FILM: Pay Close Attention to ‘Sexy Baby’
NAVIGATING ‘SEXINESS AND THE CYBER AGE’
Former Miami Herald journalist Jill Bauer and photographer Ronna Gradus left their jobs and devoted three years to produce what began simply enough after Gradus noticed a disquieting trend while covering a “boring story” about a noise ordinance in nightclubs. Somehow, college girls dancing on stripper poles had become mainstream and pointed to yet another sobering byproduct of the Internet’s influence.
“Sexy Baby: A Documentary about Sexiness & the Cyber Age” recently premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at AMC Loews Village 7, where I met the first-time filmmakers and cast. “Neither of us had an agenda. We wanted to get people talking,” Bauer said after the movie’s final screening on Sunday. Gradus added: “We hope it opens up a conversation … about what real sex is and what it is not.”
The provocative, sometimes comical but often poignant film looks at the influence of social media and pornography on how women are perceived in society by men, other women and, most importantly, themselves. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t hold back and gets graphic at times, illustrating how quickly damage is done to shape someone’s self-image (regardless of age). Viewers meet Nichole (aka Nakita Kash), an award-winning pole dancer and former porn star redefining her life at 32; Winnifred, a Manhattan pre-teen bordering on Facebook-obsession and pushing the boundaries with her divorced parents; and Laura, a 22-year-old kindergarten teacher’s assistant preparing for labiaplasty after her first serious boyfriend compared her body to porn stars he regularly watched online.
In my opinion, “Sexy Baby” is a game changer on so many levels. The documentary is seeking distribution, and rightfully deserves a wider audience than the festival circuit. It isn’t preachy or self-righteous while capturing the prevalence and popularity of “sexting” and suggestive wall posts; desensitization to sex and violence against women via pop music, film, fashion and reality TV shows (over-the-top “Toddlers and Tiaras” comes to mind); and lower standards online.
According to a Consumer Reports survey released this week, nearly 13 million U.S. Facebook users aren’t aware of the social network’s privacy control settings or simply don’t use them at all. And, last year saw 28 percent of them sharing all, or almost all, of their wall posts with more than just friends. “Facebook really is changing the way the world socially communicates and has become a successful service in part by leveraging copious amounts of personal data that can be spread far wider than its users might realize,” Consumer Reports technology editor Jeff Fox said in a press release.
The 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival, co-founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, included 89 features and 60 short films from 46 countries; early screening of Marvel’s blockbuster, The Avengers; and, for a third year, online viewers voted for the best Tribeca (Online) Film Festival awards, including Best Feature and Best Short. This year’s top festival award-winners included “War Witch,” “The World Before Her,” “Una Noche” (whose two Cuban actors have reportedly defected to the U.S. in real life) and “Wavumba.” In case you missed it all, some films are now available on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, DVD and Video on Demand.
“Sexy Baby” documentary:
Tribeca Film Festival:
Consumer Reports survey on Facebook and privacy: