Leona and Tommy, a young Norwegian couple, were upset by the amount of war and destruction of the earth they saw on the news, so they decided to put their best talents to work in order to save the environment. Embodying the motto, "do the best you can with what you've got," Leona and Tommy set about saving the world one naked photo at a time, and Fuck For Forest, the NGO was born. Essentially a porn website, the Fuck for Forest crew takes nude photos and videos of themselves and others which air live behind a paywall (unless you've participated in a photoshoot yourself). "Fuck For Forest," the film, directed by Michal Marczak, follows the activities of the core group, a merry band of hippies living and loving in Berlin. The result is a freewheeling, heady brew of a film, an intoxicating, surprising, but ultimately revelatory work that may leave viewers at the end with a bit of a hangover, after the party ends.
Our anchor throughout the film is Danny, another young Norwegian. The film opens with Danny at home in Norway, arguing with his sister and mother in their stark white modernist home and donning his equestrian competition medals as jewelry. He's out of place and uncomfortable, and soon we are transported to Berlin, where Danny perfectly fits in as the guitar strumming, gender bending bard of the Fuck For Forest crew. He's in a relationship with Natty, but that doesn't put any restraints on who he hits on (mostly men) or has sex with. Tommy has a new girlfriend, a quiet girl from India whom he met in Norway, and who has been disowned by her family for her activities with him. They are all a bunch of wayward souls, bonded together by their beliefs about saving the world one fuck at a time.
The first half of the film follows them in Berlin, where the artsy, hippie, avant garde community embraces them wholeheartedly. They are never short of willing participants or audience members for their sexual performances, and their work is well known and respected. They live like street urchins, dumpster diving and selling hash for food money, as all proceeds from the website go toward the environmental cause. Eventually though, the rubber must meet the road, and this happens when the group is contacted about an indigenous community in the Amazon in need of financial support. So, Team FFF sets off to meet their beneficiaries by plane, boat and canoe, deep in the rainforest.
This is where the film truly becomes interesting, when cultures and mentalities collide, come together, and clash. The villagers embrace the group, despite their penchant for naked yoga and tiny top hats, and the Fuck For Foresters are at first intimidated by but then taken with the epic scale and challenging conditions of the environment. But at a community meeting, it becomes abundantly clear that the Fuck For Forest model, while inspiring in its idealism, might not be the best public model for environmentalism. Many locals are put off by the method of fundraising, but even more so, demand to know how the money will be used to create opportunities and jobs, a next step that was not conceived of when the project began.
As a film, "Fuck For Forest" is a fascinating look into this world that seems to be a relic of a bygone 1960s free love era. The subject matter itself is compelling, though the structure often undermines the real storytelling potential of the film. It often feels like the film puts the cart before the horse, showing us certain characters or events and then explaining (in monotone robotic voice over), sort of taking the power away from the images since we don't have the real context for it. It's more of a a fly-on-the-wall vantage point of this group of people, and ultimately it does draw out both their virtues (idealism, desire to change the world and save the environment in any way possible), and their flaws (failures of pragmatism, a tinge of predatory sexuality). Danny, as the heart of the film, is the best point of view for the audience in his unwavering dedication to his beliefs, though the film allows the audience to understand him from an outside perspective that both questions his actions and underscores his dedication. While at first "Fuck For Forest" is a bit of a curio, a peek at this strange subculture, we come away from the film better understanding their motivations but also questioning them. That ambivalence is not representative of what the group stands for, but ultimately, the film is brave to embrace it. [B]
"Fuck For Forest" screens this Friday, August 16th as part of the Rooftop Films Summer Series.