Conservative gender stereotypes are still a problem in the 21st century, often defining how people’s lives get influenced by peer pressure and the expectations within society. Even after all the battles women have fought last century in order to be seen as equals for once and for all, it still seems most of the world is subject to the rules of the patriarchy.
When we meet Australian porn director and actor Morgana Muses, she’s location scouting for a new photo shoot. Morgana confesses her head is filled with ideas, but the execution is the hardest part. Looking back at her upbringing in a small minded South Australian town, we quickly get pulled into a whirlwind of heavy emotions while Morgana recalls her unhappy marriage and the consequences of that relationship, resulting in mental health problems and eating disorders. She confesses it’s “standard” for women to think their life’s over after thirty, but it’s when she meets up with an escort who makes her feel desired just by showing what intimacy should really be like, the now middle aged Morgana finds herself at the door of a new beginning and purpose in her life.
Directors Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard witness and record Morgana’s desire for the human touch that eventually grows into a career in the porn industry. Adult film performers, comedians, photographers and escorts give their opinion on Morgana’s career, while one in particular calls this “new wave of feminism” a female led sexual revolution. This kind of feminist porn is not so much a subgenre, as it’s more of a movement. Morgana gets a spike in confidence every time she finishes one of her films. It’s My Birthday and I’ll Fly If I Want To or Having My Cake had their premieres at the renowned Berlin Porn Festival and were a critical success. Unfortunately success doesn’t always come without its own set of hurdles and Morgana’s mental health deteriorates, sending her spiraling. The expectations are high and it’s up to her to get back on track.
Morgana’s transformation from the perfect wife, keeping up appearances, to sex-positive feminist ready to take control of her own life is a sight to behold. Not only does her emotional confessional hit harder than you’d expect, it’s the powerful “je m’en fous”-attitude in the form of her erotica-rebirth that makes this documentary the ultimate powerhouse. She celebrates her 50th birthday with a stunning photo shoot of herself tied up in what looks like a spiderweb and it’s these moments that make you realise that it’s never too late to do what YOU want to do. Morgana was done letting a society run by men tell her what’s okay and what’s not okay when living the life of a woman her age, which otherwise would have eventually erased her from existence.
Morgana celebrates lust, love, erotica and people in a powerful way, while blurring the lines between art and pornography. A bold and inspiring documentary that’s astonishingly honest, defying stereotypes within an industry that sadly still often gets treated as inferior.
Review – ‘Morgana’
Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), January 29, 2021. Rating: R18+. Running time: 71 min.
PRODUCTION: A Juno Films release of a House of Gary production. Producer: Karina Astrup. Executive producer: Jessica Carrera.
CREW: Directors/screenplay/cinematography: Josie Hess, Isabel Peppard. Editing: Julie-Anne De Ruvo. Score: Jordan Gilmour.
CAST: Morgana Muses, Josie Hess, Shine Louise Houston, Jiz Lee, Judith Lucy, Stoya.