OUTsider Fest Review: Hot Bits

Queer XXX film fest presents the funny, the sexy, and the human

Before any hot bits are shown, a presenter tells us all to turn to our neighbors and practice asking if we can touch ourselves during the short films we’ll be shown at Hot Bits, a traveling queer erotic film festival that touched down at OUTsider Saturday night.

Then we must ask if it is okay to touch them during the films – perhaps driven to cuddle with a S.O. or cutie while bodies writhe on-screen. The audience must perform these questions twice: Once where we answer, “No,” both times, and once where we answer truthfully. Our presenters tell us that a round of “No” is to prepare us to hear rejection.

Photo by James Scott

Conversations around sex are often complicated, and it was a little strange to have one with the nice person next to me when I had no intention of touching or being touched while reviewing something for my professional adult-human job. Also, I was very confused as to how anyone in the hot, packed tent outside the Vortex would be able to touch themselves without pulling something: After all, there’s only so many shapes a human body can take.

On that note, many of those body shapes were on display in the menagerie of explicit, queer cinema Hot Bits presented. Some of it was abstract; some of it was blunt pornography; and some of it was erotically hilarious. All of it was beautiful and aroused ecstatic cheers – it is enough, always enough, to see people like you on-screen having good sex.

My personal favorites of the bunch focused on those conversations about sex, both before and after, shown in a more honest way than practiced rejection could mirror. Annie Mok’s semi-animated “Allegheny Cemetery” displayed a sweet, considerate consent discussion before sex – the mapping out of where to touch, how much, and how far – with the blissed-out voiceover of Mok and featured player Lynx during fisting bringing the mostly static visuals to life. There was also the film “Kitchen Talk,” which focused on BIPOC having a tactile discussion with each other over the impact of their careers, their lives, and what it means to be the representation on-screen. The amount of love and sorrow shared was breathtaking, and highlighted what queer erotic film can give that mainstream pornography subdues: humanity.

Other great pieces were more humor-forward but never denigrated the sex present in the films. “Welcome to Athens'' presented a “banned” tourism advert for the Greek National Tourism Organization, meant to pull in the pink dollar by having men eat tzatziki off each other’s penises and scream their horny love for Greek salad while smearing feta, tomatoes, and olives into their mouths. Another great one in the erotic comedy category was “Roll Play,” which showcased a table top roleplaying session meeting its natural conclusion – all characters piled into a massive orgy with an evil Lich named – what else – Vulvamort.

Every film shown was a great work of art and had a variety of bodies and lifestyles shown – fulfilling OUTsider’s mission of platforming “provocative, overlooked, and out-of-the-box film.” While pornography isn’t usually my cinema of choice, I appreciate explicit queer films as something needed in an industry plagued by bigotry and abuse. These displays of human passion and love reaffirmed that there’s power in representation – a power in pleasure.

OUTsider Festival runs Wed., Feb. 19, through Sun., Feb. 23, (mostly) at the Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd. Badges are available online. Individual tickets are issued 10 minutes before each show after badge holders have been seated. For the complete lineup, see www.outsiderfest.org.

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