BAVO DEFURNE MAKES FILMS
Photography by Sander Plug and Werner Damen
Interview by Peter de Potter\
Bavo Defurne is a Belgian independent film director, living in Brussels. Up till now, he has made only short films, but that didn’t stop them from getting rave reviews worldwide and winning several awards. His films are unapologetically about gay love, the male body and sexual longing, but always with a touch of magic, wonder and innocence.
What BUTT-boys should know about Bavo:
• He makes no bones about his influences: Herbert List, Pierre & Gilles, Leni Riefenstahl, Pasolini, Eisenstein. And it shows in his movies, in a playful way.
• His films always make audiences whisper ‘Ah, the beauty of it all!’
• Three short films (Saint, about Sebastiane, Particularly Now, In Spring, about teenage athletes, Sailor, about, well, sailors) have been released on video by the British BFI company, which is quite fancy.
• His film Kampvuur/Campfire is about the difficult love between two boy scouts.
• He’s currently preparing an exhibition of Gothic-style photographs (title: Kaspar). It’s going to be about a wolf child that goes through some cruel ordeals.
• The record he has played to death lately is Lucky Cat bij Isan.
• His favorite color for underwear is white.
• He thinks mustaches are a total no-no.
• He has a website www.bavo.org
Bavo on his rowing mates, his quest for true beauty and the sexiness of his very own butt in the second ‘Butt Q&A’
What movie gets you hot?
Mostly I get hot just from scratch. It has to be a movie that stimulates my imagination, not one that simulates horny situations. A silly Hollywood flick with a cute studpup in it can get me hot as well. I just need the raw material. The rest I leave up to my imagination. Most of the time, porn is dreadfully boring. Since I work on film sets too, I’m just too aware of how fake it all is. In the best case, it just makes me laugh, like the Cadinot kind of porn. JNRC (Jean-Noél René Clair, another French director) is an exception. He goes for the raw stuff. I’m more into that. But frankly, I’m too lazy to even rent a tape. After all, in the real world there’s enough beauty for everyone to share, isn't there?
Do you ever get aroused while filming your dear actors?
Of course my actors turn me on. I cast them because I think they are the bomb. But on the set, I mostly think about ASA values, color temperature, frames per second, lenses, composition, camera positions, depth of field and all the technical blah blah that makes people look arousing on screen. Finding a cute actor is just not enough in itself. I have to work my ass off to make him look cute on film, so there’s not much time left for me to get aroused. Furthermore, after more than a week of filming someone, you just have seen him too close-up. You know all the faulty details you desperately want to hide from the audience. So in those cases an actor can be a big turnoff as well.
What color is sex?
Far more important than its color is the glow of sex. And that is DARK, where no eye has ever been, but every mind wants to go. Sex is just dark enough to hide the boring and the ugly and to make us believe that the most sexy is in there, in the dark, where we feel and touch and can only catch a glimpse. Sex is not too black either. The dark should be moderate enough to reveal beauty.
Why is there anything like ‘gay cinema’?
Because there are guys like me who are nuts enough to sacrifice their life to cinema. And because there are loads of folks out there who are just desperate for an opportunity to identify with a cute gay stud and not with Judy Garland. I don’t blame them…
Why are Belgian boys the cutest?
We’re well bred, a good mix between Mediterranean and Northern races. Face it, we’re the world’s best fuck!
Are you yourself prone to a bit of role-playing? I mean, with all these Roman soldiers and sailors in your movies?
No, role playing would just make me laugh. And I definitely wouldn't want to play a Roman soldier or something like that in one of my own movies. That would be silly. You know, on a film set it’s just a bunch of really stressed people making these eccentric requests, like keeping your left nipple in the light, or making sure the triangular shadow on your cheek stays put. All of that while you’re dressed in a tiny toga. You need talent and courage to do that. That’s why I admire my actors so much. They have confidence in me. They give up their inhibitions and just go for it. The trust is one of the most beautiful things in film making. I would never be able to give myself the same way. My actors are great.
Why is there never any real nudity in your films?
Wouldn't that be dreadfully dull? In fact there is some nudity, just not in sexual situations. In Kampvuur, Koen, one of the main characters, jumps out of the tent naked. But nobody noticed that since it’s just an non-sexual situation. Sex combined with nudity is just boring. That’s only double-pale, lacking any contrast. You know, contrast really works. Filling in the blanks is far more stimulating. It’s like with the clair-obscur of Georges De La Tour or Carravagio.
What, in general, is a healthy sex rate?
I count everything. But sex is one of the rare things I never count. If you really want a rate, I would say ‘All you can eat’.
What is the eternal attraction with boy scouts?
A scout camp is the model of the ideal gay ghetto. Scouts are natural, independent, eternally adolescent and have their little houses in a beautiful boy community. Isn't that what every gay man wants?
Did you secretly (or not so secretly) peek at the boys in the showers at school/college?
I’d been in a rowing team for many many years. Those rowing mates were far more sexy than the guys in college. Of course I peeked at my friends. But there was more that bound us together than peeking in the showers. Rowing is a spiritual thing, you know. It’s about male bonding. I love male bonding, another delicacy of the male world.
Are you a crusader for gay rights?
What’s the sexiest place in Brussels?
Did you practice safe sex when you did it for the first time?
No. At least I guess it was quite safe, since we were both virgins. So actually, yes.
Which big Hollywood actor would be ideal for your movies?
Matt Damon has the looks. But he needs a good director. Spielberg did a shitty job on him in Saving Private Ryan. That was BAD. But as Ripley, Matt looks really hot.
Does size matter?
Definitely. I recently discovered ways to know the size without even looking. I’ll keep that my little secret though. But size is not one of my personal obsessions since I have no particular trouble with it.
Do you kiss with your eyes open or closed?
I enjoy both, but you know I really don’t analyze my sexual behavior. I asked my boyfriend, and he told me it depends on how excited I get.
What book is a must-read for every gay man?
Was by Geoff Ryman, it’s a story of all our childhoods, about how America grew from innocence to maturity. It’s about the Wizard of Oz, about gay life and death, it is a book stuffed with wisdom, beauty and emotion.
As a gay man, would you adopt a child if that was common practice?
No. I already failed bringing up my two rats, Bambi and Remi. So just imagine me bringing up human beings. Tragically, I am afraid that I would do a better job than most straight people who have kids. A lot of straights have no idea of bringing up kids at all. I think gays think twice before adopting kids, and that makes them better parents. Straights just fuck, and that’s it.
What are you trying to achieve with your films?
Frankly my dear, I don’t know. As soon as I know, I think I would stop making them. Maybe I’m looking for Perfect Beauty.
Do you write love letters?
No. I used to. But my love letters have become physical messages now.
What’s your stance on sex toys?
The best sex toy is a real boy. Unlimited possibilities there. Sex toys don’t really appeal to me.
What’s with the recurring theme of sexual awakenings in your films?
I like change and movement. And the audience would get bored if the story didn’t develop. So an awakening is nice. Furthermore, somehow every gay man remains a boy in some way. So my films are about boys.
Why are gay men more obsessed with girl groups than boy bands?
I hate both, so I don’t agree with you.
Are there private movies stocked somewhere in Bavo’s archives?
Yes. We did some funny Super-8 stuff in the nineties. It includes frontal nudity of some cute male actors, who are really big now. Whenever I need money, I just give them a call. They’re always so understanding.
Can you spot a gay man a mile off, in other words, how well-functioning is your gay radar?
My gaydar is quite good. But the trouble is that it sometimes functions too well. I had a terrible affair with a Real Sailor for more than a year. I just knew this boy was gay, and I’m still convinced he is. He wrote me letters from his navy ship during the Somalian war. Highly dramatic and charming stuff. But if your gaydar works better than a guy’s personal liberation, it’s just tragic to have that kind of instrument. I’ve learned not to rely on my gaydar too much. I just go for uncomplicated boys now. If they’re in trouble with their sexual identity, I won’t act like a Gay Mother Theresa and try to convert them. It’s a waste. Coming out is a personal liberation, so I stopped trying to interfere with that.
Is being gay a political thing?
Being is already political. So being different surely is political. You can’t escape that.