Entertainment” “Morgana”, a female Icarus soars to erotic sun
By Dwight Casimere
Morgana is a quixotic but riveting documentary focused on the inexplicable rise of an overweight, abused housewife on the outer fringes of 50, to stardom in the world of erotic films. From a tiny burg on the outskirts of Victoria, Australia, Morgana resurrects from the ashes of a broken marriage and suicidal depression to reinvent herself as an influential independent filmmaker.
A first-time feature by directors and writers Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, Morgana dazzles in its revelatory bliss, even as it pushes the limits of common wisdom and propriety. The film, which premiered at the 2019 Melbourne Film Festival, has won awards at festivals from Sydney to San Francisco.
Morgana Muses (yes, that is her real name) spent 20 years in a loveless, sexless marriage. Divorcing after years of misery, she made the desperate decision to hire a male escort to have one last fling before committing suicide. Rather than reinforcing her sense of hopelessness, the encounter instead led her to believe that there was something better in store. She felt liberated, and began exploring a part of herself that had been buried beneath layers of self-loathing and emotional repression.
After hearing about a competition for first time erotic film makers, Morgana decided to turn her male escort into the co-star of her first film, a self portrait entitled Duty Bound, which ‘SURPRISE!” captured the Petra Joy Award for first time film makers in 2012. Since then, her films have screened all over the world and captured awards in leading erotic festivals, such as Cinekink New York, the Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2015 and three awards at the 2017 Toronto Porn Film Festival.
Inspired by her late father’s wanderlust (“My father had a choice; move to Argentina or Australia. He flipped a coin and went to Australia.”) So, she struck out for Berlin, the historic epicenter of free sexual expression. “Why go to therapy,” she mused (pardon the pun), when I can go to Berlin and be weird.”
The move paid off with dividends. Using money from her divorce settlement, Morgana began producing and starring in her own films, working with award-winning filmmaker Josie Hess. When Morgana got the idea to do a wildly imaginative film, documenting her 50th birthday, Josie enlisted the aid of fellow punk rock and erotic filmmaker Isabel Peppard. The rest, as they say, is erotic film history.
Morgana’s vivid concept of having herself suspended naked in an elaborate bondage installation as a birthday gift to herself blossomed into a full-scale feature-length bio doc, tracing her miserable roots in rural Victoria to the BDSM clubs of Berlin and beyond. What followed were a flurry of titles from the newly spawned team; its My Birthday and I’ll Fly If I Want To-2014, I Am Whole 2015, Having My Cake 2015, Breathtaking 2016, Labia of Love 2017.
In Morgana, the Cinematography by Hess and Peppard is arresting. A series of Miniature set pieces designed and built by Peppard and filmed by Gerald Thompson are a stroke of genius. The punk-influenced score by Jordan Gilmour accentuates the high wire daring of Morgana’s imaginings.
Morgana found herself the darling of the erotic film world. Instead of fueling elation, it plunged her deeper into depression. “The last 3 years have been a whirlwind. I had come full circle. So many highs, but I knew it was just a matter of time before I would fall. (Bi-polar and depressed) I felt that sometimes it’s better to feel worthless, then you don’t have so far to fall.”
Morgana faces her demons head on and wrestles them, literally, to the ground with her artful films. There are dazzling images that strokes of pure cinematic genius throughout the film. Her images probe deep beneath layers of emotional suppression and erupt a subterranean volcano of sensuality.
Morgana is an empowering film that shatters all preconceptions of what erotic films are all about. More than anything, Morgana is a film about empowerment and the willingness to risk everything to rise to meet the horizon of your wildest dreams. Morgana premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival 2020 and will soon be available VOD. It will screen digitally at the festival through Sept. 2. For further details, visit morganadocumentary.com.