By Tara Judah

Watching Juan Daniel Molero’s Videofilia (Y Otros Síndromes Virales, Peru 2015), I experienced the kind of excitement that only the rare blend of aesthetically, intellectually and viscerally piercing cinema can elicit. The experience was so intense that, for me, it was as hot as sexual anticipation and as terrifying as the thought of not resolving that excitement with orgasm.

Molero, who took part in the IFFR Trainee Project for Young Film Critics in 2010 and whose earlier documentary film Reminiscences (2010) also screened in Rotterdam, is no stranger to the provocative, independent spirit of this festival. A truly remarkable film, his work attracted an attentive, full auditorium of viewers willing to see what he describes as a “funny, stupid film”. Its unique blend of experimental and avant-garde filmmaking aesthetics alongside nudity, gore and pornography – including a static close-up of a cum-filled condom on a flaccid penis – calls to mind the now lost impact of New French Extremism such as Catherine Breillat’s Romance (1999) and Gaspar Noé’s  Irreversible (2002).

But Videofilia is more than just a mashing together of drug-fuelled montage and soft-core male-fantasy exploitation. It speaks to the contemporary malaise that exists in lieu of anything ‘meaningful’ IRL. Though it is worth acknowledging that the film is made with reference to its physical geographical place, Peru, and its late adolescent/early adult character demographic, it will speak evocatively to anyone who has ever had a mediated experience of life.

Post-Mayan Calendar crisis, where kids in wheelchairs follow girls wearing short skirts and film it on their iPhones, either to upload or just to jack off to; where adware, spyware and computer viruses pop up intermittently; where decoding and depixelating the image still won’t help you find whatever’s inside of it; lies the world of Videofilia. Welcome to its post-everything narrative and aesthetic.

When experimental film was deconstructing the ontological referent within the photochemical image and André Bazin was the first name a cinephile uttered, deconstruction was a theoretical tool. Now, with 0s and 1s representing everything in equal weighting – humans, the natural world, being, technology, material products – there is a far less theoretically driven search for what is in the image. We are no longer looking for anything that we might think of as ‘real’ (Lacanian, indexical, historical or otherwise). The only thing we look for, now, is the wormhole within the feedback loop. We have to hope that it can offer us a worthwhile cyber existence. We cannot escape it, and so we burrow further into whatever it is: phenomenological experience first.

Unlike the technology-controlled world presented in The Matrix (1999), and a far cry from the faux drug-fuelled visions of Requiem for a Dream (2000) and pretty much any filmic adaptation of any Irvine Welsh novel, ever, Videofilia shows us such things simply: as they are, in the world around us. It’s a place filled with sublime possibility; where a female sex worker might teach an almost-sixteen-year-old how to suck cock in a fit of laughter by demonstrating on a chicken drumstick, and where that same young woman might be able to engage in her own exploitation willingly. Only later will she realise it is a false empowerment, because she lives in a temporal and spatial realm that is too fast for her, one that will never slow down and allow her to catch up with its expectations. Just as quickly as titillation is requited, regret and remorse join the party.

The damaged fragments of this hyper-reality are not like jigsaw pieces that can be reassembled to form a whole. Instead, they become pixelated into something new. Everything is regenerative and, in some form, is stored forever. Media cannot be trusted. It distorts, manipulates, leads, and is a pariah that makes us think masturbating to a representation of something that took place IRL is more sexually exciting that what actually took place IRL.

We want pornography, everywhere, and all of the time. But our penance for this indulgence is that we cannot choose reality anymore.

Watching Videofilia I felt, at times, sadness that was like a small death. It was challenging, and I cannot stop thinking about it.

Director: Juan Daniel F. Molero
Producer: Juan Daniel F. Molero
Scenario: Juan Daniel F. Molero
Cast: Muki Sabogal,Terom, Liliana Albonoz; Michel Lovón; José Alegría
Photography: Omar Quezada Beltrán
Editor: Juan Daniel F. Molero
Production design: Rodrigo Núñez Mas
Music: Carlos Gutiérrez Quiroga
Length: 103′
Country: Perú