DVD Review - Folsom Forever

In 2008, writer-director Mike Skiff attended the 30th International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago. He made a movie about it, following the people involved and exploring as well as explaining the BDSM community, which he called Kink Crusaders (2012).

This movie is in many ways a sequel or companion piece. For it, Skiff attended the 29th Annual Folsom Street Fair in September 2012. He interviewed organizers and tangential people who comment on the history and context of the Folsom Street Fair. It's quite comprehensive, but it feels more third-person rather than Kink Crusaders, which felt more first person. The movie leans more on the history, which is fine, but the current event unlike in Skiff's previous movie is more a side-note here.

The Folsom Street Fair is the 3rd largest, single-day event in California and it's said that $330,000 is raised with proceeds going to charities for gay seniors and those affected by HIV/AIDS. Folsom Street is located in San Francisco in a neighborhood called SOMA, an acronym for "South of Market." Skiff shows how SOMA went from a rundown and blighted area to a thriving gay community, one that has had its controversies and difficulties but now is a fairly decent area.

It was inspired by the Castro Street Fair, founded by Harvey Milk who in 1975 was one of the first openly gay politicians in the country. Castro Street is the oldest gay neighborhood in the city and the most prominent. However, the Folsom Street Fair is open to people of all sexual preferences. It's meant to be an open celebration of the BDSM community, which isn't explained here, but coming in the wake of documentaries like Skiff's previous and even Fifty Shades of Grey, no explanation of BDSM is necessary.

BDSM is also referred to as kink or fetish. Along side these things is the leather community. For gay men, the leather community represents a perception of masculinity that gay men want to embrace in order to escape certain stereotypes or take on certain hyper-sexualized identities.

However, a big part of the Folsom Street Fair is the full-frontal nudity. Yes, there are women with exposed breasts and vaginas, but a big focus are men walking around with their genitals completely on display. It's stressed that no erections are allowed and no sex is allowed, at least not out in the open..

Skiff shows us that the Folsom Street Fair has become a worldwide phenomenon. He shows us the parallel event in Berlin, Germany, and it's pointed out that the Berlin event has little to no nudity. Skiff doesn't really delve into why. It's most likely a cultural thing, but one might question why the differences and no answer is provided or explored here.

There's also a brief back-and-forth about the controversy in 2007 when the religious right and FOX News attacked the Folsom Street Fair for a poster that depicted The Last Supper with characters and paraphernalia from the BDSM community. Other than this, there's no actual interviews, beyond file footage, of anyone who disagrees or has objections to the fair. Board of Supervisor member Scott Wiener provides some balance but not enough.

As usual, Skiff points out the economic benefits, but, given Skiff's previous documentary, it would have been curious if some attempt would have been made to distinguish the Folsom Street Fair from something like the Mr. Leather convention or any gay pride parade or outdoor event. Several cities like my hometown of Philadelphia have outdoor or street events that look similar to the Folsom Street Fair. Maybe it's not dominated with the BDSM community but because the events are organized by the gay community, the leather and kink members are certainly welcome. Skiff doesn't really distinguish the Folsom Street Fair from the Castro Street Fair. What are the differences and why are they relevant?

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains full-frontal nudity and sexual situations.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 12 mins.
Available on DVD on June 9.


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