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TIFF: Josh Lawson on "the Little Death" and rape in comedy

Josh Lawson during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 5, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario. Josh Lawson during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 5, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario.

Josh Lawson premiered his directorial debut, "The Little Death," in Toronto earlier this week, and it's been a bit of a whirlwind for the Australian filmmaker since. The film — written by and co-starring Lawson as well — delves into the sex lives of five Sydney couples and the comic consequences that arise from lovers clumsily admitting their secret desires to each other. One storyline in particular has been getting the bulk of the attention, though.


Are any of these storylines based in truth in any way?


In fact, the rape fantasy was where it all started, and it came from a confession — or admission, really. Confession makes it sound like she's done something wrong, and there's certainly nothing wrong with having a rape fantasy. But it was at a dinner party many, many years ago. You know, we'd had a few glasses of wine and the subject came up, and this girl said it was a fantasy of hers. I was so fascinated by it. I certainly knew of rape fantasies, but I'd never really spoken with anyone with such candor about it. I just really felt there was something in it. I really felt like I'd never seen something like that explored on film, and when I researched that fetish, other fetishes sort of came up. And the more fetishes came up, the more I realized there was just so much to it — the world of fetishism and kinks.

It does seem to persist being a source of real shame for people, though.


It's well-observed. I really was fascinated at what point in any relationship you tell someone, "Hey, I'm really into this." I mean, we all do it in our own way. But yeah, I think sex is that last taboo subject in a lot of ways. There is a lot of shame associated with it, there's fear associated with it.

Do you have a favorite of the couples, as a writer?


I love them all, I really do. I'll say this, there was one story that as met with a lot of resistance in terms of funding for a long, long time, but I'm proud of the achievement and the actors. The first one is the rape story. People always contest that we're making jokes about rape, but I don't think that we are. I think it's because there's the issue of rape in a comedy, but the comedy never comes from us making fun of it or treating it lightly. I understand where the controversy is coming from, but I refute it, obviously.

Have you been able to get out and see anything else while you've been here?


Trying to see a bunch of films. I'm going to see "Whiplash" this afternoon, very excited about it. I saw "Welcome to Me" and "Kill Me Three Times," which was great. Just the feeling of people lining up to see movies makes me so happy. I love that there's this sense right now in this city of movie love. That's so cool to see people excited about film. It's an exciting time to be in Toronto.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick

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