The efficacy of any porn film depends upon the proclivities of the viewer. That probably explains why there are more varieties of adult movies than any one person could conceivably consume in his or her lifetime. That's also why it's hard to confine the medium to anything but the most general definition. Say, "The depiction of a sexual act intended to arouse the viewer." Trying to lump the genre into anything more specific would be an inane pursuit.
An even trickier task: trying to summarize what qualifies a film as "erotic." It's a term open to such nuanced interpretation that, in the right context, even the otherwise banal act of putting on socks could be considered as such. Case in point: When Terry Furry, the Express' sales and marketing director, called on submissions for BRIEFS, the paper's inaugural erotic short-film competition, the entries he received ran the gamut from balloon fetishism to straight-up fucking. One entry is a brief, straightforward scene of a man and woman having sex, recorded in stop-motion. Another follows the agonized thoughts of a voyeuristic fellow transfixed by the legs of another guy's girlfriend. Then there's the loose parody of Pixar's Up, which, as you might imagine, involves a lot of frisky, friction-y balloon-play. "What's erotic to me is not necessarily erotic to you," Furry said. "It could be anything from peeling an orange or an ice cube running down someone's back to blatant sex and fetishes — and that's what we've found in all our submissions."
Inspired by HUMP!, the amateur porn festival put on by Seattle-based alt-weekly The Stranger, Furry began preparations for the Express' own adult film competition in December. He wanted to see what both amateur and professional local filmmakers could come up with when charged with producing an erotic film no more than fifteen minutes long (hence the title, BRIEFS, which is also a double entendre for underwear). Initially, entries were dangerously slim. But by the February 1 submission deadline he'd amassed more than a dozen films, and a diverse collection at that. "There's gay, there's lesbian, there's fetish, there's straight — it truly is reflective of the East Bay," Furry said.
The filmmakers' works screen at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 16, at the Grand Lake Theater (3200 Grand Ave., Oakland; $10, ages eighteen and up), where the audience, Express staff, and a panel of judges comprised of film buffs and sexperts will each pick a winner (with the favorite of each group awarded $500). And while some people might squirm at the thought of watching sex unfold in a public setting, the mix of artful and even funny flicks among more raunchy scenes of masturbation and hand jobs should relieve some of the sexual tension (though you still might not want to bring your mom). And if you're not spent after a night of erotic film watching, stop by the Uptown Nightclub (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) on Friday, February 17, for BRIEFS' after-party and awards ceremony. Tourettes Without Regrets founder Jamie DeWolf hosts, with music by DJ Gravedigger and burlesque performances by Séduction Féroce and The Hot Toddies. 8 p.m.-midnight, $5. Tickets for the film fest: EastBayExpress.com/blogs/eLerts.