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Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber on Blumhouse’s ‘Cam’ and being sex-work positive

A multiple prize-winner at this year’s prestigious Fantasia Festival, the Blumhouse-produced Cam, now available on Netflix UK, is one of 2018’s most interesting horror films for numerous reasons.

First of all, the film, set in the world of webcam shows, is among the most sex work-positive fiction features to date from any genre, and a crucial pop culture asset in a time when sex workers worldwide are under threat, thanks to livelihood-threatening legislation from various governments.

Secondly, Cam is one of the few films with sex work at its centre that’s actually written by a former sex worker. Debut screenwriter and producer Isa Mazzei had a similar camming career to that of the film’s protagonist, Alice (online alias Lola, played by the spellbinding Madeline Brewer of The Handmaid’s Tale).

Thirdly, although the film is directed by Daniel Goldhaber (his debut feature), it is credited as ‘A film by Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber’. Despite taking on specific roles (Mazzei is the sole screenwriter), the pair are adamant Cam is a 100 per cent joint vision, making it a particularly fascinating case study in a climate where who gets to tell what stories is under more scrutiny than ever.

Cam follows Alice, who makes a living as a camgirl on a popular chatroom site, but withholds sharing the details of her career with her mother (Melora Walters) – until she cracks the top 50 ranking of the platform’s performers. Around the time she does, she suddenly finds she’s been locked out of her account. Someone else is broadcasting from it, though: a doppelgänger of Alice/Lola, who veers into content that goes beyond the rules Alice had set for herself. In a bitter twist, the imposter Lola’s shows help her channel become one of the most popular on the site. With the exception of a fan who seems strangely attuned to what’s going on, no one seems able to help Alice stop Lola, forcing her down a path of creative and eventually violent improvisations.

While they were in London for the film’s UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, we sat down with Mazzei and Goldhaber for a fascinating, extensive conversation concerning, among other things, what their film says about our relationship to technology, making such a sex work-positive movie, working with Blumhouse and their thoughts on Jason Blum’s recent comments about women in horror filmmaking, the curious influence of documentarian Frederick Wiseman on the film’s storytelling, working with star Madeline Brewer and how to successfully collaborate with people to empower underrepresented voices, creating a new cinematic language to tell their horror tale, and their unique partnership that dismisses traditional notions of auteur theory…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

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Samantha Robinson on Netflix’s ‘Cam’, ‘The Love Witch’, social media, and ‘Paris, Texas’

Set in the world of a specific type of sex work, Netflix’s Blumhouse-produced horror Cam offers plenty of food for thought alongside its unsettling thrills. Written by former camgirl Isa Mazzei and directed by Daniel Goldhaber, the film sees a rising star camgirl, Lola (real name Alice, played by Madeline Brewer), locked out of her account, after it has been taken over by a mysterious entity that looks exactly like her and is near-constantly broadcasting. No one can tell the difference and it seems nothing can be done about this supernatural occurrence. In its portrayal of an identity theft nightmare, the film taps into and escalates real fears for the social media generation.

Although Alice is the centrepiece of the film – one of two, if you count her digital doppelgänger – there are plenty of memorable supporting characters. One of these is a young woman we only get to know as PrincessX, a camgirl rival of sorts to Lola, played by Samantha Robinson, currently best known for her breakthrough lead role in Anna Biller’s The Love Witch.

We met Robinson in London for a discussion of what drew her to the film’s material, the lack of a male gaze in the film thanks to its unique co-vision, what Cam says about our relationship to technology, how her career’s changed since The Love Witch, and her love of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas informing a new creative project.

We also tried to get any information at all about her experience working on Quentin Tarantino’s next movie. Tried…

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Adina Pintilie, Tómas Lemarquis and Laura Benson talk MUBI’s ‘Touch Me Not’

An unexpected winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Romanian director Adina Pintilie’s Touch Me Not is an eye-opening look at human sexuality and intimacy that’s not quite documentary, not quite fiction in its incorporation of recognisable actors alongside non-professional stars sharing stories and acts of intimacy. Pintilie also ‘stars’ in the film herself as a director reflecting on the drama unfolding, lending proceedings the feel of a therapy session.

With the film now available exclusively on MUBI in the UK after a brief theatrical run, we speak to Pintilie and actors Laura Benson (Dangerous Liaisons, I Want to Go Home) and Tómas Lemarquis (Blade Runner 2049, Nói Albinói, Snowpiercer) about the unique project, how it changed their own views on intimacy, achieving trust, and what winning the Golden Bear means to them…

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Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)

If his 2010 debut feature Beyond the Black Rainbow established Panos Cosmatos as a director whose filmmaking style is hard to define, follow-up Mandy pretty much cements it…

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Aaron Katz on ‘Gemini’, LA, noir, and Bad Influence(s)

A few years on from his mystery comedy Cold Weather, affectionately dubbed ‘mumblenoir’ by some, writer-director Aaron Katz returns to the narrative territory of a non-detective investigating a crime. And this one’s set in Los Angeles, the home of film noir.

Led by Lola Kirke and Zoë Kravitz, Gemini concerns the complex relationship between a personal assistant and her Hollywood starlet boss. After maybe 30 minutes of getting to know the pair, the film switches gears and sees the PA, Jill (Kirke), go sleuth, after she is connected to a major crime, with a suspicious detective (John Cho) on her trail. Michelle Forbes, James Ransone, Nelson Franklin, Reeve Carney and Ricki Lake are among the supporting cast.

With Gemini now available to rent or buy on UK streaming platforms, here’s our conversation with Katz about Hollywood films, noir, and him not being the biggest David Lynch fan…

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The Dark (Justin P. Lange, 2018)

Writer-director Justin P. Lange’s debut feature, The Dark, opens with an extended sequence of a wanted criminal on the run. Played by Austrian actor Karl Markovics (The Counterfeiters), the man, Josef, has a fatal encounter with a testy gas station clerk before heading to a woodland area to hide out; in the back of his car is an unseen figure and presumed kidnap victim to whom he mutters some instructions. Where the man arrives is a place cursed by some sort of regular threat, as briefly laid out by the deceased clerk, and, sure enough, Josef is pursued by a cloaked figure through an abandoned property and out among the trees. Nearly 20 minutes long, this tense opening stretch would work well as an isolated short film in its own right (Lange’s earlier short of the same name that this expands from encompasses more of the story that follows in the rest of the full feature)…

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Mark Cousins on ‘The Eyes of Orson Welles’, documentaries and Netflix

Director, critic and curator Mark Cousins returns with essay feature The Eyes of Orson Welles, a documentary, divided into five chapters, that explores the legendary filmmaker through a subject that’s rarely come up in the multiple existing biographical portraits of the man: his paintings and sketches, many of which have never before been displayed for public consumption outside of this film.

Invited to his Edinburgh flat to see a few of Welles’ drawings up close, prior to a summer exhibition in the city, we spoke to Cousins about collaborating with Welles’ daughter, Beatrice, avoiding clichés about the filmmaker, inspiring documentaries, Donald Trump, and his thoughts on Netflix’s handling of Welles’ final film, which is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival…

Full interview for VODzilla.co