WATCH: Travis Mathews' In Their Room: Berlin
By Jesse Steinbach
So far it's been a big year in queer film and television: from HBO's Looking to Blue Is the Warmest Color to the many web series that put our WiFi connection to the test, including Whatever This Is., EastSiders, Love Bytes, just to name a few. As gay themes become more common onscreen, director-writer Travis Mathews continues to challenge cinematic convention, sexual representation, and the gay voice.
This past fall, Mathews landed on our Out100 list with two controversial projects under his belt: I Want Your Love and Interior. Leather Bar. The former examines gay relationships among a group of San Francisco friends, and received critical praise at film festivals around the world. (But not in Australia, where it was banned by the Australian Classification Board. Whatever, mates.) The latter, which involved a highly publicized collaboration with James Franco, explored cruising culture and the idea of sex as a storytelling tool.
Mathews' latest project, In Their Room: Berlin, marks the director's second collaboration with porn site NakedSword. A team up between a filmmaker and a gay porn studio may not exactly be news (although we can't quite remember it being so publicly discussed), however, it's certainly a way for NakedSword to seize a more unconventional opportunity while getting some filmmaker bona fides. The abundance of free content online has undoubtedly shut down many gay porn sites. NakedSword wants to avoid this possibility by moving away form traditional porn toward independent film, which — though still sexually graphic — will provide fleshed-out characters, well-crafted cinematography, and insight on intimacy and relationships (something porn star Colby Keller also seems to be eager to have more of in his life and work).
Last year, NakedSword released Mathews' I Want Your Love, the studio's first dabble in indie cinema. Now the porn site is tackling In Their Room: Berlin with a different intention. While I Want Your Love followed an artist on America's West Coast and featured scenes of explicit gay sex, this film hopes to attract a new kind of audience. As opposed to a narrative telling, In Their Room: Berlin investigates love, sex and the lives of gay Berliners in a quasi-documentary style.
“Ironically, I think it took a porn company to show that an artistically honest film could use sex in a way that wasn’t exploitative or gratuitous,” said Tim Valenti, founder of NakedSword.com.
Mathews has two more projects in the works, and — fingers crossed — will continue to be artistically honest. The first project, Oscillate Wildly, follows a young, angry gay guy with cerebral palsy who falls in love with another man suffering from a more severe diagnosis of the same disorder.
"It’s the first time he lets himself be vulnerable," Mathews told The Sword. "Things don’t go according to plan and it spirals to a very dark place"
The second project is yet another collaboration with James Franco. "It’s called The Insatiable Ones. It’s a social satire/black comedy and I hope that it’s super entertaining…I haven’t talked about it yet, so I haven’t come up with how I want to describe it. At the moment I would say it’s a little bit like A Clockwork Orange in its approach, with early John Waters, and my boy Radley Metzger thrown into the mix?"
Read the full interview here. And while we await Mathews' future works, check out In Their Room: Berlin for free on NakedSword.com, where it will be available until March 31. Afterward, the film will only be in the members' section of the site. But if you purchase I Want Your Love, you will be given a non-expiring download of In Their Room: Berlin. A two-for-one deal? I love indie happy hour.
Watch the teaser clip below: