“Subversion has other faces besides the guerrilla with a kalash in her hand.”
On a mountain in the middle of nowhere, four young women reject false happiness, cry on camera, and sell political porno to fund Kurdish freedom fighters. Their mission is anti-capitalist, uniquely feminist and universally controversial.
The Sad Girls of the Mountains, the opening night film of San Francisco PornFilmFestival 2020, is an impressively creative piece of adult cinema. Candy Flip and Theo Meow’s darkly comedic German mocumentary explores the sensationalist ways porn culture and alternative lifestyles are represented by modern entertainment media. The film specifically riffs on VICE’s subjective format (complete with an arrogant macho-intellectual male reporter named Hendrick).
We’re introduced to the ‘Sad Girls’ through Hendrick’s salivating gaze – Tess, a dominant political leader; Lara, an apathetic ex-anorexic; Selma, a depressed kawaii girl; and Momo, a quiet, lost soul that the girls are accused of abducting. Each of the girls represents a different expression of depression – bringing their own unique sadness to the project. Together, they create upbeat YouTube-like tutorial videos celebrating toxic fuckboi behaviors and enacting sexist sex scenarios on each other, and kitsch re-enactments of archaic ‘hysteria’ treatments. The ‘sad girl’ persona may be fictional, but it plays into a sad GenZ stereotype (e.g. Billie Eilish), exposing the uncomfortable sexualization of a new generation of depressed young damsels.
The Sad Girls seek to “debunk the neoliberal promise of happiness” and use their sadness for good. They’re decried by traditional activist interviewees that claim their approach is passive, inconsequential. SWERF-in-hiding Henrick constantly questions their feminism – do the Kurdish fighters know the donations come from porn? The Sad Girls reply, “They have other things to worry about.”
The girls are frustrated by the assumption that they must demonstrate passion 24/7 to be valid activists. They make a key point about vocational sex work – just because your job fits with your ideals, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re elated and motivated every day – we’re all human, we’re all living within a society that crushes us. We do what we can. As they say, “We learned this lesson from the hookers – if we have to live in this fucking man’s world, the least they can do is fund us… we use the instruments of oppression to expose it,” (incidentally, the film was entirely funded through sex work).
Sad Girls of the Mountains is a brilliant portrait of depression and the creativity and resilience it can breed. Its initially comedic plot takes some dark twists and turns, yet allows us to make up our own minds about the Sad Girls’ approach. The world is a sad place sometimes after all, why not do what we can?
Sad Girls of the Mountains is available on PinkLabel.TV