Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Saturday, 10/15/2011, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $12 at GWU Documentary Center
AS HOME TO the Centaur Motorcycle Club’s annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend featuring the Mr. MAL Contest, we in Washington can be forgiven if we sometimes seem a bit disdainful of Chicago’s International Mr. Leather (IML) Contest. Rightfully, we take much pride in our hometown affair.
In the case of Kink Crusaders, get over it. Director Michael Skiff’s documentary take on IML is a love letter to all of us. As IML founder Chuck Renslow declares at the film’s start, ”No matter what you are, what your fetish is, what your kink is, we want you.”
From there, Skiff takes audiences into this world of BDSM, of leather, of fetish. And his examination is exhaustive. There is the overview of the community, is divisions and strengths. We visit the long history of the contest. Even the political and spiritual are part of this trip. For the uninitiated, this is an immersion program more educational than you can imagine. Veteran leatherfolk won’t be at all bored, though. They should thoroughly appreciate the behind-the-scenes visits with the contestants as they’re put through their paces during IML 2008 – as well as the brief appearance of our own Franck Nowicki, Mr. MAL 1993.
Obviously a trusted member of the community, Skiff is allowed where many are not. But if you’re hoping for him to pull the curtain back on some tawdry back room, keep looking. What Skiff shows us instead is the sense of community, of brotherhood, of fellowship. The trust is well placed in that Skiff doesn’t stop there, but put equal effort into researching the history of IML for Kink Crusaders.
If there is a shortcoming, it may be some of the background music. It shouldn’t be an issue, but at times it seems inappropriate and distracting. Unlike the highly appropriate snip of Soft Cell’s ”Sex Dwarf” accompanying his cuts of ”puppy play,” in a couple instances the generic background music obscures the film’s sentiment. As shortcomings go, it’s easily forgivable. The overall product — for those deep in the lifestyle or for those who are merely curious – is of both entertainment and educational value. And at a speedy 74 minutes, you’ll leave wanting more.