Hot Docs ’11: Inside Lara Roxx

Posted: May 2, 2011 in Film Reviews, Hot Docs
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A scene from Inside Lara RoxxThe porn industry is an interesting organism that in some ways exists in a world of its own – but it’s always welcoming new members. Another curiosity is the insistence that everyone is a family and most of the negative incidents can be attributed to “an other.” They self-regulate regarding issues of safety and health, but there is also a lot of pressure to break the rules or risk being black listed. Lara Roxx was 21 and just starting out, but she encountered all these aspects of the industry. Then she contracted HIV.

Lara was a rebellious teenager in Montreal who made the gradual transition from stripping to being an escort to making porn. She moved to L.A. to become a star. In 2004, persuaded to perform a sexual act she wouldn’t usually, Lara, along with two other women, were infected by their male co-star. The story made headline news and Lara got her 15 minutes of fame. Director Mia Donovan decided it was important people know what happened to Lara after the news cameras shut off.

Over five years we follow Lara from Montreal back to L.A. then to the adult entertainment convention in Las Vegas. In between, Lara has several hospital stays for reasons ranging from depression to illness. Donovan’s first contact with Lara occurs in a hospital room, but she chooses not to resume shooting until Lara is in better health, displaying not only good filmmaking ethics but the first glimmer of the compassionate friendship she would develop with Lara over the course of the film. The director’s relationship with her subject undoubtedly influenced the contents of the documentary, but it also gave her intimate access to Lara’s life.

The film provides Lara the opportunity to revisit and confront some people from her past.  Those encountered include a man known as “Papa Bear”, the ex-actress that founded AIM, her counsellors from a juvenile detention centre and Ron Jeremy. Their reactions to what happened to Lara vary from blame to empathy to support for her current efforts to raise awareness. She’s not a hypocrite; she doesn’t say don’t do porn, but rather don’t betray yourself for the industry.

Donovan’ documentary style is far more intrusive than the typical fly-on-the-wall picture, but interviewing Lara throughout the film was definitely the best way to portray her life. In addition, the cinematography is excellent, capturing some beautiful images of Lara as well as the rawness of her everyday existence and emotions. They use footage from some of her movies to represent Lara’s previous life, but never more than her breasts or anything beyond the talking stage of the scene. The only noticeable hitch is a lack of subtitles when the camera is present for a conversation that does not actually include the filmmaker.

Lara’s journey is a rollercoaster that peaks with revelations of self discovery and bottoms out with drug abuse and negative influences. Donovan does an excellent job depicting Lara’s life during the good times and bad.

Inside Lara Roxx is playing as part of Hot Docs Thursday, May 5 at 6:30 pm at Bloor Cinema, Friday, May 6 at 9:45 pm at Cumberland Theatre and Sunday, May 8 at 9:30 pm at the Royal Cinema.


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