At a time of insidious divide between and bitterness towards those different from us, we rarely see refugees, immigrants and migrants treated as human beings, certainly within the media's coverage. That's why it's so crucial for us, now more than ever, to attempt to see and understand their personalities, wants and needs. This includes their sexualities, which are so often cut out of the conversation – when was the last time you considered a refugee's right to intimacy?
Feminist filmmaker Erika Lust's new pornographic short for her site XConfessions is all about opening up this conversation and showing refugees from a different perspective to what we're used to, in order to humanise the world's displaced people. Because we all have desires.
Directed by punk publisher, underground adult entertainment director and "Prince of Homosexuals", Bruce LaBruce, Refugee's Welcome is a beautiful and moving portrait of homosexual lust – a rampant taboo in many of the countries the majority of today's refugees come from.
For obviously delicate subject matter, the prolific director – along with Lust, who produced the short – has created a tender portrait of gay sex among some of the globe's most vulnerable people that is as thoughtful as it is provocative.
"In this short film Bruce has captured the best of human nature and the best of the German welcoming spirit," Lust explains. "We must kill the resurgence of xenophobia and racism in Europe and the US with messages like the one in this story. We must stand united on our diversity."
Entirely shot in Berlin, Refugee's Welcome highlights the growing unrest and lack of integration in countries accepting refugees – Germany has given asylum to 1.170.000 of them – because, although some citizens are welcoming, hate crimes by far-right xenophobic movements are on the rise.
We caught up with Bruce LaBruce to talk about filming a political porno about such a sensitive topic, working with Erika Lust and showing refugees as real, multi-dimensional people instead of statistics.
Konbini: How did the short film for Refugee’s Welcome come into action?
Bruce LaBruce: My producers of my new feature film, The Misandrists, and my new experimental film, Ulrike's Brain, had worked with the Erika Lust company and they suggested I submit a proposal to direct a short film for them.
I had been wanting to make some kind of film about refugees in Berlin since it has been one of the cities in the world most receptive to welcoming refugees (you can see "Refugees Welcome" signs in the windows of lots of bars in Berlin). So I came up with the idea to make a film about one particular refugee's welcome to Berlin for a high-end porn company!
A refugee porno… it’s a revolutionary yet controversial idea that hasn’t been tackled in this way – how do you hope to change the ideas of refugees with the film?
Bruce LaBruce: I often make sexually explicit films that use the conventions of porn that are about overtly political subjects. I made a porno about neo-Nazi skinheads called Skin Flick and one about extreme left wing revolutionaries called The Raspberry Reich. For me, porn is a popular genre that is not used enough as a political or artistic medium. The sexual explicitness makes the filmmaker and the audience see the subject in a different way.
Of course the unexpectedness of the approach also draws attention to the film and the subject. A little shock value goes a long way when you're an independent filmmaker! It's also a politically incorrect approach, which allows the filmmaker to push the boundaries of how refugees are "supposed" to be represented.
"The emphasis is always placed on refugees who commit sexual assault or other crimes, but to have a refugee character who is shown explicitly having sex and falling in love is something completely different"
Why is it important to show refugees as dimensional, complex beings with sexualities and emotions – like everyone else?
Bruce LaBruce: I use porn in my films not as exploitation, but to show that sexuality should be represented openly and without shame, and to show that the sex act itself is a big part of life that is often glossed over in mainstream cinema. I also try to make porn in the seventies style - using a narrative, story-telling, with developed characters, humour, and humanity.
With Refugee's Welcome I wanted to show not only that refugees are not a statistic or a group of displaced people merely to be pitied or dealt with as an abstraction, but also that they are real, multi-dimensional people with emotional and sexual lives. The emphasis in the media is always placed on a minority of refugees who commit sexual assault or other crimes, but to have a refugee character who is a poet, and homosexual, and who is shown explicitly having sex, and falling in love, is something completely different.
What was it like working with Erika and the XConfessions team?
Bruce LaBruce: Erika and the X-Confessions team were really great. They have certain guidelines that allowed me to bend a little with Refugee's Welcome, so it was so cool to know that they respect the artist's vision and are willing to accommodate it. I love that they are doing short films with decent budgets, and insisting on high production values. Majority [of] porn has become somewhat aesthetically challenged since the advent of digital, so it's nice to work with a company that appreciates the importance of aesthetics in porn!
Refugee's Welcome is available for free on Eroticfilms.com today (March 9) using the code BRUCE. Watch the trailer below.