The Documentary Cluster at UC Davis, in conjunction with the Technocultural Studies and Film Studies departments, will present a free showing of the documentary Orgasm Inc. in the Technocultural Studies building Friday at noon. An 11:30 a.m. reception with refreshments and will precede the showing.
Award-winning director Liz Canner, who also produced, edited and filmed the documentary, will attend the showing to meet with students and answer questions.
In addition to being named one of the top 10 independent filmmakers to watch in 2009 by The Independent Magazine, Canner has also been honored with a Visionary Award from Dartmouth College for the movie. With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University, she has received more than 45 awards, honors and grants for her work on documentaries that emphasize human rights issues.
Described as “engaging,” “enlightening” and “provocative,” Orgasm Inc. is a film in which Canner chronicles a pharmaceutical company’s practices in manufacturing the first Viagra drug for women that will treat what the company claims is a newly discovered sexual disorder: Female Sexual Dysfunction Disorder.
Starting off as an editor of erotic videos for the drug trials, Canner got permission to film the practices of the drug company for what she thought would be a documentary that chronicled the intersections of science with pleasure.
“I had been doing documentary films for a decade and was starting to get depressed about the state of humanity from watching some of the footage,” Canner said. “When you make documentaries, you watch the same footage repeatedly. Since my old material was depressing me so much, I decided I wanted to go into the study of pleasure. Naturally, I turned to the topic of sex.”
While Canner originally sought to record women’s positive reactions to this purported cure, as the filming progressed, a sub-plot unveiled: For the sake of profit, companies were publicizing a solution to a fictitious disease. Once this discovery was made, the movie took a new direction.
“It’s important for students to see how big pharmaceutical companies make profits by inventing new disorders,” said Jesse Drew, director of the Technocultural Studies department. “I think a lot of young people grow up ‘pill-popping’ or over-medicating themselves; this generates big profits for the drug companies but drawbacks for the individuals, as it may complicate pre-existing physical and mental problems by creating an over-dependence on pharmaceuticals.”
Drew said that for these reasons, the film is especially relevant to college students who seemingly medicate themselves for even the mildest of ailments.
“So many of us know people that are on pills,” Canner said. “We’ve all been diagnosed with something; we’re always being told, ‘This is what’s wrong with you, take this drug.’ The reality is that pills are being using to do away with everyday problems. Students are very much affected by this, which is why the market for this film was aimed toward that age group.”
Glenda Drew, associate professor of design, agreed that the documentary highlights a relevant contemporary issue. She also said that Orgasm Inc. is a good example of excellent contemporary film-making.
“It’s fun to watch, it’s visually engaging, it covers an important topic and the style contains some Michael Moore-esque elements,” Drew said. “The film has a nice combination of visual style, incorporating animation, text and live action documentary style footage. The approachable humor is also one of the film’s highlights.”
Canner noted that the film’s humor serves not only to entertain, but also to alleviate some of the discomfort surrounding the issue of sexuality.
“It’s necessary for the film to be humorous to take the heat off what may be an awkward topic for many,” Canner said.
Some of the film’s more serious elements address help in finding alternatives to drugs. Particularly for Female Sexual Dysfunction Disorder, identification of causes may be more beneficial than medication.
Canner said that these possible causes for lack of sexual arousal may include stress due to work, relationship problems or sexual abuse.
In addition to Davis, Orgasm Inc. will be presented at film festivals from Santa Cruz to Massachusetts to Belgium.
More information and a press kit can be found at orgasminc.org.
ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at email@example.com.