Last year, the CineKink film festival traveled from New York to Las Vegas and barely attracted an audience at the Onyx Theatre. But organizer Lisa Vandever persevered and brought the festival back to town this past weekend, setting up shop Downtown at Theatre 7 and bringing in a much larger crowd for three days of films celebrating sexuality in all its forms. It was a success both for CineKink and for the fledgling theater, which is looking to establish itself as the go-to venue for independent cinema in Vegas (next step: get more comfortable chairs).
This year’s program focused more on short films, with only two features as part of the showcase. Both were audience award-winners from the New York festival: Indietro for narrative, and Kink Crusaders for documentary. A straightforward chronicle of the International Mr. Leather competition, Crusaders is a sometimes dry but often illuminating examination of a fairly obscure subculture. Indietro, from writer-director Vivian Darkbloom, offers an interesting glimpse into the potential future for combining adult entertainment and artistic filmmaking. Financed by porn company Kink.com and featuring adult-film stars in all of its leading roles, Indietro also includes a fully developed story with complex characters and strong dialogue. Darkbloom makes the sex an integral part of the action, so it never feels gratuitous or out of place. The acting from the porn performers is a little uneven, but no more so than in your typical microbudget film-festival feature.
That blurring of the line between porn and art made its way into some of the short films as well, although not always as successfully. The theme of couples with one partner interested in a certain fetish and the other feeling reluctant cropped up in several entries, including Indietro and the short films Piss and Cactus, both of which were highlights of the festival. Piss takes a lighthearted approach to the subject and successfully deflates some of the tension that comes from addressing sexual taboos, but Cactus accomplishes something more memorable. The examination of a woman with a rape fetish consistently challenges the audience with characters who can’t be easily dismissed according to their desires.
Around 30 people showed up for Saturday night’s Best of CineKink shorts program, and turnout was strong for most of the other screenings as well. Vandever says she hopes to return to town next year, and it looks like she’ll have a receptive audience waiting when she does.