All Boys promises a lot to a range of interests but delivers very little. Those expecting this documentary look at the Czech gay porn industry to offer some titillation won’t find much, despite a fair amount of nudity (although most of the stronger nudity is blurred). Those hoping to learn more about the world of porn and those involved in it won’t be particularly edified either.
The problem comes from the documentary’s narrow focus, which seems to want to explore whether the rise of the gay porn industry in the Czech republic is a good thing or if it has just led to the exploitation of young men. However it feels as if it’s so keen to say that it has exploited people that it fails to actually argue the point.
All Boys largely focuses on one ‘studio’, which basically consists of one guy, an American ex-pat, who made some money and then headed to Eastern Europe to make porn. You get the impression that what he really wanted to do was live out some sort of Bohemian sex fantasy, where the models all lived in a house with the producer. However while that worked for him to begin with, it all began to fall apart, and you’re left with a sad man in a dingy house in Eastern Europe. The other main focus is one of his models, a young man who grew up in care and was then discovered on the streets and began to work in porn, eventually ending up the producer’s boyfriend for two years.
It’s a sad tale from both sides, with the producer unable to see how he was pretty much the architect of his own downfall. He’s desperate to look like a Peter Pan figure looking for fun and love, but unable to see how his interest in porn is mirrored by his desire for absolutely control in his private life. The model’s story is more complex but in its desire to paint a purely exploitative picture, the documentary doesn’t really get to grips with it. The good side is brushed over in favour of the bad. All Boys wants to say he was just sucked in and spit out to live on the streets as an alcoholic, but the truth is a lot more complex than that. He was a kid with no prospects who was given a chance but it didn’t work out. Rather than looking at the complex reasons why, All Boys seems satisfied to just wallow in the sadness of it.
While the documentary does spread its net a little further to other voices and a different studio (a more cutthroat one where the ex-actor turned porn producer only cares about cutting costs), it’s still too narrow to say anything much. It’s impossible to say whether what we’re seeing is typical or exceptional. It may well be a case study of a much larger problem, but it’s difficult to tell if it is, or whether All Boys is just being slightly exploitative of the situation itself.
Ultimately it’s a bit of a wasted opportunity. That’s underlined by the fact there are several other shorter documentaries included in the special features that are actually better than the main feature. These range from what are essentially sections of the movie that were removed, to another that focuses on an American man who is now a pimp in Eastern Europe (who seems to think he’s providing a humanitarian service to both client and rent boy, even as his own life collapses around him).
Reviewer: Tim Isaac