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Dan Savage returns with a virtual edition of HUMP!, his Annual Amateur porn Fest

By February 4, 2021 No Comments

Scene from a HUMP! Festival entry

By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
info@pittsburghcurrent.com

Film festivals are some of the most prominent casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. As long as crowds cannot gather safely, large scale events simply cannot occur in a typical fashion.

That is why some have made the decision to move completely virtual, and Dan Savage’s HUMP! Film Festival is no exception. The 2021 HUMP! Film Festival will be streaming virtually for its second year due to the constraints of the pandemic.

HUMP! began in 2005, as an idea spawned by “Savage Love” author and LGBTQ activist Dan Savage and his coworkers at The Stranger, a local Seattle newspaper. They were curious as to how amateur porn makers would respond when channeled into an “old school” format.

“Some of my coworkers and I joked about doing a call for submissions for an amateur porn film festival,” said Savage. “The publisher of the paper at the time wouldn’t let us, because he didn’t think anyone would make porn in Seattle, to be screened in Seattle, for a Seattle audience.”

Eventually, his editor relented, and Savage put out a call for submissions, asking for amateur pornographic films, five minutes in length or less. To the surprise of all, more than 30 individual films were submitted.

“We got so much great stuff that we booked a theater, so the question became, ‘Would people come and sit in a movie theater in the dark next to strangers and watch porn the way their grandparents used to?’” said Savage. “Those first screenings sold out right away.”

The success of the inaugural HUMP! festival led to it becoming an annual event in Seattle and, with its popularity steadily rising, touring to West Coast cities like Portland and Vancouver, and eventually nationwide.

It was in the middle of the 2020 nationwide HUMP! tour that the pandemic initially took hold in America, forcing a shift online if the festival was to continue. Savage made sure to confer with all filmmakers on the tour to ensure they would be comfortable with their work being available digitally, as the festival had been exclusively in-person to protect the privacy of the creators.

“It was part of the appeal of HUMP!,” said Savage. “You can only see these movies at HUMP!…and if you wanted to be in HUMP!, you didn’t have to worry about your porn living forever on the internet.”

While two films decided to drop out due to this development, the vast majority overwhelmingly supported the shift to virtual. Savage credits this shift in our collective mentality since HUMP! began over 15 years ago to how easy modern technology has made it to produce, as well as consume, pornography.

“Everyone’s carrying a porn production studio around in their pocket and most everyone is using it,” said Savage. “The feeling of risk is less acute than it was then.”

Still unable to tour, Savage decided the virtual format would go on a second time for 2021.

“This year, as the pandemic continues to rage, we wanted to give people something to look forward to in their homes. We wanted to bring HUMP! to them,” said Savage. “We wanted to give people who wanted to make HUMP! films a reason to have some fun at home with the people in their pod, so we did it all online this year.”

The film submissions are curated by a small jury, consisting of employees from The Stranger and HUMP! itself. The films are whittled down to 20-25 selections from as many as 200 submissions.

“We look at quality first, is it a good film? Is it interesting doing what it’s trying to do? Does it make a statement? We also look at representation and diversity,” said Savage.

While the input of all jury members is taken into consideration, Savage ultimately makes the final decision on the film lineup.

“I’m the final say, I’m the RuPaul of HUMP!,” said Savage.

This year, 23 films are featured as part of the virtual festival. The choices run the gamut from raunchy to funny, uncomfortable to stirring. One of these selections is a film entitled “Mes Chéris,” which is part porn, part documentary.

“It’s a film by a trans man who’s about to have top surgery to remove his breasts,” said Savage. “It’s incredibly moving. It’s a loving farewell to his breasts.”

Also among the selections are films with material that may make some uncomfortable.

“There’s a film called ‘Lengua,’ which is a straight couple having sex in the kitchen. It’s super creative, for some people really challenging, but beautifully shot,” said Savage.

This sometimes challenging nature, according to Savage, is one of the greatest aspects of HUMP!, as he knows most people do not seek out pornography that does not turn them on. Viewing porn featuring bodies and sex acts that are not what one would ordinarily seek out reveals a surprising commonality to films that are themselves very different.

“About halfway through, people start to see what’s the same in every film,” said Savage. “The vulnerability, desire, passion, sense of humor, and that all of that matters much more, and is much greater, than the differences.”

Despite the challenges entailed in creating a virtual film festival, Savage is excited to bring HUMP! to audiences virtually once again, and is happy that people are passionate enough to contribute even in the craziest of times.

“We’re really psyched that people brought it, this year of all years,” said Savage. “I think people needed the escape.”

Dan Savage’s HUMP! Film Festival will be available online January 30 through March 6. For tickets and more information, visit humpfilmfest.com.

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