by Rich Moreland, August 2016
This post begins a three-part series on actor/producer/director Jac Avila whose business imprint is Pachamama Films.
Here he discusses his professional relationship with Amy Hesketh.
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“We’re very much inspired by Grand Guignol,” Jac tells me. Since the 1990s, the producer/director has shot “a series of performance videos” that reflect the theater’s unique stamp on shock and violence.
As his evolution in film progressed, Jac’s work drew the attention of Amy Hesketh, who was building her own erotic on-screen resume.
One of his films, Martyr or The Death of St. Eulalia (2002), became the catalyst for the their artistic collaboration. Though it was made in New York, (Jac maintains dual residences in NYC and La Paz, Bolivia), Amy saw the movie in South America in 2005.
“It made a huge impression on her and that’s when she decided to join me in this adventure,” he recalls.
At the time, Amy was more into photography than modeling, Jac explains, and had aspirations to write and direct.
Martyr stars Carmen Paintoux, a French actress, whose history with Jac dates to the 1990s. The themes of Christian sacrifice, sadomasochistic relationships, and suffering drive the film and captured Amy’s interest.
Subsequently, Jac began a working relationship with Amy, who picked up acting again. She joined French performers, Carmen and Veronica Paintoux, to create a new and innovative indie film narrative.
Amy’s first feature as writer and director was Sirwiñakuy, a tale involving an older man and a younger woman in a BDSM relationship. “She wanted Veronica to play the lead character,” Jac mentions.
Later films like Barbazul, Dead But Dreaming and Olalla, saw Amy step in front of the camera. Not unusual, he adds, because Amy “puts herself in the more difficult roles” much to the delight of her fans.
In the movies I’ve seen, Amy dominates the lens. I asked Jac about her motivation to play parts which appear, at least on the surface, to be masochistic. Jac has some suggestions, but makes it clear he cannot speak for her entirely.
“The characters she plays appeal to her, yes, and at the same time scare her,” he begins.
Jac mentions Justine, a character in a film by the same name yet to be released. It’s based on the de Sade novel, so the sadomasochistic corruption of the innocent steps forward as one would expect.
Due to Justine’s “religious stubbornness” Amy doesn’t have a glowing opinion of the girl as she appears in the novel, Jac remarks. In fact “Amy thought she was an idiot.” However, he adds, “as in any art, a part of us is in those characters and a part of our experience is expressed in them.”
“In some cases it becomes cathartic,” he believes.
An interesting thought which I think is clear in Amy’s portrayal of Olalla and her role in Maleficarum, a film involving witch torture.
According to Jac, “Amy plays what appears to be submissive roles, although I see them more like women in peril type of characters, they do not submit, they are forced into their particular ordeal. I can even say that some do not go quietly into their ‘doom.’”
As heroines, Justine and Olalla are united in that respect, but by different circumstances. Perfect, I might add, for Amy Hesketh’s talent.
How much more of that talent we will see on-screen may be waning because Amy is now concentrating on writing and directing. But she has an impressive resume as an actress.
“The way she prepared herself for her roles in the movies we made is impressive,” Jac remarks.
Bodies and Minds
That brings up another topic which needs clarification. Amy Hesketh and the other actors in the Pachamama troupe, Mila Joya and Veronica Paintoux, in particular, are whipped, tortured and crucified. So, are they the darlings of the BDSM crowd who might flock to see their films?
“I don’t think our films fit into what would be the traditional BDSM genre, except perhaps for Sirwiñakuy, which is about an S&M relationship, and Pygmalion, that has those elements too,” Jac observes.
As a director and actor himself, Jac notes that everyone in the troupe gets to “display different personalities in different films” which is diverse enough to move beyond the dominant/submissive formula.
“When they do get into their characters, they do go into them with intensity and completely, they become those characters for the time of the shooting. In other words, they do put their bodies and minds into them.”
Then he offers up a dose of reality.
“I can also say that they do suffer, physically and mentally, during the difficult scenes. The whippings hurt, the crucifixions are very, very uncomfortable and even painful. There’s a lot of real suffering going on. I do not think that any of them enjoy that, they put up with it for the art.”
The Liberating Part
Of course, Pachamama/Decadent productions have their share of naked female flesh that some viewers may consider to be on the border of softcore porn.
Jac presents his take on that interpretation by referencing the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and its counterculture.
The films of that era represented “an explosion on the face of Catholicism,” he notes. They were a part of the “cultural movements of the time,” in which new artistic and strident voices captured the day.
“In Europe and South America the rallying cries were the movements of liberation from whatever people felt they needed liberation from. Soon, in both worlds, the sexual revolution took over.”
With that, Jac Avila is blunt.
“Nudity in our films is the liberating part. People are still traumatized by nudity, it baffles me, so we put in on their face, warts and all.”
That is good news for all of his and Amy’s fans.
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Jac Avila can be found online at jacavila.blogspot.com.
All Jac and Amy films are distributed by Vermeerworks.