SXSW Film Review: Pornocracy

The economy (and the price) of free porn

Money and power exacerbate the inherently complicated intersection of feminism and pornography, which makes French feminist icon/former adult film actor, Ovidie, a natural fit for an investigative documentary about porn’s piracy problem.

She explains at the outset of the film that her motive for making this film initiated with the discovery that her own adult films were posted – without consent – on free streaming sites, known as tubes. More porn is being consumed than ever before in history, mostly for free, and Pornocracy sets out to discover the effects on women. Spoiler alert: It’s more complicated – and destructive – than you’d even imagine.Why would anyone pay for porn? We’ve all heard the seemingly innocuous argument, but as it turns out, that mentality is the catalyst for more hardcore sex work and drastically reduced pay. Unsurprisingly, women are disproportionately affected. Laments Ovidie, “Five cocks, six cocks. I wonder what the next challenge will be. Hemorrhage? Death, maybe? The worst part is that the porn stars’ names hardly ever appear on these sites. They are reduced to a series of categories. … One gaping hole amongst many. How can you empathize with these girls, if, after all, they don’t really exist?”

If you want to get to the truth, follow the money trail … or at least attempt to find it. PornHub, as one example, is one of the internet’s most trafficked sites, boasting millions of videos for free. Ovidie travels across the globe, starting with Europe’s porn capital, Budapest, to talk to filmmakers and executives about who is actually making all the money. They’re selling web traffic – not porn – and that makes it almost impossible to track. It takes the rest of the film to even begin to unravel the maddening, tangled mess of multinational companies and what appears to be one of the biggest money-laundering webs in the world. Although fascinating, the late second act could use more condensing to make room for a deeper explanation of the ramifications of the harmful acts against industry performers – being exposed to violence, being blacklisted, being underpaid. Still, the film does well to balance the precarious, and strange, scenario in which a doc investigates the funding of pornography while supporting its right to exist. Particularly interesting is the inclusion of performers’ casual conversations about vaginal creams and fasting, with strategically shot behind-the-scenes clips, all playing out against a Dateline-esque pacing. While the film leaves unexplored terrain, it starts a very important conversation, and boldly challenges the idea that pirated pornography is harmless. Ovidie breaks open the stigmas fueled by the industry’s secrets, and inevitably, Pornocracy’s audiences will consider their adult film consumption, some perhaps for the first time. Given the many allegations of threats on the lives of those who challenge the porn industry, it’s also worth acknowledging her bravery for even broaching the topic. Whether it will make a difference, only time will tell.


Documentary Spotlight, North American Premiere
Sunday, March 12, 9:30pm, Alamo Lamar B
Wednesday, March 15, 9:30pm, Stateside

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Film Announces Audience Awards
SXSW Film Announces Audience Awards
Grand Jury awards for Virtual Cinema also named

Josh Kupecki, March 18, 2017

SXSW Film Q&A: Divine Divas
SXSW Film Q&A: Divine Divas
Behind the scenes with the iconic drag queens of Brazil

Anastacia Uriegas, March 17, 2017

More by Jessi Cape
Gardeners and Librarians Join Forces to Catalog Seeds
Gardeners and Librarians Join Forces to Catalog Seeds
Seed banking on the future

April 22, 2022

Tips for Starting Your Seed Collection
Tips for Starting Your Seed Collection
Home gardener Jennymarie Jemison shows you how to save seeds

April 22, 2022


SXSW Film, Porn, SXSW, SXSW Film 2017, Pornocracy, Ovidie

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle