Recent reports of HIV infections among L.A. adult-film performers could spike interest on fest circuit for “The Naked Feminist,” Aussie documentarian Louisa Achille’s sympathetic study of U.S. women who view their work in the porn industry as empowering, not degrading. Pic actually devotes little time to medical risks of the trade, but does showcase Sharon Mitchell, the former porn star who co-founded the Adult Industry Medical (AIM) HealthCare Foundation in Sherman Oaks. Shots of Mitchell as she matter-of-factly administers HIV tests are all the more unsettling for their unfortunate timeliness.
Most of “Naked Feminist” takes a “You go, girl!” approach to disputing notions of exploitation in the porn biz. Marilyn Chambers, Christi Lake and Annie Sprinkle are among stars who argue sex films give women “the chance to exploit yourself.” Better still, decision-makers no longer are exclusively male: Jane Hamilton, a retired porn actress, revels in her power position as producer and director of hard-core product for VCA Pictures. A few actresses and filmmakers grudgingly admit they’re uneasy about increasing violence and misogyny in recent “gonzo” pics. By and large, however, “Naked Feminist” is more celebration than investigation.