Now celebrating its 16th year, the sex-positive film festival CineKink brings to town comedy, drama, documentary, and experimental films ranging from mildly kinky to explicitly sexual and focusing on a wide variety of sexualities and identities. Founded in 2003, with roots in New York City, the annual festival tours to Oakland, Toronto, Portland, and Chicago. Lisa Vandever, one of the cofounders—and a former Rogers Park resident—says she "stumbled into the whole thing" after moving to NYC and becoming involved in the BDSM community. Vandever was working in independent film development when she joined a local support group called the Eulenspiegel Society. "As part of an outreach effort to bring in new members, I helped launch a predecessor festival focused solely on S/M," she says. "That evolved into CineKink as my own explorations expanded into other alternative sexualities. We've certainly broadened the focus over the years, with 'kink' being a very expansive umbrella term."
CineKink celebrated its anniversary in April with a gala, screenings, award ceremony, and a play party for late-nighters looking to entertain or be entertained. Awards were given to Two in the Bush: A Love Story for best narrative feature, Remember Me for best musical short, The Artist & The Pervert for best documentary feature, and Sweet Sweet Kink: A Collection of BDSM Stories for best animated short among others; the latter two will be screening at the touring program's stop at the Leather Archives & Museum. Vandever says these are "features determined by audience vote, and our 'best' shorts picked by a jury."
Planning for CineKink begins in late summer. "At some miraculous point, out of what seems like an amorphous, random grouping of films, themes begin to emerge," Vandever says. "And, balancing various orientations and proclivities, our festival schedule comes together."
One of the scheduled films, The Artist & The Pervert, looks at the marriage between Georg Friedrich Haas, a contemporary Austrian composer and a child of Nazi parents, and his wife, Mollena Williams-Haas, a kink educator and descendant of African slaves. Vandever says that Williams-Haas has been "a longtime fixture in the New York Kink community" and that the audience was especially delighted to see her featured. "The documentary also connects more universally," she says, "as the relationship depicted within is a poignant example of the loving give-and-take that can be found in a consensual BDSM relationship. And the reactions of the world around Williams-Haas and her husband, Georg, as they make that aspect public, speaks to the profound discomfort that still surrounds both race and sexuality in our society."
The documentary will open the festival on Friday, November 22, at 7:30 PM, screening along with the short film Impact. Saturday will open with Sweet Spot, a collection of short films, and closes with the Best of CineKink, a selection of this year's award-winning shorts.
BDSM, nonmonogamy, role-play, leather, swinging, and more are all represented at the festival. Vandever says that "as long as it involves consenting adults, just about anything celebrating sex as a right of self-expression is fair game!" Consensual, ethical sex is what makes CineKink something to check out. It's not just whips and handcuffs, it's a lifestyle, and it's best seen on a big-ass screen. v