Dan Savage's Hump! Film Fest brings DIY porn to the big screen this week

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Curated by by sex-advice pundit and gay activist Dan Savage, the annual short film festival Hump! challenges regular, sex-positive folks to become temporary porn stars. Through self-made, five-minute dirty movies, these brave stars showcase their version of arousal for a chance to win cash prizes. This weekend, the Hump! Tour will make a stop in Minneapolis to share its collection of hilarious, steamy, and creative shorts featuring the gamut of gender identities, sexualities, and fetishes.

Despite what it sounds like, this film festival is not about titillation. “It’s more of a porn-themed celebration of diversity, sexual interests, gender — everything. And it’s really a blast,” says Savage. 

So, how did the idea for a porn film festival involving amateurs come about? Thirteen years ago, Savage and his coworkers proposed the idea of a porn festival involving everyday folks to readers of Seattle’s The Stranger. Would people submit works?

“A lot of people [on staff] didn’t think anyone would do it — make amateur porn in the town where they live and submit it,” he says. 

But the call was heard, and eagerly answered. “Tons of people made porn and submitted it. So then we had to go through with it,” he says. “We booked a theater, and then the question shifted to, 'Will people come, sit in a movie theater next to strangers in the dark, and watch pornography the way their grandparents used to?' The answer to that was also ‘yes.’ Every screening — even in that first year — sold out. It’s just been this roaring success ever since.”

As far as the curation process, there are typically 12 people on the Hump! squad. The diverse committee watches hundreds of five-minute long submissions, and the process sometimes takes days to get through. While most films are chosen by the group, Savage admits that he used his veto power once as lead curator to add a submission celebrating “rosebudding.”

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“If you don’t know what it is, don’t Google it,” he warns. “People were literally weeping behind chairs. It was a little hard to watch.”

Savage says that aside from submissions with general film quality issues, there’s not too much that gets rejected, unless it’s a matter of overlap. “There’s this weird thing that happens every year," he says. "One year we got six different James Bond parodies. We hadn’t said anything about wanting James Bond parodies, they just came in. Then, a couple years ago, we got at least a half a dozen lesbian films where women were mashing fruit and veggies into each others' junk and eating it up. We were just like, ‘What is in the water this year?’”

To maintain the privacy of the participants involved in the fest, all copies are destroyed after the tour. To ensure there are no bootlegged or leaked copies, Savage explains that he and the Hump! staff watch the audience at every screening. He also attests that there’s a recurring response to the festival he witnesses every place it goes.

“For the first five or six films — when you’ve got cis-gendered people watching trans porn, gay guys watching lesbian porn, vanilla people watching some really hardcore kinky porn — everybody is sort of thrown back in their seats. Then, about halfway through, the entire audience is cheering and clapping. At first, all they can see is what’s different: ‘I’m straight, not gay. I’m vanilla, not kinky. I’m cis-gendered, not trans, or not attracted to trans bodies.’ Then people begin to see what’s exactly the same: desire, lust, love, humor, vulnerability, passion. All of that is more important than the thin layer of difference on the surface.”

That’s the beauty of the Hump! festival. It goes back to the concept of broadening perspectives. “We tell people, ‘You’re going to watch porn that if you were home alone, you would not click on.’ We’ve had films in Hump! where afterward people are like, ‘That’s not porn!’ and we look at them and say, ‘It’s somebody’s porn.’ And for those people to share that with us is amazing and wonderful and hot.”

IF YOU GO:

Hump! Film Festival

Thursday through Saturday

Showtimes each day, check online for a complete schedule.

18+; $20

St. Anthony Main Theatres

115 SE Main St., Minneapolis


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