Athena Film Festival Review: ‘Dilemma of Desire’

The poster for the film Dilemma of Desire directed by Maria Finitzio at Athena Film Festival (courtesy of the film)

Maria Finitzo’s documentary The Dilemma of Desire, currently screening virtually at the Athena Film Festival, examines female sexuality and pleasure against the backdrop of the repressive, toxic and macho culture represented by the former Trump administration, QAnon, Trumpers, “Christians,” the paternalistic Republican Party and all caught up in the “normalcy” of misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic and racist folkways. Interestingly, Democrats and other political parties are not exempt from an examination of the patriarchy in this film. The myths and follies of patriarchal thought and behavior are ancient and baked in by males, females and non gender described, who have bought into the lies of female sensuality for millennia.

Sophia Wallace conceptual artist during the Women’s March, ‘Dilemma of Desire,’ directed by Maria Finitzio, Athena FF (courtesy of the film)

More specifically, it has been males who define their own machismo by the ways that they oppress and control women. To dominate, whether for the profit motive or more psychological reasons, males and accepting females define conceptualizations of beauty, femininity, sensuality and the pleasure they are psychologically and scientifically able to seek based upon these confined and erroneous definitions. Finitzo, a two-time Peabody Award-winner blows apart the taboos and shameful strictures about how women must think, react and define their bodies and their sensuality. Focusing on four women who have broken open the boundaries in themselves to understand their bodies, Finitzo conducts extensive interviews with them as they help empower others in their journey deeper into their own sexuality and sensuality.

Sophia Wallace’s work demonstrating “Cliteracy,” ‘Dilemma of Desire’ by Maria Finitzio, Sophia Wallace’s website

Finitzio approaches central themes that paternalism for centuries has rendered women powerless and voiceless, manifested in the simple act that women do not even understand or know their own sexual organs to be able to draw them. This lack of literacy about their sensuality and sexuality has been a revelation in the life and work of Sophia Wallace, whose work about “Cliteracy,” Finitzio uses as a focal point around which she creates the grist of this documentary about four women who in their own way are attempting to change folkways and cultural assumptions about female pleasure and desire.

Dilemma of Desire, Sophia Wallace, Maria Finitzio, Athena FF
Sophia Wallace, ‘Delimma of Desire,’ directed by Maria Finitzio, Athena FF (courtesy of the film)

Memed by artist Sophia Wallace, “Cliteracy” is the scientific knowledge that the clitoris is fundamental to the female orgasm. The lies that the vagina is the seat of desire is a myth propagated by males, for obvious reasons. When women have felt let down in sex with their partners, they have taken the shame and blame upon themselves. The educated male has countered this with his empathetic understanding that female genitalia is more complex and deserves its own attention during intimacy. If the male partner is not empathetic or understanding, women for centuries have been left to “endure” sex as a chore and do it to beget children which they alone have been tasked to raise until recent times. Women who have established intimate relationships with women have actually received much more sensual pleasure during their lifetimes. Thus, the idea that most women don’t experience vaginal pleasure during intercourse (only 25% do according to the scientific data Finitzio states in the film) is a much needed revelation that Dilemma of Desire emphasizes.

Maria Finitzio, Sophia Wallace, Dilemma of Desire, Athena FF
Work by Sophia Wallace, ‘Dilemma of Desire,’ directed by Maria Finitzio, Athena FF, (courtesy of the film)

Using her interviewees as gatekeepers into this revelation, Finiztio chronicles key points about how the patriarchy has kept women in the darkness about their own bodies. The end result has been to hamper their freedom, their voice, their courage, their empowerment. The documentarian examines how Wallace is changing culture; how Dr. Stacey Dutton, a neuroscientist, enlightens medical science about the biology of the clitoris; how Dr. Lisa Diamond unravels outdated notions about women’s arousal; and how Ti Chang, an industrial designer, creates elegant vibrators for women that look nothing like the novelty toys in sex shops which are useless and created by men. To elucidate what these four have discovered, Finitzio interviews Umnia, Becca, Jasmine, Sunny, and Coriama who provide their life experiences about themselves and their relationships with men and women in their investigation of their own body’s capability of receiving pleasure.

Sophia Wallace, Maria Finitzio, Dilemma of Desire, Athena Film Festival
Sophia Wallace, Maria Finitzio directs Dilemma of Desire, Athena Film Festival (Sophia Wallace’s website)

Finitzio’s work is mind-blowing. She uses a maximum of effort to cobble together the interviews and create the backdrops that enhance the commentary of these truth-tellers. The cinematography, music and editing all enhance the overarching message that to be free, women must understand all parts of their being to appreciate all of who and what they can be. A defining moment comes when Sophia Wallace discusses what she heard from her cousin about her grandmother’s confession. Their grandmother had five children, but didn’t think she had ever experienced an orgasm or pleasure during sex. Meanwhile, of course, their grandfather’s experience was a sure thing. For Wallace, this was an eye-opening tragedy because her grandmother didn’t understand or enjoy what her body was capable of experiencing because she was intellectually, philosophically, culturally, sensually chained by the patriarchy whether wittingly or unwittingly.

This is a must-see film for men, women, non-binary, all who are walking around in a fleshly body and want to break free from the dilemma of desire that especially ties women up in knots and oppresses them in all of their being. The point is to understand and become “cliterate.” At least that opportunity must be allowed and Sophia Wallace’s work should be in a book, not just on a TEDTALK or as a conceptual museum piece in an art gallery. Thus far, book publishers are afraid to deal with such an important and culturally revelatory work. The excuse is that female editors are hesitant about sharing the information in book form with other females in the industry, for example libraries, universities. The fear exemplifies why “cliteracy” has remained in the realm of the arcane and it is a tragedy of oppression.

Finitzio’s film spotlights the core issues of this tragedy. And in due season, Wallace will be known globally in print as well as virtually for her work “Cliteracy.” Dilemma of Desire is screening on the Athena Film Festival website and other screening platforms. CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE ATHENA FILM FESTIVAL OFFERINGS INCLUDING THIS EXTRAORDINARY FILM.

About caroleditosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is an Entertainment Journalist, novelist, poet and playwright. Writing is my life. When I don't write I am desolate. Carole Di Tosti has over 1800 articles, reviews, sonnets and other online writings. Carole Di Tosti writes for Blogcritics.com, Theater Pizzazz and other New York theater websites. Carole Di Tost free-lanced for VERVE and wrote for Technorati for 2 years. Some of the articles are archived. Carole Di Tosti covers premiere film festivals in the NY area:: Tribeca FF, NYFF, DOC NYC, Hamptons IFF, NYJewish FF, Athena FF. She also covers SXSW film. Carole Di Tosti's novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Power,' is being released in November-December. Her two-act plays 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics' in the process of being submitted for representation and production.

Posted on March 11, 2021, in Film Festival Screenings, Film News, Film Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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