NewFest: ‘Age of Consent’ Gets Down and Uninhibited

Posted by on 7.23.2014

Age of Consent is likely not for the faint of heart. To be straightforward (so to speak) it is explicit and leaves little to the imagination. The documentary opens with the line "The story of The Hoist is the story of gay sex," notes website The Edge.  From there, a  journey into a safe space where the libido reigns and judgment is nonexistent and fully exposed on the big screen. The film by Charles Lum and Todd Verow will screen as part of NewFest, the New York LGBT Film Festival, this week.

The history of the HOIST, London’s first and only gay sex fetish bar, follows the cultural evolution of gay life and sex in modern London through AIDS, gentrification, and the ongoing political struggle to decriminalize homosexual activity in the UK. "The very existence of Age of Consent as a film is a testament to the process of social change it examines," wrote The Edge, which viewed the feature out of BFI Flare, where it debuted. "No more than 40 years ago, a documentary like this would’ve been impossible to make due to the attitudes towards gay sex." Co-director Charles Lum shared with FilmLinc Daily how Age of Consent became a full-blown feature, owing some influence to a 1981 film set in Berlin. He also reveals his and fellow filmmaker Tom Verow's experience diving into hardcore London and finding an audience for their film…

Age of Consent
Todd Verow & Charles Lum | USA | 2014 | 88m

Responses by Charles Lum:

On going from short film to feature project:

Todd and I had collaborated on the short film TOM's Gift, which told a first-person narrative about a fabulous gay cruising location that had been closed by local authorities. The owner of the HOIST enthusiastically introduced himself after that screening in London, thus the subject of the HOIST and its liberation of gay sex presented itself to us succinctly that very night.

…and being hardcore/explicit:

Virtually everything about our film is hardcore gay, starting with the explicit sex and winding through the gay male sexual history of modern London. Theoretically, it is "Queer/LGBT" mainly through its unapologetic sexuality and political bent.

On "teasing" sex vs. "real" sex in films:

DIY filmmaking avoids the often insurmountable problem of presenting your ideas for another's approval. Creating a film using personal capability as opposed to what is expected in commercial film product is always the premium challenge. While our HOIST-connected interviewees were unafraid of participating in a sexually explicit project, finding audiences who can acclimate to the actual visual challenge of unexpurgated sex as opposed to its artistic obfuscation is the hardest task. While the tease of sex is almost essential in cinema, real sex remains unrespected.

On how a 1981 film about a schoolteacher in Berlin with two separate lives set a standard:

Taxi Zum Klo was indispensable in illuminating how to include hardcore sex as an essential element in gay/queer storytelling. Titillating and/or evasive depictions of sexuality exclude the basic reality of human/gay experience. Age of Consent was made in direct response to current gay cinema and documentary. And, of course, the wonderful history of hardcore gay porn was inspiring as well!

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