(Note: The above video contains nudity and graphic content and may not be appropriate for sensitive and/or work environments)
From the incredible band Holopaw comes "Dirty Boots," a sexually-charged short film about a gay biker gang living in Brooklyn, New York.
Shot by filmmaker Adam Baran, the video is based on the song “Dirty Boots (He Don’t)” off of Holopaw's most recent album "Academy Songs Vol. 1." Throughout the course of the video, the members of the biker gang ride together to an underground sex club to initiate new members and push the boundaries of male sexuality.
"It's not so much that I wanted to make a sexually charged video, but that I didn't want a potential collaborator to shy away from the sexually overt content of the lyrics," Holopaw lead singer John Orth told The Huffington Post. "I knew that in Adam's hands the video would be provocative, smart and beautiful. The end result outpaced my every expectation."
In order to better understand the vision behind "Dirty Boots," The Huffington Post chatted with filmmaker Adam Baran about the concept for the video, the film's sexually explicit nature and representations of male sexuality.
The Huffington Post: How did the concept for the video come about?
Adam Baran: The concept of the video really stemmed from two things -- the concept of Holopaw's "Academy Songs Vol. 1" album, which tells stories of boarding school boys who sneak off into the woods and the city for strange, sexy rituals and parties, and secondly, the lyrics of the song, some of which are borrowed from my very favorite Shangri-La's song "Out in the Streets," where singer Mary Weiss laments that her boyfriend has lost his spark after giving up his wild life running around with his gang of rough and tumble wild boys. I started to think about the Shangri-La's, their whole bad girl biker groupie melodrama act -- they were most famous for the song "Leader of the Pack" about a girl who loves a biker who dies in an accident.
From there I started looking at images from the early sixties, images of gay biker gangs like LA's famous Satyrs, then Kenneth Anger's famous "Scorpio Rising," my other favorite early queer erotic touchstones -- Fred Halsted's "LA Plays Itself," Wakefield Poole's "Bijou" and Peter Berlin's "That Boy," all of which feature lead characters entering a secret gay world over the course of an ordinary day. So John Orth and I started constructing a story for the video about a day in the life of a rebellious biker gang who all live together, sleep together, party together and every night descend into this sexual utopia where a million little melodramas play out every night. But in the day everything starts fresh again.
What does the sexually explicit nature of the video add?
Well first of all, it's arousing. I'm not going to lie and say, "Oh I hope people aren't turned on and that they appreciate it only on an aesthetic level." I wanted to make an adult piece that juices you a little, you know? I was happy when someone messaged me yesterday to say he and his roommate both pleasured themselves to the video -- separately, he pointed out, to indicate some sense of decorum, I suppose. This five minute music video is not any more explicit than your typical episode of "Girls" or "True Detective." Also, as I said, I'm a big fan of queer erotica from the early days before that was even a thing, and so we wanted to make something in that style. I also thought it was important to show the playful side of this group sex activity -- the smiling, the laughter, the friends, and the democratization that happens in spaces like that -- to borrow from Samuel Delaney's "Times Square Red, Times Square Blue." We're showing two of the characters finding love and dancing together, another finds sex, another plays as if he was a child, while another has his limits tested and that causes an unexpected moment of reflection. And not to keep running on, but I think I also tried hard to make sure the group was diverse, and not just all gorgeous white muscle boys, and that there would even be a butch female character in the club, who some have read as trans.
I know that some people will watch it and say it's too much, or vulgar, or drag up some tired old argument about it being "bad for gays" to show this behavior, and I'm sure that other people will say it doesn't go far enough and that it's tame or vanilla. But honestly, I just wanted to make something that came from my experiences and represented how I felt when and what I saw in my head when I listened to Holopaw's song.
What were your inspirations for the video?
Aside from the early queer erotic film pioneers I've mentioned above -- Kenneth Anger, Wakefield Poole, Jim Bidgood, Peter Berlin, Fred Halsted and Steve Scott -- we looked at the photography of the great Swedish photographer Karlheinz Weinberger whose work was rediscovered a few years ago via some exhibitions and a great book called "Rebel Youth." Weinberger photographed Swedish teen gangs who did themselves up in outlandish outfits to look like Elvis or some pompadoured tough biker boys -- all very homoerotic of course. I'd been a huge fan of those looks and wanted to recreate them, so we brought in Brooklyn artist Juan Betancurth, whose work also involves making strange sexual fetish wear out of out-of-date kitchen utensils and other ephemera, to build the costumes -- the belts and the jackets, and necklaces and harnesses.
As important as that was, though, the biggest source of inspiration really came from the cast, all of whom inspired me in some way with their art or work. A Bearded Boy is a very explicit documenter of his own life via his Tumblr, Miguel Libarnes and Johnny Taranto are terrific visual artists whose work doesn't shy away from themes of sexuality and Niegel Smith is a brilliant theatrical director who is fearless in the work he tries to bring to the stage. Many of the other cast members make brave and powerful performance work. Michael Tikili, for instance, is a political activist who led a briliant, naked protest against HIV policy in John Boehner's office. So the video became a celebration of these friends of mine. I wanted to have them portray characters, but also just bring their own wonderful, creative energies to the piece.
Do you think that as we move closer and closer to being accepted into the mainstream, there's been a concerted effort to cut back on gay sex and sexuality?
I don't know if I jibe with the concept of us being close to being accepted because clearly all these horrible things are going on around the country and the world that indicate something natural -- which is that when things become more liberal in society, there are always people who try to take it back and push it back. I would say that our goals should not be acceptance but challenging the system that allows one group to be the dominant group capable of offering "approval" or "acceptance." Fundamentally, I think you need to be honest and open to have any progress.
I just read this amazing short story by Glenway Westcott called "A Visit to Priapus," written in 1939 but never formally published anywhere until today. The story's an autobiographical story about a guy who hears from a friend that there's a painter who lives up in Maine who has an enormous penis, and so the guy heads up to Maine to sleep with him. Most of the brilliant story is the author's moment by moment internal thoughts on what the sex is like, how he's interpreting the energy of the guy with the big penis, and his thoughts range from wild and exciting to sad, frustrated, and "I'm tired, I just want to go to sleep." Any gay man who's ever looked on Grindr, found someone in seconds, and gotten off with them needs to read it to see how little has changed. The author himself knew it couldn't be published when it was written, but even after the sexual revolution had happened and other books had come out much more explicit in theme, he never published it. He self-censored. I won't self-censor. I think it's important to be really honest about who you are, who we are as queer people, and what we do in bed.
Check out the video for "Dirty Boots" above.