SUNDANCE: kink (***½)

kink 2, Jessie Colter, photo courtesy of Christina VorosRaucously entertaining and yet incredibly earnest, Christina Voros’ documentary kink is a fascinating film about the inner workings of the porn studio kink.com. Certainly not for the faint of heart or prude of mind, Voros spares us nothing in her examination of BDSM porn by way of the most profitable studio of the genre. It’s a lightning rod of a film instantly sparking discussion, division and derision. But that’s what makes the documentary great, you can’t help but be compelled to have a longer conversation about the film.
Where does one even start to describe how this documentary is composed? On the surface, kink is a pretty standard documentary. There’s verite footage mixed in with interviews and there’s a general through line to guide you along the journey. However, in this film the verite footage is of actual BDSM scenes filmed at kink and the interviews are with well-known pornstars and the people who work at the Armory. This film focuses on more than just these surface level visuals however, providing incredible commentary on BDSM porn and taking an “Inside Baseball” look at this fascinating studio, all while not being afraid to confront the thorny issues associated with working in porn and the definition of how submissive-dominant sexual relations works.
For a porn subculture so demonized, there’s nary a sinister intention in this film. I never felt once that we as the audience or the people in the film were being treated with anything less than common understanding. It’s that fine line of creating a complicated film that can still be enjoyable that Voros walks. I came away from this documentary so impressed with her skills as a director and her ability to create this lightning rod of a film without seeming like she was pushing the audience’s buttons. While it is certainly might not seem like the most difficult thing to create a captivating documentary about porn, Voros and her editing team do a wonderful job of creating this vibrant piece that operates on multiple levels. There’s a particular scene where the founder of kink.com is talking about the various pay site he has to use due to the content they have and he does it so matter of factly that you can’t help but laugh/cringe/awe over. The final scene of the film is so brilliant that I could probably do a review on it alone. Needless to say, after the film proceeds along as this lighthearted piece that final scene comes as a welcome complication.
There aren’t many flaws in the documentary, but it did seem a strange choice to include a few interviews where some subjects that get super defensive about their particular line of work. While their feelings were quite understandable, it kind of throws off the rythmn of the documentary to have multiple people saying the same message. I don’t know why the extra anger was needed when the documentary was already proceeding with great respect for both sides of the argument.
I’ve never left a documentary so informed about a subject I had no idea I wanted to be informed about. It was fascinating to see the artifice of the porn industry peeled away and have an opportunity to see how these films are made and get to know the people who make them. kink will certainly challenge your opinions and constitution but never in a condescending way, and you’ll certainly walk out of the theater wanting to talk to someone about what you just witnessed. After all, nothing sparks discussion and bands people together like watching a documentary about porn.