Have sex. Save the world.
That’s the tagline for the new documentary Fuck for Forest, which made its U.S. premiere at SXSW, but also the alleged way of life for followers of the titular eco-porn organization.
Directed by Polish filmmaker Michal Marczak, the film chronicles the Berlin-based organization Fuck for Forest—a raggedy group of hippies dressed like the Lost Boys who film and then sell homemade pornography of themselves and others in an effort to help save the rainforests. The bizarre nonprofit, formed in 2004 by Tommy Hol Ellingsen and Leona Johansson, is seen through the eyes of Danny Devero—a 23-year-old Norwegian ex-equestrian who, despite owning “a number of international show-jumping records,” bailed on competing for the Beijing Olympics “due to the cruel measures he would have to administer on the animals at that level of competitiveness,” according to the film’s narrator. Since his mother is too afraid to see him, and his sister thinks he’s an embarrassment to the family, horses, apparently, are the creatures Danny relates to best ... until he joins up with FFF.
When they’re not filming themselves engaged in sex acts, often in public, FFF approaches people at random on the street in semicreepy fashion. “You’re cute…” a member will coo, before passing a bright young thing the group’s flyer. According to FFF, one in 10 people approached at random will take part in filming pornographic material for them. And, while those who donate photos and videos are allowed to join the NGO free of charge, others who wish to view the X-rated content must make a donation, which the organization then says it uses to fund “ecological projects.” The group has €420,000 in its bank account to fund said efforts, according to the narrator.
Marczak’s film doesn’t pull any punches in the sex department.
In an early scene, a green-haired woman lies face down. She is naked, save a cloth covering her genitals. Five members of FFF, two women and three men, are hunched over her, applying lotion to every inch of her exposed flesh. Later, the group’s cofounder, Tommy, propositions a random Canadian woman. And before you can say “Fuck for Forest,” the “environmentalist” is taking her from behind as two topless women film him. A bald, elderly man looks on, masturbating in the background. And in another scene, a bald, bespectacled, obese man, clad in a black corset, orange tutu, and cravat, furiously pleasures himself on camera. He is, the narrator says, one of the most renowned opera singers in Germany.
Tommy, the de facto ringleader, comes off as a very charismatic, morally bankrupt cult-like figure. Dressed like a shirtless Mad Hatter, he appears to be in it more for the sex than saving the world. According to the narrator, he “kidnapped” Kaajal Shetty, one of FFF’s members, in Oslo on the day she was set to return to Mumbai from a vacation with her sister. She decided to stay on with the group and, after finding out about her allegiances, her family back home declared her “impure” and disowned her. In the film’s most disturbing sequence, Tommy has violent sex with her in front of a room of onlookers in chairs and then licks the sperm and blood off his hands. “We’re so afraid of ourselves, of our juices,” he proclaims with a twisted smile. “Our blood and sperm? All organic.”
Later in the film, during the group’s trip to the Amazon to scout rainforest locations to help preserve, they are cruising around Leticia, Colombia, in a pickup truck. When they pass a group of schoolgirls, Tommy suggests they “grab a girl and trap her.” He then whistles at another young-looking girl, hands her a FFF flyer, and then pouts when she speeds away on her scooter.
Sporting heavy eye makeup, a ukulele, and a curly mop of hair, Danny is a starry-eyed idealist with the appearance of a drag pirate. “All of my clothes are from the trash in Berlin … isn’t that cool?” he says with glee. With his gentle voice and romantic outlook, he provides a foil to the egotistical Tommy. Danny, like many other members of FFF, has been bullied all his life, from children in the schoolyard to his unaccepting parents, and hopes to fill this void with the activist group.
Marczak, who operated the camera himself, has crafted a beautiful, at times hauntingly poetic film. It doesn’t look like a documentary at all but a crisply shot art film, awash in lush imagery. This, coupled with the decision to give two writers screenwriting credit, as well as Danny’s movie-ready narrative, does lead the viewer to question the veracity of the film.
The second half of the film, in particular, is startlingly effective. It follows the libidinous FFFers to the Amazon, where they travel through Manaus, Brazil, Leticia, Colombia, and Pavas, Peru, on a mission to visit indigenous tribes and “save” their rainforests. Earlier on, Tommy and the gang had negotiated a sketchy-looking deal to save 800 hectares of Amazon rainforest for €60,000 via a very grainy Skype call.
When the crew finally reaches the tribe, they give them their spiel.
“Where we come from, it’s forbidden to be naked in public, and our medical plants are replaced with the medical industry,” says cofounder Leona. “Our generation has totally forgot all the values of medical plants and food to eat in our gardens.”
They tell the natives that they only wish to help them preserve their rainforest and have no intention to build on it at all. However, when pressed about their actual plan to do so, the FFFers are left relatively speechless. They have no plan and are all but chased out of the village.
While Fuck for Forest does seem to have the sex thing down pat, they have a long, long way to go when it comes to saving the world.