From bedrooms and dungeons across the country to the Barrymore Theatre, a homemade porn festival exposes audiences to edgy action outside of the mainstream.
The 2017 HUMP! Film Festival is exciting more audiences than ever with nearly 40 screenings, up from 27 last year. But this year’s event has triggered some political anxiety. When the festival screened in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, during election week, some audience members were distressed to see Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” caps in films. (The caps were “extra credit” items that submitters include to prove the film was made just for HUMP!)
The festival was launched in 2005 by Dan Savage, America’s favorite sex ed teacher and columnist (Savage Love) and LGBT activist, who put out a call for homemade dirty movies. Savage started writing his column for The Stranger in Seattle in the early 1990s while still living in Madison. He eventually rose to prominence as the guru of kink, open relationships and everything in between — including ethical relationship behavior.
“I’m insanely jealous of HUMP! right now — because HUMP! is in Madison and I am not,” Savage says. “I love Madison and try to get back there as often as I can. Savage Love got started in the back of Four Star Fiction & Video [as it was called then], and being in Madison always takes me back!”
One HUMP! filmmaker says this semi-public display of pornography gets audiences thinking and talking about something that’s usually done alone or in small groups.
“The public benefit of HUMP! is the possibility — or, really, probability — of witnessing bodies and action that [they’ve] never seen before,” says Seattle body-based artist Ty Wardwell, whose film Breakfast in Bed was the runner-up in this year’s “best kink” category. “Sitting in a theater with strangers watching porn is kinda weird and amazing,” he says.
Clocking in at about 2½ minutes, Wardwell’s film begins with his boyfriend topping him before heading into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. He warms a stick of butter — ahem — internally and then releases it onto the toast before sharing a bite with his partner. With ample close-ups and no cutaways, Breakfast in Bed is dedicated to actor Divine, who’s infamous for eating fresh dog droppings in director John Waters’ filth classic Pink Flamingos.
The rules for entry to HUMP! are few: five minutes max, anything goes — but no minors, no animals and no poop. At this year’s HUMP!, a straight couple performs pre-coital acroyoga on a mountaintop, and two men take a Brokeback Mountain-style camping trip. A polyamorous group of 51-through-75-year-olds discuss their relationship. A musical puppet show about fisting, a lesbian BDSM three-way and a film called Trans, Toys, Training are among other HUMP! stand-outs.
Wardell says audiences benefit from the variety of films in HUMP!
“Porn isn’t going to change the world,” Wardell says. “But people are going to walk away knowing that there are other ways to butter toast.”
HUMP! will screen April 8 at 7 and 9:30 p.m.at the Barrymore Theatre.
[Editor's note: This article was updated with the correct spelling of Ty Wardwell's last name and to clarify who was on top.]