexuality. Pasolini himself is front and center, acting as the interviewer in every scene, meaning that the whole film is a proudly gay man challenging people about their sexual mores.
He gathers interviewees from every class strata and finds a common thread of ignorance and repression running through them. The Story of a Sex Surrogate Kirby Dick made his feature debut with this film, which follows the work of Maureen Sullivan, professional sexual surrogate.
Surrogates help those experiencing sexual dysfunction by providing a safe environment in which to discuss and sometimes practice acting out their anxieties. The camera remains at a mute distance as Sullivan works them through their myriad body issues and interpersonal anxieties.
Fetishists are often either the butt of jokes or victims held up for morbid titillation in episodes of CSI, but Broomfield and his crew treat them with nonjudgmental curiosity. The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist Already featured on our list of docs about death and dying , Sick is equally deserving of a spot here.
Bob Flanagan, who survived far longer than anyone suffering cystic fibrosis is supposed to, claimed that his indulgence in BDSM was a major factor.
There are multiple docs on the subject, but this better than any other looks at how porn affects both its audience and its participants. Deep Throat remains the most influential pornographic film ever made, and this doc does an excellent job of contextualizing the culture of its time period, explaining the process of creating it and the seismic effect it had on America. If you want to understand how a single porno could gross tens of millions of dollars in theaters, look no further.
Many school systems across the country get away with teaching abstinence-only lessons, even though this does nothing to curtail teen sexual activity and does a lot to increase STD and pregnancy rates. Much of Zoo is re-creation, and beautifully-filmed re-creation at that. It almost completely avoids graphic depiction of the subject at hand, making it palatable for processing through elision.
This is one of the best-looking, most artful films about depravity ever made. It is troubling, unshakable and brilliant. Where Sullivan helps men who are psychologically hobbled in regards to sex, Rachel helps those who face physical difficulties in the act.
Realizing that the handicapped have just as much a right to intimacy as anyone else, she founded Touching Base, an organization devoted to educating people about the sexual needs of disabled people.
Scarlet Road is loaded with emotional resonance, as men describe feeling alive again after finally being able to touch someone. It speaks to how sex is a function of being a human being, plain and simple. Like any other aspect of living, sex is commodified, and prostitution is the purest form of this commodification there is.
Women are called by numbers, not names. In fact, because of this, there are more prominent documentaries that deal with non-straight sexuality than there are those that do. Thus, they get lumped together here. Most of the docs on our list of docs about LGBT culture are excellent examples. Stories of Some of Our Lives is particularly essential. And The Celluloid Closet explores sexuality as it is dealt with in cinema in an intelligent, edifying manner. This list was originally published on October 9,