The title of the film by Clint Alberta speaks two-fold; not only is Alberta making his own pornographic film, but he’s also granting the audience permission into internal conversations and conflicts within himself and his subjects. Aside from being of the Canadian persuasion, they call have several things in common: they are Native American, sexuality issues and identity issues.
Clint Alberta, born as Clint David Morrill and also credited in his films under the surname Torangeau, was known as a filmmaker for his quirky-nouveau approach to making documentaries. For example, Alberta had his cameramen use several cameras of varying quality because he believed that the grittiness of it could help his fellow Natives feel as though it was made by one of their own. He also made painstaking efforts ensure that any technical problems, such as camera focusing issues, visible booms and microphones, and even several verbal altercations with crewmembers over how he wanted to be portrayed in a shot, were captured in the film. Alberta may have been using his massive ego to try to emphasize his thesis of the crisis of identity among modern Natives, but it more often played off as making him look like an insecure, amateur director. His unique choices were obviously successful; the film, financed by the National Film Board of Canada, was shown in 2000 at both the Vancouver and Sundance Film Festivals.
Alberta’s film, which is just as ethnographic and introspective as it is kooky and innovating, aims to drive home the struggles of being “native” in Canada by presenting the film as a cheaply made porno starring his alter-ego Clint Star. Alberta allows this imaginary film to grant him artistic license to add sexually evocative music, cheesy intertitles and haphazard video edits. He also uses this “deep inside” theme as a synthesis for the honest conversations he engages in with his subjects. In this fantasy context, Alberta introduces nearly all his characters in sexually suggestive situations: sleazy hotel rooms, at a café, and lying on a picnic blanket in a park. His efforts at making a seriously film about serious issues are downplayed in this forum until he starts talking to his subjects outdoors. His presence in his interviews, with subjects and himself, are comical and amateurish – especially the one involving Tawny Maine where they are sitting on a park bench talking about her personal history. Instead of engaging with her in a sincere conversation about her past as a native adopted into a white family, Alberta stares off into the distance, his face and body stone cold as though posing for a long exposure. Unfortunately his vanity distracts from the overall tone of the piece, which continues on from this point wavering between deeply intellectual and borderline childish.
Despite its flaws, “Deep Inside Clint Star” manages to create an open dialogue about the troubles Canadian natives have with adjusting to modern society. Alberta’s subjects talk liberally about suicide, sexual abuse, self-loathing, child molestation, sexual identity, death, physical abuse, racism and drug and alcohol problems that plagued their lives and those that surround them. With his subjects facing the same set of problems, Alberta asks the audience to take this knowledge and try to determine why, after “500 years of oppression,” natives are still the victims of imperialist standards.
(And on a lighter note, I was frequently distracted throughout the film by the all subjects’ teeth. No offense to Clint (R.I.P.), Becky, Tawny, his mom and the boys, but this is Canada – the premiere standard of socialized medicine that has been frequently used as positive PR for the free-medicine-for-all movement in the U.S. for the past two decades. Just sayin’.)