Monday, April 21, 2014

Re-Learning Humility: The Danilo Parra Interview

Don’t let filmmaker/photographer Danilo Parra’s easy-going demeanor fool you. Though he captures quiet and intimate images, volatility is either just about to surface or a working condition behind the scenes. Here he talks weaponized Quaaludes in South Africa and wet cats.

Photo by Danilo Parra from

BURGESS: In Jamaica you recently shot a music video for controversial Jamaican dancehall artist Vybz Kartel called “My Crew.” Kartel was convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison earlier this month. Can you talk about your experiences on that project?

PARRA: I was in Jamaica doing a story on the current Dance Hall music scene in Jamaica. As part of the doc, we were putting out all our efforts to get an interview with Vybz in jail, but since he was within the trial process, we were denied the interview from his lawyers. After hours of waiting outside the court to get a shot of his car pulling away, we met some of the people who were raised, musically, by him. They took us to his old neighborhood in Portmoore where many murals of his face were painted on the walls. Since we were shooting for Vice, and Vice was putting out a vinyl of his last album, we asked the members of his neighborhood if we could shoot the last Vybz Video with them. And they were very amped.

BURGESS: Can you talk about your ongoing documentary work with Vice and your latest piece in South Africa?

Photo by Danilo Parra from
PARRA: My work with Vice has spanned over 8 years now, 5 years of it as a freelance doc shooter/producer. I used to be a full time editor for 3 years but now as a freelancer, I produce/shoot the show “Hamilton's Pharmacopeia”. Hamilton and I get along really well so it's like traveling with a friend more than a job but some of the situations we get into can get pretty hectic. Our last documentary we did was shot in South Africa and was about the recreational use of HIV medicine and it's psychedelic side effects. It was the most complicated story I have worked on yet with Hamilton but I loved how it turned out. Hamilton has a very special charm about him that usually gets our documentary subjects to go way out of their way to show us something for our films.

BURGESS: Soft piano music plays over images of loving hands bathing a miserable, mewing cat in your film “Torture Room” and “Laundry” is a love story brutally neutralized by apathy in a really hilarious way. You often combine opposing elements in order to create striking images in your work. Why is it important for you to mix elements in this way?

Still from "Torture Room" exhibited by The Druid Underground Film Festival

PARRA: I think the narrative can be brought out if you have these types of opposing elements. For Torture Room, I tried to create music that would let the viewer feel the tortured cats emotions. I knew it would be funny to see this cat in particular getting a bath in slow motion so I wanted to guide the emotion into how the cat feels rather than how the viewer feels laughing at it.

BURGESS: You made a music video for the band ‘Fantasmes’ in which two lover’s faces melt super nasty after a passionate kiss at the end of the world. Any ambitions to direct a horror film?

PARRA: Yes the Horror film genre would be great to work with. More psychological thriller than horror though. My favorite films are films like The Shining and The Brood, which include gore, but in a more elegant and thought provoking way.

Photo by Danilo Parra from

BURGESS: As your directing reel continues to expand talk to me about your crew. Who are your core people?

PARRA: My crew varies on project to project. The bigger projects usually include Anchor Light, my friends lighting company, and all the people who run it. Kevin Hayden (head of Anchor Light) is a DP I work with a lot and Sydney Buchan, is the producer of the company. They both keep me organized and make sure that I'm doing the right pre production to have a smooth production. I put together visual shot lists set to music that help me out a lot in terms of finding pacing and overall flow of a piece.

BURGESS: From the titular Theremin player in Mr. Grillo: The Thereminist (2013) to 74-year-old jazz saxophonist Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, your documentary subjects reveal intimate details as if the audience were a close friend leaning in for details over a living room coffee table. What are some strategies to creating personal portraits?

PARRA: The saxophonist has a well known album called "Humility in the Light of the Creator," I'm not a religious person, but I understand the humility he speaks of and how it benefits personal relationships. I usually re-learn humility every time I work with these types of documentary subjects but the comfort is there from the start since I usually find people that I know I would get along with.

BURGESS: What can we expect next?

PARRA: For the (Vice) Pharmacopeia series, our next doc is on weaponized Quaaludes in South Africa. I won't go into too much, but it will be a very conspiracy driven documentary with lots of mystery. For my own work, I'm doing a few hip hop videos at the moment that I finishing up, and I'd like to do a short film soon. I'm also shooting a dysfunctional remix of the story of Aladdin that Adam Green is directing. It will be my first feature narrative that I work on.

Danilo Parra’s short films have been exhibited by the Druid Underground Film Festival during the 6th and 7th annual seasons.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Robin Bougie Interview: Weirdo Cinema's Hardest Working Journalist

Bougie's Meta Version of Himself
Robin Bougie’s work in Cinema Sewer harkens back to the pre-internet age when we ancient ones looked to writers of the printed page to track down info on freaky movies. Books like Incredibly Strange Films [Re-Search Publications] and See No Evil [David Kerekes & David Slater] were well-worn and highlighted tomes of my young adult-hood. Bougie approaches his subject with a similar level of pointed critique and enthusiasm.

What makes his work unique is that his books are chock-full of his own illustrations; in-your-face depictions of slobbery sex acts, tweaked versions of exploitation film campaigns, even a version of himself, often portrayed as a sweaty, cringing disembodied head which presents an article or two—kinda like if the original Crypt Keeper were drawn by Ralph Bakshi. All of this explodes across articles crammed with quarter and eighth page fully illustrated factoids and film reviews.

When my buddy Justin Jasper (R.I.P.) handed me a copy of Cinema Sewer and I first laid eyes on the hilarious drawings of boa constrictor-sized erections and blood dripping gore scenes from my favorite horror flicks, I knew I was in for a crazy trip.

A Death Wish 3 Bronson Next to a Worried Guy with a Box
BURGESS: Last year you produced a 44 page magazine, a 68 page comic, and a 200 page softcover book.Your day job is a clerk in a video store but describe your working process in your home office.

BOUGIE: I also did freelance writing for dvd releases last year. Mostly essays for dvd booklets for Arrow in the UK, so most people here don't get to see them. My working process isn't very glamorous. I live in a little 700 square foot condo near the city center of Vancouver BC, Canada, which is stacked to the rafters with books, movies, and vintage porn magazines. I've got an art desk in my bedroom next to the bed, and a computer/office set up in the living room where the dining table would normally be. That's where I am right now, and where I do all my writing. The drawing I do at the art desk, although I do a lot of the post production stuff on the computer, and some digital jobs too. I draw with pencils and pens, and then scan it in, and clean it up on a wacom cintique. Sometimes I do color on the computer too, but I've got a real hard-on for black and white for some reason. I think it comes from reading so many zines and mini comics when I was younger, and always having that cheap black and white printed look seem cool. Spent my teens making zines, and trading them through the mail with other kids in other towns and cities. That community that I met through the mail really formed a lot of my interests going into adult hood. What else have you got when you're stuck somewhere like Saskatoon Saskatchewan?

The Future of Pornography?
BURGESS: You’re creating the type of magazine teenagers find on the street and hide under their mattress hoping their parents don’t find it. Can you talk a little about your early experiences of showing and being shown pornography and horror films as well as your parents’ attitude towards sex and violence in movies?

Another Classy Installment: Cinema Sewer #27

BOUGIE: It's funny you should mention finding my work on the street, because that's exactly what I'm creating. And I've never mentioned this in an interview before -- but I have this thing I do sometimes when I'm on the bus. I take out an issue of one of my porn comics, or Cinema Sewer, and I leave it on the seat after I get up. You know, for the next person to discover. I like the idea that the magazines are finding an audience totally removed from someone who would seek it out. They just sit down, and it's there. And the covers are so LURID, you know? Haha... so they have to have a look and see what it is. And then I've infected them with the ink I squirted out of my dong -- metaphorically speaking, I mean. My dong is mostly normal.

First time I ever saw porn was when I was a little kid. This was the late 1970s, early 1980s. Around there. I was playing in the woods with 3 other little girls, and we found some soggy and moldy spread beaver pages displayed on a log that had obviously been left there by some other kids, who had probably stolen it from a store, or from their dad's stash. I think I was in grade one. I remember that all 4 of us stood there in awe of these pictures. Staring them up and down, until finally one of the little girls said it was bad or something, and that she was going to tell on us. I remember being horrified that an adult could see us, or would know what we had witnessed of the adult world. The taboos we had been made privy to. I remembering being amazed about what a cunt looked like. Not turned on or disgusted, but just... amazed.

Then, a couple years later my hippy mom, who was single and a teacher, took me over to hang out with a friend, whose parents she liked to smoke up with. The adults all went to party in the kitchen and have a good time, and they wanted the two of us out of their hair, so they sequestered us in a den -- a TV room. There, under the coffee table we found his step father's stack of Cheri, Oui, High Society, Hustler, and Gallery, and we began pouring over them as if they were important documents with important answers to questions we didn't hadn't even thought to ask.

Suddenly one of the adults walked in before we could hide it back where we found it, and I remember feeling like we were in huge trouble. But they were so happy and high and casual, that just laughed about us finally having an interest in girls. They even went through the magazines with us for a minute or two, sitting with us on the couch as if they were going to read us a story. I remember my mom being kinda worried, but his parents poo-pooing her, and saying "They're going to see it sometime, may as well be while we're around to keep an eye on them." And then they left us. And suddenly this weight was lifted. We just happily looked at the pictures of spread asses and open lady thighs, and nipples. That was the very first time I had this idea that maybe it wasn't so bad. Maybe it wasn't so bad to like girls. Maybe there was nothing wrong with being curious about sexuality or what people looked like under their clothes.

Someone I'm friends with on social media posted a picture a few days ago of a dad showing his infant child an issue of Maxim, and they were saying what a terrible parent this guy was. That's so far away from my kind of thinking. The other side of the planet. Not wanting a baby to look at nudity doesn't even make sense. What, do you worry that if they see their mom's tit when they breastfeed that they're going to be perverted for life? Seeing graphic sexual acts should be reserved for people old enough to understand the implications of it, but I see nothing inherently wrong about the human body, or anyone of any age knowing what it looks like naked.

My mom was far more against violence than sex. By far. I was never ever allowed to play with guns, or own GI-Joe guys, or anything like that. I never owned any my whole life. But as a young teen, the second thing I ever bought with my own money I had earned over the summer was a laser tag set, because I was so curious what it would be like to get to shoot my friends. Hahaha! But at the same time, she wasn't really into censoring violent movies. I think she had a sense that playing with war toys was like training a young boy to be a soldier, but watching a violent TV show or movie (as long as it wasn't TOO violent) was something else far more divorced from reality. Abstract notions. A funhouse mirror reflection of society. And I agree with that. I think she raised me good. She's a very intelligent woman. I adore my mom. I'm a feminist because of my mom.

Bougie's Bum Fights Drawing My $30 Scanner Mauls
BURGESS: The voice you use in your writing is very intimate and you tend to sneak in a lot of personal facts. For example, regular readers will get details of your relationship with your wife, your sexual preferences, even the passing of your old cat, Orson. How different is the real Robin Bougie from the one that you present on the page?

BOUGIE: It's pretty much exactly me. I don't make up anything. I'm an exhibitionist in that sense, and feel liberated to tell private or embarrassing things, because after its told, you're free. You know what I mean? It's a fast track to creating important work when you're working with the written word or with comics, because you're letting the audience see themselves in you. The only time I really use fiction is in the little comics in Cinema Sewer about Rebecca and I, or those little comics I do about getting abused for being a comic artist, or jerking off together with my friend Josh. All of those are for comic relief. Like where I make Rebecca seem like she's scolding me all the time. That's just for fun. It's just that I need a "straight man" for the joke to work. In reality, she's very open and accepting, and is never telling me what I can't do. She's incredibly supportive of me. She's fucking incredible.

Barbarian Babe Drawing by Rebecca Dart via

BURGESS: Your wife, animator and illustrator Rebecca Dart, and you seem to have a great creative relationship—collaborating often in your publications. You’ve joked before about being too carried away on a sexy drawing and your wife getting jealous. Is it possible to become too attracted to a drawing?

BOUGIE: Haha no. That's another one of those little comics to make her laugh. She doesn't get jealous about that stuff. I get attracted to stuff I draw all the time. If you're working in the genre of porn/erotica/sleaze, and you're not able to make yourself tingle or get a little red-faced -- you know -- tapped into your fantasies and your turn-ons -- then you're clearly doing it wrong. You're keeping the work at arms length, and you're a coward. You're too scared to be making porn. Do something else. That's how I see it. Unfortunately, with the amount of terrible porn I see, there must be a lot of scared creative people out there. But I mean, c'mon. What's the worst that could happen? OH NO! They'll find out that I'm just like everyone else on earth! That I have sexual interests! Grow a pair if you're going to work in this medium. Don't just regurgitate a bunch of porn cliches. Make something personal.

Bougie's gangly visage takes in a weird scene.

BURGESS: You write quite a bit about cliches in cinema and like many good critics you challenge cinema to do something new. You’ve said that the last taboo in genre film is racism. Do you think that it’s possible for an exploitation film to improve social conditions?

BOUGIE: I think it's possible for any kind of film to improve social conditions, or make some kind of difference -- even if its just a small one. Film and music, and writing and art are all amazing like that. That power and those implications is one of the reasons why we're so fucking fascinated with them. It's why so many people will give up lucrative careers so they can toil away making nothing doing this stuff. That said, I don't think we rely on something like exploitation movies to improve social conditions. We're probably in trouble if we're putting our eggs in that basket. It's entertainment.

BURGESS: I remember when you could only get The Holy Mountain on the tape trade scene and if you ran into a guy who’d seen it, you could bitch about those damn hardcoded Japanese subtitles! As digital culture puts obscure movies into the hands of the average Joe, do you feel the joy of connection between fellow film hunters has been diminished? How much does rarity define the bond between cinema nerds?

Standard VHS Tape Trade Bootleg Picture Quality (Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, 1987)

BOUGIE: It made finding the movies more special and I believe it did make the movies better in a way. It's like if you only get to eat the most delicious ice cream once a week or once a month, or if you get to eat it every time you think about it. Before long, it's not going to be a very delicious ice cream anymore. All you have to do to watch a movie now is to know that it exists, and have internet access. That's it. That's all. How can that not diminish the value of it somehow? I know people with thousands of movies they've never watched. I myself have probably 200 films I've never seen. That's obscene, man. We're just going through the motions -- utilizing the primal laws of possession that were so important to use in order to get what we wanted to see, and to experience. And they aren't serving us anymore. They're just cluttering up the little cubicles we live in. Or at least, the one I live in. I feel like a dinosaur sometimes, but what can I do? This is the way I was raised! It's hardwired in me to GET THE THINGS! hahaha You know? I need to possess the things. Maybe that's our connection now -- guys like you and me. That we're all dinosaurs together, with our physical media. Maybe that's how we'll bond instead. We'll be that older generation of old blue haired ladies in poodle skirts and saddle shoes, listening to Bobby Vinton. Grasping for what it was like when we weren't almost dead. Except we'll be wearing Fulci T-Shirts and making jokes about Tarantino. Nostalgia-based gray-haired geek-creatures who share the same wonderful memories of the damn hardcoded Japanese subtitles. Hahha!

BURGESS: So far your only film production credit is as producer on Chelsea Chainsaw’s The Cumming of Jizzus (2009), a XXX re-telling of Christ’s resurrection. Any scripts or film projects on the horizon?

The Next Time the Boss is Looking Over Your Shoulder Do an Image Search for "The Cumming of Jizzus"

BOUGIE: None. That was a really fun project, and it was fun getting all naked-ish on set and being around all these people who were all sweaty and fucking, and having to clean up puddles of piss -- and I'm not joking -- even cleaning up the piss was fun! But it made me realize that I prefer comics as a storyteller. It's so much more fulfilling. I get to be the director, actor, producer, cameraman, and my whole budget is the cost of $6 worth of drawing supplies. And better yet, I don't have to rely on anyone else. If you can't afford to pay your cast and crew (and I couldn't), how can you expect them to be as passionate about your project as you are? My cast and crew on a comic is *me*. And all of me is passionate as fuck!

BURGESS: You’ve recently published a book about classic adult film posters published by (British Publisher) Fab Press?

Alluringly Janky Poster for XXX flick Hot Teenage Assets (1987)

BOUGIE: Yeah, it's called Graphic Thrills. It's the best thing I've ever done. Easily. You can't even believe how happy I was to get it back from the printer. I had to keep from weeping holding it in my hands the first time. It's the only time in my life when I imagined a thing, and worked on it for a year, and it came out just like I imagined it. Usually you have to make all these consessions, and it morphs and changes so much from what you first started working on, but not this time. It's so beautiful. Sorry, I know I'm gushing, but I'm still in that first bloom phase. I just got the book a few days ago, and I'm still crushing on it. I'm sure I'll get all worn down and sick of it the more I live with it. There are 500 signed and numbered hardcover copies, and an unlimited softcover edition. I open the book with a twelve page history of the American Porno Chic era, which covers most of the major ups and downs of the industry, from the first nudie cuties in the late 1950s when Russ Meyer started the ball rolling on that, to the video explosion of the mid Eighties. It's a love letter to American porn shot on film, and the posters used to advertise it. I used to be a photo retoucher at a photography studio before I was a smut peddler, so I finally got to utilize those skills, and spent many many hours restoring the posters, which had creases and all kinds of damage on them. And then spend hundreds of hours researching the movies, tracking down the people who made them, and finding old magazines that reviewed them and wrote about them. I wanted the inside story, and the personal story. Not just a poster book of pretty pictures! This is the poster book I've always wanted to read about adult films.

Bougie's Latest Thrill, it's Graphic

Robin's new book as well as his other publications are available at: