The film where porno and environmental charity come together. Very uneasily.
To any and all hopeful 12 year olds, please take note: this documentary contains no actual fucking and the nudity is negligible. Like some vintage ethnographic study of a lost tribe of Norwegian hipsters (complete with antiseptic voice-of-God narration), Fuck For Forest doesn’t delve too deeply into the convictions and motivations of its members and is instead satisfied to ogle their unwashed skin.
Following the eponymous Berlin-based collective that uses the profits from its in-house pornography department to support environmental causes, the primary failing of second-time director Michal Marczak's aesthetic is its inability to match the radical politics of its subjects. This is a group of filmmakers – why not get them involved in the production or the editing process?
The documentary competently – but lazily – traces the NGO’s journey from Berlin’s nightclubs and street protests to a stretch of the Amazonian rainforest along the Peruvian-Brazilian border. Due to the familiarity of the setting, the people they recruit for their pornos and the pose everyone adopts, the European section of the documentary is the duller half: everyone believes in open relationships, is super chill and wears kookily mismatched charity-shop clothing.
One of the few erotic acts observed early on in service of Mother Nature – a naked woman getting rubbed by a group of strangers – lies uncomfortably between clinical and winking. The cameo of a rotund, middle-aged German opera star at one of Fuck For Forest’s clothing-optional events is a similarly cloying jab in the ribs.
Such tension between laughing with and laughing at is never truly resolved, but where the documentary unequivocally reveals the fundamental absurdity of their enterprise is in the Amazon. Travelling to Peru in order to create dialogue with the subsistence farmers they hope to develop ecological projects with, the film at first indulges in typical occidental travelogue faux pas: participating in specially-for-them indigenous religious rituals, gazing lovingly at cute motorbike-riding natives, expressing worries about malaria, etc.
However, the visceral nature of the actual meeting annihilates any sense of calm tropical idyll or idealism. The deeply skeptical farmers air their very valid grievances — European paternalism and exploitation, the lack of focus in Fuck For Forest’s offer and their continued poverty despite this deal. Unable to elicit an adequately response, the farmers turn down Fuck For Forest’s money, shouting them out of the room. As they trudge out, a chainsaw salesman begins his spiel to the eager crowd.
Far from being an unfair jibe at youthful idealism or the folly of charity, this particular debacle poses a valuable question: how do you go about helping a group of people whose values are so radically different from your own and understand that they will not necessarily change their values based on your help?
Removed from an environment where everyone was in total agreement about how freely sexuality and capital should flow, Fuck For Forest lost its power to persuade or shock, let alone be an instrument of change. Such a breakdown between cultures makes it excellent viewing alongside Napoleon Chagnon and Tim Asch’s seminal 1975 documentary The Ax Fight.
Disrobing crusties save the rainforest.
It’s all a little embarrassing…
…until you realise it’s a film not about Fuck For Forest, but the untenable nature of charity.