Dan Savage’s X-rated HUMP! Film Festival Celebrates Its 12th Year

Most people don’t think of pornography as an art form. Though it was once chic to go see Deep Throat, history has revealed its star, Linda Lovelace, was goaded into the industry by her abusive husband. And while the adult-film world occasionally yields movies with big, colorful productions (e.g., Pirates, Uninhibited), artistic films depicting unsimulated sex are rare (e.g., In the Realm of the Senses, Intimacy). Porn is the only film category without at least several dozen festivals of various qualities of non-studio productions per year. Writer/activist Dan Savage’s HUMP! Film Festival has the distinction of being the first festival of independently created shorts featuring the topic (and sustained depiction) of the sex act.

The HUMP! tour stops at Long Beach’s Art Theatre on April 6, giving adventurous audiences the opportunity to experience the 12th-annual block of independently produced porn films, which once again showcase as much diversity in narrative style as they do in production value, sexual orientation and graphic extremity. Previous attendees know this is not so much a showcase of hardcore art as it is a showcase of taboo expression.

The lighter fare in this year’s lineup includes several films addressing the theme of sexual expression without nudity. The brilliantly scripted It’s Fucking Complicated focuses on a straight couple’s first time having sex. The woman confides that at the height of passion, in order to achieve orgasm, her partner must name various types of pizzas. The man is happy to oblige, then makes his own request: at the moment of climax, he wants her to hold up a large poster board reading, “You’re #1 at doing sex!” [the sign resembles a grade-school craft project]. As the conversation continues, the couple’s requirements increase as much in complication as they do in hilarity, with the man announcing his partner must dress up as an endangered furry animal. “But wait,” the woman points out, “that panda bear was recently downgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable.’ Do you happen to have a gorilla suit, instead?” Naturally, he does.

Sexucation: Just Jizz showcases top-notch production values while humorously promoting the nutritious and holistic values of semen, as well as its accessibility: “Tired of buying expensive beauty products? Save hundreds of dollars and get the benefits of this powerful anti-oxidant by simply texting some guy at midnight and saying, ‘What’s Up?’ He’ll be right over to give you a free refill.” In true infomercial form, the program ends with a list of possible side effects, including “STDs, pregnancy, emotional bonding issues and temporary delusions of love.”

On the darker side are shorts featuring some extreme fetishes that are very difficult to watch. In Playing Scrabble, several people lay down Scrabble tiles spelling out various kinks that they then demonstrate. Starting with performers variously dressed up/painted as clowns while penetrating one another, the fetishes progress to performers piercing one another as a part of their sexual play. Closeup shots of staples and pins being driven through flesh and the subsequent free flow of blood make this particular depiction of the sex act the most gruesome of the festival’s content.

When curator/editor Dan Savage solicits festival content, he encourages the use of various props, particular to each year, to be included as a tie-in for the films and as evidence the films were created exclusively for the event. Of the recurring elements that appeared throughout the films, the one that enabled the most diversity—and was, without exception, depicted with disdain—was the red “Make America Great Again” hat. In one film, the hat was doctored to read “Make America Gay Again”; in another, it was used as a receptacle for a used condom. But the most poignant statement occurred after the narrative of the documentary short I’m Not Poly But My Boyfriends Are, when one of the film’s performers revealed he had no problem with being seen naked or making love in front of a camera, but he was ashamed “to be seen wearing this fucking hat.”

Among principal benefits of attending HUMP! is seeing exclusive content that is publicly destroyed at the end of the festival’s run (to protect the privacy of the creators). It may not be for everyone, but it’s best to filter the experience with a diverse audience and further develop one’s perspective on life.

HUMP! Film Festival at the Art Theatre, 2025 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; humpfilmfest.boldtypetickets.com. April 6, 8 p.m. $20. 18+.

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