Julia Murat: “‘Rule 34’ is a work at the crossroads of sex and politics”

Julia Murat at the Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland, in August 2022.

It is from Brazil that comes to us a portrait of a complex, strong and sulphurous woman, as we have rarely seen in the cinema. In Rule 34, which earned its director, Julia Murat, born in 1979, the Golden Leopard at the Locarno film festival (Switzerland), in 2022, Simone (Sol Miranda), law student, about to become a lawyer, decides to assume her inhabited sexual desires by a certain consented violence and domination. In the evening, the young woman monetizes her services on porn sites, experiments with new practices, while measuring the extent to which she can put herself in danger. Provided that there is pleasure. It’s all about the slider and the film is a subtle device mixing very serious discussions (with teachers on the Brazilian penal system, etc.) and erotic performances, paid or between friends. From New York, where she lives, the Brazilian filmmaker recounts the genesis of this film with its strangely gentle atmosphere.

Where does the character of Simone come from?

Rule 34 is a work at the crossroads of sex and politics. It’s listening to former porn actress Sasha Gray – who also starred in Girlfriend Experience (2009), by Steven Soderbergh – that the character of Simone was born: for Sasha Grey, the practice of pornography consists in measuring the risk and in pushing back its limits, at the same time social, emotional and physical. I wanted to show this moment when a young woman decides to face her sexual fantasies. It is not out of economic necessity that Simone responds to clients on the Internet, with whom she practices, up to a certain point, self-asphyxiation – using a plastic bag. She does it because it is part of the excitement she feels. I made a film about this desire for violence, while having the concern to contextualize it in Brazilian, patriarchal society.

How did you choose the actress Sol Miranda, a black woman who is also involved in politics and is an activist in the Brazilian Workers’ Party?

Initially, we opened the casting without worrying about skin color. Black women are often extremely sexualized, the idea of ​​giving such a role to a black actress was not obvious. But, when I discovered Sol Miranda, I was attracted by its “opaque” side. Sol doesn’t fully show who she is, which is quite rare for an actress during a casting, but she is very generous. Watching her play is exciting. She comes from the theater and had never acted in a film, so we took a risk by giving her the main role. But she imposed herself.

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