Up-and-coming Polish director Michal Marczak has prompted much debate with his documentary F*ck For Forest, which gets intimate with Berlin-based neo-hippy org Fuck For Forest. A registered NGO funded by Norway, they hold public orgies and sell web access to home-made porn to raise money for the environment. The film - which reveals much about sexuality in the digital age - eventually follows FFF to the Amazon, where they negotiate both ayahuasca and local corruption-tinged realities. We caught up with Marczak at the Rotterdam International Film Festival earlier in the year, where the film had its world premiere.
How the project originate? Because I needed to get laid!
How the project originate - how did you find FFF?
Because I needed to get laid. Haha, no. A friend sent me a Polish newspaper clip about them. I bought a month's membership and watched some of their films, and thought it's absurd and interesting, and a pretty smart concept. They're completely amateur; terribly shot. Apparently it was a conscious decision to stay with that trash aesthetic, they didn't want to make it too commercial.
I wanted to find out who these people are that converge in Berlin to have orgies together and what's behind this - if they're doing it because they're sexaholics, or crazy eco-nuts. I found out there's really no simple answer - that everyone that joins is completely different and searching for a different thing.
They're making a lot of money, right?
Yeah, while doing something that's fun. But they're not liked by many people. The punks and leftists don't like them, nor does anybody with a strong agenda, because their agenda's very liquid, and the porn pisses off a lot of people. I noticed in Berlin that a lot of groups have started becoming more extreme, and very cult-wise, whereas FFF is very loosely run. The core group is about four or five, but then there's about 1,000 people that send them pictures and come visit every now and then.
Was it hard to get them to agree to the film? I guess they're used to performing for a camera...
Always when a new camera shows up it takes time to get used to. But acting, not being yourself, takes a lot of energy - how long can you do it for? We had time to get them to feel comfortable around us.
We see random people on the street readily agreeing to be filmed having sex. Were you surprised by how easy it was to find participants?
I was extremely surprised. People from all different social classes and backgrounds, who felt no affiliation to their subculture but have some kind of longing or sexual fetish are the people that FFF appeals to really quickly. Those are the people that make up their mind on the spot to go with complete strangers to have sex.
Does the fact it's combined with charity make people feel good about it?
I don't think so - a lot of people want to commit these acts anyway. Many times I was worried people having group sex wouldn't sign the release we needed. But I'd tell them we were making a documentary for cinematic release that could be all over the world and they actually liked that even more. Sexologists told me your sexual preferences are developed early. If you have this classic sexuality where you want just one person it's easy but if you have it more funky and you need those other elements, then you're really searching, so FFF does something ingenious.
When FFF go to Latin America they're treated suspiciously. Are they naive in what they're doing?
I wouldn't want to judge it, I leave it to the audience to answer those questions for themselves. Helping out in the Amazon isn't easy. You have to look at the broader situation that not many people succeed there. The locals have been cheated so many times.
Some people completely won't tolerate the fact that some people make pornography because they like it. All the big porn is bullshit, and of course there's a lot of wrongdoing there, people being taken advantage of, but for a bunch of people it's just their fetish and they realise desires; they're actually trying to promote a healthy sexuality. That's the one thing I got from them, to be very open and not ashamed of my body. I feel freer now. I come from Poland, you know (laughs). I'm a complete atheist and I've always hated the church but it gets to you anyway, living in a place like that.
What response did your film get in Poland?
It raised a lot of debate about freedom, because such a group probably wouldn't survive long in Poland - they'd get the shit beaten out of them quite quickly.
Do you see FFF as symptomatic of the digital era?
Sure, they're a product of our times. They came to prominence in that golden internet age when websites were still prevalent. Now Facebook has taken a lot of that traffic away. All the people that visit FFF use social media to arrange getting together.
F*ck For Forest is about the act of dreaming, and realising a conception no matter what the odds are.
What next for you?
F*ck For Forest is about the act of dreaming, and realising a conception no matter what the odds are. Back in the '60s the two social groups that promised the biggest hopes for living differently were the hippies and the astronauts. Both arose to prominence around the same time and both died off in '72 when San Francisco basically collapsed and the Apollo programme finished. This film looked at the state of the modern hippies, and my next will be about people trying to go back into space.
F*ck For Forest is out in the UK on Friday 19 April.