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Lesbian love story 'Below Her Mouth' meant to 'empower,' not exploit: filmmakers

Last Updated Sep 3, 2016 at 9:00 am PST

A still image provided by TIFF from the movie "Below Her Mouth" is shown in this handout photo. In tackling a lesbian love story with plenty of steamy sex and full frontal nudity, striking the right tone was key for the filmmakers behind "Below Her Mouth." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Courtesy of TIFF MANDATORY CREDIT

TORONTO – In tackling a lesbian love story with plenty of steamy sex and full frontal nudity, striking the right tone was key for the filmmakers behind “Below Her Mouth.”

First-time screenwriter Stephanie Fabrizi says she was keen to keep things realistic, bold and “poetic.”

“Within our framework and our lens, it’s not exploitation, it’s so different,” Fabrizi says of the resulting film, which does not shy away from depicting several lusty encounters.

“It’s not to get a rise out of you, it’s to break through and to empower and I think to give the female orgasm a voice.”

The Toronto-shot “Below Her Mouth” is among the Canadian titles heading to the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday.

Natalie Krill stars as Jasmine, a fashion editor who meets a sexy roofer at a bar when her fiance (played by Sebastian Pigott) is out of town. Swedish gender-bending model Erika Linder plays Dallas, whose brazen advances on the reluctant Jasmine lead to a full-fledged affair.

It’s been generating chatter not only for its sexy subject matter, but its behind-the-scenes dedication to supporting female employment in the film industry.

Publicists boast of a “100 per cent all-female crew from top to bottom.”

It’s directed by Niagara Falls, Ont.-native April Mullen, with Fabrizi and producer Melissa Coghlan insisting the story could not have been told from a male perspective.

“It was really important that we shot the film through a female lens,” says Coghlan.

“One of the things that sets this film apart is that it is written by a woman, directed by a women, produced by women…. For us, we wanted to represent a woman’s love story, a woman’s experience, empower women from our perspective.”

But it wasn’t easy.

“Some of the positions were really, really hard to fill, you know, grip and electric, for instance,” says Coghlan, 43.

“A lot of the sort of technical crew positions, there aren’t a lot of women. And we were really, really lucky that we were able to assemble this fantastic crew. We had so many recommendations from people that I’d worked with, people that April had worked with, people who heard our story. A lot of guys that I had worked with in the past were calling me and saying, ‘I have somebody for you.”

What resulted is a “fearless and bold love story,” says Fabrizi.

“I just wanted something that you’ve never seen before in terms of how explicit yet real (it is) and not borrowing from pornography but borrowing from my experience as a woman and as a woman who has sex with women,” says the 34-year-old.

“This is a story about the city I live in and how I was free to experience queer relationships, to walk down the street holding the hand of another woman.”

The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 18.