Brooklyn Horror Fest Review: CAM
We tend to project our own emotions on the characters we watch. It’s why we get so hurt when characters die in books or television because we’ve not just grown attached to them, but we are them. Kinda. But when we put ourselves onto other characters, we can then judge the character for choices we may not necessarily make. You or I may not necessarily ever choose to sex work, or camming. I would never because I’m far too pasty. But our choices aren’t the characters choices. And if the character not only enjoys what they do, but has a drive and, dare I say, passion for it...then who are we to judge?
Daniel Goldhaber and Isa Mazzei’s Cam is a film that wordlessly asks you not to pass judgement, because there’s nothing to pass judgement on. There’s nothing wrong with what Alice (Madeline Brewer in an explosive performance), or Lola as she’s known on the cam site FreeGirlsLive.com, chooses to do and how she expresses herself. That’s not Alice’s problem. What is? The doppleganger that started camming under her screen name.
Cam purposely eschews the cinematic connections we make for stories revolving around some form of sex work, despite camming fundamentally not being about sex. Alice/Lola, isn’t victimized. While she may be the victim of the technohorror version of identity theft, she isn’t camming because she has a drug addiction, a child, or any of the other victimhood stereotypes found in other films. We never see Alice be hurt by what she does. She chooses to cam. As Daniel Goldhaber said in an interview with Dread Central, “[she] treats camming as a form of competitive performance art”. The way she speaks about wanting to be a top cam girl is the same as someone aspiring to get a big promotion at a job. For her, it’s a pursuit. A fulfilling career.
The film would not be as sex positive and non judgemental if it hadn’t been for screenwriter Isa Mazzei, a former cam girl herself, who injected her own experiences giving the film a remarkable amount of authenticity. Her experiences provide the peak behind the screen into a different world that neither you or I know. Lest we not judge because we are not the experts. Mazzei is. Which is exactly why this movie feels so genuine, because it’s not coming strictly from the perspective of the male gaze. Goldhaber has even said in interviews that Mazzei directed the cam sequences herself so as to fully remove any possibility of the male gaze, yet also while relenting to the fact the director is a man.
With a film like this, with a young lead and a male director about the subject matter it is, it’s refreshing and dare I say innovative that the movie not only had such a respectful set when it came to the actors comfortability, but also that the film is extremely sex positive, Subverting every narrative trope we’ve seen of sex workers. We’re not actively waiting for Alice to find her way out, free herself from the need to perform her show. On the contrary, we’re actively rooting for her to get her show back. Why? Because this isn’t a character that is set up to be nothing but a victim. Rather, she is a passionate heroine who chooses to express herself in this way. And who are we to judge that?