Queer erotic film festival turns up the heat for second year

Hot Bits, the annual DIY queer erotic film and arts festival, is branching out for its second year. Designed to celebrate erotic indie soft and hardcore short films by queer, trans and POC filmmakers and performers, the festival is setting up shop and hosting screenings March 23-24 in Philadelphia, and then taking it on the road for viewings March 31-April 1 in Baltimore. 

Queer filmmaker and Hot Bits organizer and curator Heart Byrne said this year’s edition is a bigger deal than the inaugural festival.

“Last year was a much smaller event and my collaborator had a residency at [a] 40th Street artist space,” she said. “Through that, we held the first festival there. We had access to the space and it was an invite-only test run of this idea that we had, and we got really positive feedback and it was a really great experience. So we wanted to do it again but have it be bigger and open to the public.”

While there are other erotic film festivals aimed at an LGBT audience on local and national levels across the country, Byrne said that Hot Bits sets itself apart.

“We’re also incorporating performance and performers,” she said. “There’s burlesque, rope and pole dancing. Having a combination of film and live performance is something that we’re interested in, and I think it’s something that is different than other festivals.” 

Byrne added the festival is trying to challenge the conventions and stigmas that are usually associated with erotic films and porn, and that people outside the queer community are welcome to attend Hot Bits.  

“Highlighting queer porn made by queer people is trying to push back against mainstream porn and taking back control of how bodies are viewed and sexualized, and promote the idea that porn doesn’t have to be a bad, shameful or naughty thing,” she said. “It’s a celebration of human pleasure. The main audience is other queer folk. We’re not going to be questioning people’s identities at the door. The motivation for this festival was to create a space for queer people to see other queer people and celebrate their pleasure and desire. So all the people that are curating it are queer folk. That’s the place where we’re coming from, so that’s the audience we have in mind, although we’re not excluding anyone from coming.”

Byrne said that a festival like this is just as enjoyable and uplifting for the filmmakers and performers as it is for the audience.

“A large portion of the films in the festival this year are international,” she said. “Seeing what people are doing and making from around the world is really inspiring and also making me feel connected to more people, because I can see someone in Brazil is doing and thinking about similar things. It also means that a lot of those filmmakers can’t be in attendance at Hot Bits this year. For the local filmmakers, I hope it’s a place where people can come to be connected with each other and be inspired.”

The Hot Bits film festival comes to Philadelphia 8 p.m. March 23-24 at Vox Populi, 319 N. 11th St. For more information or tickets, visit www.hotbitsfilmfest.com.

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