One woman describes the experience as a flower; another as a roller-coaster ride; a third as war. The subject: That enigmatic, often-elusive, much sought-after female orgasm. When filmmaker Liz Canner first became fascinated with the subject, she had been hired by Vivus, a pharmaceutical company, to create an erotic video to be used during product testing for a new cream – a sort of Viagra for women – that will help treat a new disease known as Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD), a condition that prevents women from achieving orgasm.
In return, Canner asked Vivus executives to be interviewed for her own film that was initially going to explore the growing industry of female sexual-aid medications. At first, the company reps are eager to participate. But as their studies proceed – and as Canner’s film starts digging deeper into the company’s motivation for creating the new medication – everything changes. Although crudely shot and much simpler than more polished documentaries such as Inside Job or Freakonomics, Orgasm Inc. proves to be a highly engrossing and eye-opening expose of pharmaceutical company tactics, which regularly create a perceived need for a medication where there is none. According to the film, the U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world where drug-makers are allowed by law to advertise directly to consumers. And yet while the U.S. accounts for only five percent of the world’s population, we also make up 42 percent of the world spending on prescription drugs.
Orgasm Inc. also doubles as a fascinating exploration of the longstanding attempts by corporations to wring money from the female orgasm, whether it’s recounting the origin of the vibrator or following a woman as she agrees to be a test subject for a new product that requires an electrical rod be surgically implanted into her spine. Many documentaries lose focus or become unwieldy as their directors uncover unexpected facts about their subjects, but Canner is able to keep Orgasm Inc. trained on its eponymous theme with a brisk pace and precise detail that will be equally illuminating to men and women.
Director-producer: Liz Canner.
Editors: Sandra Christie, Jeremiah Zagar.
A First Run Features release. Running time: 80 minutes. Brief graphic images of sexual materials, frank discussions of adult subject matter not suitable for young ears. Opens Saturday Feb. 19 in Miami-Dade only: Coral Gables Art Cinema..