LOS ANGELES—Mainstream photographer Deborah Anderson's directorial debut, Aroused, premiered last night at Landmark Theater in front of many of the movie's stars along with a thoroughly engaged crowd of invited guests.
The project, in which Anderson set out to uncover the underlying sensuality of the biggest porn stars in the world, revealed 16 adult stars in intimate portraits that featured the girls as they prepped and posed for Anderson, revealing the most intimate details of their lives while Anderson snaps away with her camera, creating images for the accompanying coffee table photo book.
The documentary's premiere was preceded by a red carpet that drew many of the project's stars, including Jesse Jane, Belladonna, Misty Stone, Kayden Kross, Katsuni, Allie Haze, Brooklyn Lee, April O'Neil, Asphyxia Noir and Tanya Tate. Other stars that were in the project but not at the premiere were Teagan Presley, Alexis Texas, Lisa Ann, Francesca Lé, Ash Hollywood and Lexi Belle.
A London native, Anderson is best known for her artful photography books Paperthin and Room 23, in addition to her plethora of A-list celebrity portraits and high-fashion photo shoots in magazines such as GQ, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan. She collaborated with 12-year adult industry veteran Mike Moz, now with Digital Playground, to handpick the stars for the project.
More engaging and intimate than previous documentaries that have profiled adult performers, Aroused offers an up-close, unvarnished window into the soul of the ladies she's photographing through a series of conversations, giving the viewer insight that's never been documented in such a way before.
In an era of heightened by our oversexualized, overexposed tabloid culture, Anderson successfully captures the stars' natural beauty. Stripped of all the common porn trappings like over-the-top lingerie and heavy makeup, it feels like a certain weight has been lifted and the ladies can be who they truly are in front of the expert gaze of Anderson's cameras.
All of the models in Aroused appear fully nude, save for a pair of sky-high, brightly colored Jimmy Choo shoes, provided exclusively for the project through company co-founder Tamara Mellon, a friend of Anderson's.
Mostly shot in black-and-white closeups, with pithy quotes on sex and sexuality interspersed throughout, the film is narrated by Anderson herself. It's through Anderson and her friendly, agenda-free angle that many of the adult stars in the Aroused reveal intimate details about their lives—some of which they've never publicly mentioned—tears included.
Among the more compelling revelations in the documentary is Ash Hollywood admitting she had never masturbated before filming her first scene, Brooklyn Lee's peripatetic childhood of moving 55 times, Allie Haze teaching bible school, and Lisa Ann reconnecting with her father after not speaking for 23 years.
Other compelling topics discussed during the 73-minute documentary include how the stars' families reacted to their porn careers, how and why they got into the adult industry, the threat of STIs, and their religious views.
The film is emotionally gripping and engaging throughout, but isn't without some comedic relief, first with Francesca Lé describing her first time having sex, modeled after a scene in Blue Lagoon, where she didn't know actual penetration was involved, and also in friendly banter with LA Direct Models agent Fran Amidor, whose plain-spoken, candid responses to Anderson's questions led the audience to laugh deeply.
Post-screening, the stars in attendance, along with Anderson, retreated to a VIP celebration and book signing in the Landmark's upscale lounge.
Aroused opens tomorrow in select cities, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, where it will be playing at the Chinese 6 Theaters in Hollywood. It's also available for purchase or rental on iTunes and on Hulu Plus, starting June 4.
Above, Deborah Anderson (center) with Allie Haze, Tanya Tate, Asphyxia Noir and Skin Diamond; photo courtesy EMMreport.com.