Tommy sells "penis shorts" modeled after Michelangelo's David in order to pay tribute to his favorite work of art. Over ten thousand people have purchased them.
Interview with Writer/Director Sara Joe Wolansky
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
In Florence I saw works of art by the great masters, I admired historic frescoes, and I climbed to the top of the Duomo. I also remember the hordes of cameras snapping away and the plethora of kiosks selling gag souvenirs on every street corner. The Leaning Shotglass of Pisa. Don Corleone bobble-heads. And most relevantly to this film, "penis shorts" with images of Michelangelo's David's junk on them.
Usually when we take vacation photos, we seek to eliminate these elements from our compositions. We don't photograph the lines to get in to attractions, the other people in the room taking the exact same photo as us, or anything else that calls attention to our own status as tourists. These elements, however, are just as real and just as ingrained in Florence's fabric as the works of art are.
Tourists are not silent voyeurs. The sites they photograph and the souvenirs they buy instill significance in the attractions represented. We know the David is obligatory to visit while in Florence, for example, because we have seen so many photographs of the icon, or more pointedly, so many David souvenirs. Mass reproduction informs us that the sight must be important; the kitsch transforms the original object into a must-see.
The experience of viewing of the David becomes an event in itself, more in common with a carnival than a visit to the repository of one of man's greatest cultural achievements. Thus, the tourist shapes the cultural history of the places he visits through his interest and through the knickknacks he buys. This process of meaning-creating fascinates me, and I wanted to capture it on camera.
There's this idea that, when traveling, an authentic experience can only be found "off the beaten path." Part of what I'm trying to say with this film is that there's a fascinating authenticity to be found even--and especially on--the most beaten of paths.
I also wanted to shatter the hardest, highest glass ceiling of all--and prove that women can make penis jokes too.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I remember seeing David shorts for sale during my travels and having the question in my head, "Wow, I wonder whose livelihood depends on selling Rennaisance-art-themed penis paraphernalia." If this is a thought that you, too, have shared, then this film should provide you with some answers. (Clarification note: Tommy has a day job as well!).
I've found it interesting that Tommy and David has almost never been programmed with documentaries at the festivals it has screened at so far. It's funny enough to be programmed with the comedic shorts. It's inappropriate enough to be programmed with the midnight shorts (as it has been this year at the Traverse City Film Festival). And yet, it's a work of non-fiction! When your average layperson is asked to describe the genre of documentary, the first word they volunteer usually isn't "funny." One of my general goals as a filmmaker is to change that perception.
If that doesn't entice you, perhaps these elements of the film will:
-Scenic "Italy porn" shots
-Catchy theme song
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
One big theme in the film is the interplay between high art and kitsch. The David is not exclusively known for the historical significance it had when it was first sculpted, for example. Many tourists will not be able to articulate historical facts about the sculpture (other than that it was carved by Michelangelo) or explain why this sculpture in particular is so important.
Yet the work is easily recognizable even by those who do not have a background in Renaissance art. In many ways, the David is famous for being famous--tourist souvenirs and other "low-brow" cultural reproductions can claim partial credit for that.
Another theme in the film is the contrast between the way that things "ought to be" and the way things actually are. I believe that for many who have traveled to Italy, the memory of penis shorts is more accurate than pretending that their trip to Italy was only about eating pasta in a large piazza while an old man played a folk songs to them, or whatever the "movie version" of Italy is supposed to be.
My film plays off this contrast between expectation and reality--it starts off as a stereotypical Italian travelogue, and then takes a surprising turn. It's still a love letter to Italy, but in an unexpected way.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I actually shot the Florence portion of the film a full year before I knew what I was going to use it for. I was fascinated by the sheer number of photos that were taken of the David, despite the fact that higher-quality photographs of the David are readily available online or in the gift shop. I was on vacation myself, but ended up spending hours at the Accademia not only filming the statue but filming the snap-happy tourists. It was only when I got in contact with Tommy that the idea for the film, and how to use the David footage I previously shot, really "clicked" for me.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I think people have really enjoyed the film. It's gotten a lot of festival attention and a lot of laughs. Several audience members have told me that they remember seeing those penis shorts on their trip to Italy, or even that they own a pair of these shorts themselves. People are also always pleasantly surprised by the turn that the film takes, and caught off-guard in a good way.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
As I mentioned, the film has often played alongside all fiction comedies--and people sometimes think it is a mockumentary (I assure you, the events in this film are 100 percent real). It's been great to sit with live audiences and hear the film getting consistent laughter. I hope that the film has been able to change peoples' perceptions about what a documentary can and should be, and to further interest people in the genre.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I'm always looking for more exposure, and hope that reading about this film will entice people to watch it!
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I'm always looking to get more eyes on the film, so I would love to play at more festivals and receive more press coverage. Additionally, I am in the middle of production for my first feature documentary. This film will continue to examine how tourists affect their environments. I would love to find investors for this feature documentary based on the success of this short film.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We've all been that tourist taking a selfie in front of some important work of high art. We've all chuckled at the penis-themed souvenirs. I want people to be able to laugh at themselves. I know I certainly have.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What would Michelangelo think if he knew that his masterpiece had been reproduced onto thousands of pairs of "penis shorts"?
Would you like to add anything else?
Thanks so much to everyone who worked on this film, and to Tommy for participating in this film and sharing his story!
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Sara Joe (director) is currently directing her first feature documentary. It sadly has nothing to do with penises, but is also related to the themes of tourism and tourist behavior.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Tommy and David
Director: Sara Joe Wolansky
Producer: Sara Joe Wolansky
About the writer, director and producer:
Sara Joe Wolansky is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who crafts stories that blur the line between comedy and tragedy. More information about her work is available at www.sarajoewolansky.com
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): All of the above :) I am also looking for investors to fund my upcoming feature documentary, which is based on the same topic of the cultural effects of tourism.
Release date: 2016