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| Lesbian South Africa |
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Below Her Mouth | The erotic lesbian film everyone’s talking about

02 August 2017
Are you ready? The sizzling Canadian lesbian romance Below Her Mouth is set to open in South Africa on August 11, and we spoke to the film's director. 

The explicit movie, which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, is described as a "bold, uninhibited drama that begins with a passionate weekend affair between two women".

Made entirely by women, Below Her Mouth is written by Stephanie Fabrizi and directed by April Mullen (88, Dead Before Dawn). The film stars Canadian actress, Natalie Krill and Swedish model, Erika Linder. 

It tell the story of Dallas (Linder) who makes her living in a rough trade, shingling roofs for a living while turning over female lovers in her personal life. That's until she encounters self-assured and successful fashion editor, Jasmine (Krill). 

From the moment their eyes meet, the two women are inexplicably drawn to one another. Their connection is powerful and immediate, drawing them into a passionate love affair. Jasmine sees through Dallas’s charm and recognises her philandering ways, but that creates only a small obstacle for Dallas. The bigger obstacle is Jasmine's fiancé, Rile. 
 
Mambagirl's Samantha Byre interviewed director April Mullen about making Below Her Mouth.

What was the defining essence you were looking for in the casting of Linder and Krill for the characters of Dallas and Jasmine? 
 
For the role of Dallas we needed an authentic, natural, unique and mesmerising person that would turn the heads of people when she walked into a room. Someone with bravado and energy. Erika Linder had these qualities and they were the blueprint needed to bring Dallas to life. To contrast Dallas, Jasmine has a strong sense of wonder, a stunning vulnerability, and is open to being brave when it comes to her impulses. Natalie Krill mirrored these incredible qualities and brought a raw beauty to Jasmine, which we were looking for. 
 
Director April Mullen
Much has been said about the fact that it was an all women team “keeping the female gaze ever present” throughout filming... 
 
Ninety-nine percent of my exposure to sex in film, television and media is written by a man, directed by a man, and made predominately for male audiences, thus, I struggled heavily with the idea of trying to stay true to my inner sense of sexuality and visual expression of intimacy and love while filming. I had to constantly remind myself to forget all of the “movie sex / love” I had seen up until that point, which had made an impact on me. I had to reflect inwardly on what affected me in my life, what made me want to be physical with another person; exposing a truth – this is what I wanted to bring to the screen.  
 
Having a full female crew bought to life a feeling of being part of something bigger than the film alone. This gave the female voice a stamp on screen, whatever the results might be. It was important for us to all expose ourselves – our fears, our comforts, our strengths – in order to creatively be transparent. 

What drew you to this project? 
 
My soul had been screaming to make a love story for a long time. My heart is gigantic and I'm overly passionate – it might even be my Achilles heel. I am one of the lucky ones who have felt this rush, this magnetic feeling. I live in the frames and breaths of the film. It’s surprising what comes from personal moments and how they get translated into the framework of a film. I’ve lived on all sides of those characters and related instantly to the script. I had no idea it was coming, but when it did, Below Her Mouth kidnapped my mind, soul and imagination. 
 
The love scenes have been described as brazen and unapologetic. It was refreshing to see scenes that I could identify with in their familiarity, yet still in a sense feel uncomfortable watching due to its unapologetic portrayal. 
 
Yes. It’s a landmark. It’s uninhibited and celebrates the female gaze into intimacy, love and sex in a refreshing way. It invites the audience in, rather than needing to jump out at it to be heard. The reason I believe it's uncomfortable is because what the audience is witnessing is very truthful and authentic. It's almost as though the audience is a fly on the wall – existing in a place where they shouldn’t be – observing two people discovering each other’s bodies, wrapped in lust, without holding back. It feels so intimate and intense. The audience has no choice but to be thrust into their bodies and hearts as they take the leap and journey with Dallas and Jasmine.
 
The female voice, desire, and even orgasm, is seldom represented in film, television or advertisements. In the film we celebrate the female orgasm and normalise the strap on. I find audience who are ready to be open minded love this alternative point of view. 
 
Do you have a favourite scene that you watch post editing? 
 
I truly love the montage scene where we watch the film lose time and the lighting goes from day to night before Dallas and Jasmine have to say goodbye. The montage is full of real moments you only share with a lover in bed – simple, truthful moments coupled with the raw thoughts that flood over you as you fall in love. That montage holds the heartbeat of the film – the laws of attraction and intimacy shared between lovers - I love it! 

Do you feel there is a singular moment in the film that brought the story and characters and portrayal together in defining the essence of Below Her Mouth?  
 
To me, the bathtub scene where Jasmine feels empowered by her sexuality and literally has a rebirth, defines this film. In that moment we expose a side of women we rarely get to see and celebrate it, without holding back or being ashamed of our sexuality, whatever it might be. I also love that there’s an innocence to the sexual journey in the film. It comes from love, the place where the soul speaks to the body, and forces two spirits to cross paths and go through one another – the essence of true desire to know another person in all realms. 
 
Lighting and soundtrack created a distinct urban palette for Dallas, which played with the moodiness of Linder’s portrayal of Dallas. Was this always the intention for Dallas’s character?

The lighting of the film was designed far in advance of casting. When I did my pitch for the film, I shared with the producers a strong lighting palette as part of my director's vision. In it, Dallas's world would be full of hard contrast and bold choices to match her personality, while Jasmine's world would feel soft and very natural. Colour, visual aesthetic, costume, and production design were all incorporated heavily into pre-production, to keep a consistent and strong overall tone to the film.  
 
I wanted to have bold lighting, shots and choreography at times, but the balancing act was creating a finished film that looked natural and completely unpolished. The film needed to feel real, even though everything around our leads was heavily designed. In terms of music, Melissa (producer Melissa Coghlan), Stephanie (writer Stephanie Fabrizi) and I worked hard on creating an interesting palette to heighten the overall story and journey for the audience. Through the music, we wanted to bring another personality to the film and deliver a fresh sound in terms of score, with a mix of bold and unknown source songs. I love taking huge swings on music and raising the bar to find new sounds that create contrasting moments.

Do you think that Below Her Mouth will shift expectations in how women’s stories are told, and in what particular way do you hope this shift will happen?
 
I feel the more we offer an alternative to audiences the more we will see a change in perception. It won’t happen overnight, but having female writers, roles, and creators out there definitely helps build this burgeoning shift – delivering unique depictions of people and stories from a new point of view. This is an exciting time to watch the transformation happen in front of our eyes.  

Below Her Mouth is in cinemas from August 11.

Sam Byrne