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Antonio da Silva's Gay Adult Films Are a Departure From the Mainstream

Most adult films are stultifyingly formulaic. An actor enters, a brief scenario is set up, and suddenly they're going at it. Not so with the work of gay pornographic filmmaker Antonio da Silva, the mysterious auteur who doesn't like to show his face and whose erotic films have made the gay blog rounds again and again over the past year. Da Silva specializes in short movies that are like a hybrid of the films of Wakefield Poole, full of beautiful shots, stillness and self-awareness, and the more brusque porn of Men.com. You only have to watch one of da Silva's (NSFW) preview clips to get a sense of the way his films achieve that balance: "Gingers" features interviews with Irish redheads about the teasing they endured for their hair color before anything sexual starts happening; "Mates" follows men as they go from chatting on a Grindr-style hookup app to actually meeting up and having sex; "Bankers" sets up a camera in a popular cruising bathroom for British bankers in London's financial district and let's whatever happens happen, with footage of suited men, whose faces you never see, surreptitiously hooking up; and "Julian" documents a summer fling the director had with a French-speaking grad student. The beauty of da Silva's films is threefold: it includes real people, its emotional, and features situations so real as to sometimes be uncomfortable. Read below as we pick da Silva's brain about adult films, growing up Catholic, and having a crush on Prince Harry.

How did you get your start in adult films?
I am interested in exploring different artistic genres, both in terms of technique and content, but I've always been fascinated by male sex and sexuality. I became increasingly frustrated with how moving image explored this and have over the last two years began to make it the subject of my films. Experimenting is the core of my work.

How would you describe your work? What separates it from more mainstream adult films?
My work blurs the border between narrative cinema, pornography and art film, which I think makes it very hard to define as one unique genre.

It's often said that porn movies as a genre are characterized by their absence of narrative. The typical porn movie (a hard-core one anyway) is just an endless series of people fucking. But at the same time, porn is critiqued for having unsophisticated or badly integrated plot lines. That's the major issue taken up in my short films -- they're porn films that aggressively equate narrative and sexuality.

GINGERS 5.jpgStill from "Gingers."

What's your process when doing a shoot? 

My films aren't staged or scripted. I like the anthropological component to it and love filming a bunch of people and not knowing fully what is going to happen. Montage is also central to all my work. Often it's through the juxtaposition of different shots and sounds that the work assumes its narrative impact.

Why do you choose to use amateurs over actors?
I like real emotions and experiences. I really like shy people! They're the best people to film, much more interesting than a narcissist. Hiding is much more interesting, honest, sexy and natural.

Nowadays everyone consumes and produces porn just through uploading profiles and exchanging images and videos privately. It's way more sexy and interesting to have access to the realness of the person and his space than to work with porn actors in a situation where everything is fake.

Because I work with amateurs, people respond to it, because they relate to them.

Do you try to create particular moods when you film, or do you let the camera role and see what happens?
My films tell stories of real people, real emotions and experiences. They're documentaries in [the sense that] I'm filming real life, the films are not staged or scripted. A significant difference [between my films and most pornographic films] is that I'm not trying to impart information about certain subjects or be objective -- I am just filming what's happening around me, and putting myself in situations where things are happening.

How do you choose your projects? Do you make movies about what turns you on at the moment or is it all very planned?
Mostly I make films I want to watch on the Internet or at film festivals. If I'd seen these kinds of films before, I don't know if I would be making them.

If you could make any adult film (or anything else) with an unlimited budget, what would it be?
Choreograph a classical ballet company.

That's your dream project?
Actually it's to have a barn-conversion studio in the countryside of Portugal, by the sea. I'd love to produce films as well as make sustainable food, surrounded by animals, vines and cork trees.

What filmmakers, directors, artists, designers and celebrities have influenced you the most?
In terms of filmmakers, there are many. The pioneering gay pornographic art-filmmaker Wakefield Poole, Derek Jarman, Kenneth Anger, queer porn director Fred Halsted, the Dogme 95 style of Lars von Trier, Maya Deren.

I also love Wolfgang Tillmans, Fernando Pessoa, Allen Ginsgerg, and of course, Prince Harry, a ginger!

How do you think the Internet affects adult films? Do you think it's done good things or bad things?
Like everything there's good and bad. I'm actually inspired by both the classical porn narratives and new Internet forms of porn.

BANKERS 17.jpgStill from "Bankers."

You do erotic films, so this is maybe a silly question, but how does your sexuality affect your work?
A hundred percent! Especially the repression of growing up in a Catholic country and the liberation that London gave me. If I had had this freedom since I was born then I wouldn't really care about it in the same way.

How do you like to meet people? Do you use Grindr or hookup apps? Do you think the era of the gay bar is over?
I like both the traditional and the new ways [of meeting people]. None of it will disappear, there's just been sort of a transformation.

If you could have sex with any celebrity or public figure, who would it be?
King Sebastian of Portugal.

What TV shows did you love as a kid?
I was a countryside kid -- Tom Sawyer, and the Fables of the Green Forest.

Julian By Antonio da Silva (03).jpgStill from "Julian."

What is your craziest sex story?
In London, if you provoke it or put yourself in the right -- or wrong -- situations, then a lot of crazy things can happen to you. I had my period in London where I let things go with the flow so most of my crazy stories come from that time. Lots of people seek this here and -- spoiler -- this will be explored in one of my next films.

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