I am heartbroken to report that Carlos Batts, the visionary art filmmaker best known in the porn world for his many collaborations with his muse (and wife) April Flores, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday night. He was forty years old. And he was a consummate artist, a brilliant director, and an exceptional human being.
I’ve spent some time with Carlos over the years, and though I always loved his work and tried to get nuggets of juicy information about the brain behind his films, he rarely said more than a few quiet words at a time. I peppered him with questions when I saw him, but he was always quiet and would defer to April to do most of the talking. I’ve known many people who spend a lot of time behind a camera, and I placed him into the “guy who lets his work do the talking,” shy type.
Until this past April at the Feminist Porn Conference in Toronto. On the first panel I attended, which I think was about diversity in feminist pornography, he spoke for the longest sustained period of time I’d ever witnessed. And some of what he said was brilliant. I’ve transcribed below, for the benefit of humanity. His films and his vision will continue to inspire the community in which he was an influential member, and I hope the words below will add to his memory.
“You make what you want to make, You see what you want to see. The guys in LA right now don’t care. So it’s like they don’t see us, they don’t know us, they just churn it out…. Sex exists in art. Real artists embrace the idea of moving sexual identity forward. I personally don’t like the term porn as an artist because it isolates the conversation.
“Somehow [Adam and Eve] ended up giving me a five-picture deal. I was like, “Wow, this is great! I don’t think they know what I do!” I was picturing people in North Carolina being like, “Why the hell do you have, like, black latin drag queens…? What are you doing?” Just like the most diverse cast in the entire history of their company. Behind the camera and in front of the camera. That was my goal. That’s how you infect the machine. You infect the machine by being on the inside. Because I was a professional, I had credentials, because I was focused on what I wanted to do.
“Women identified with what we were doing. With voluptuous women. All the fans started being way more diverse. The response was sometimes the absolute opposite of what I thought we were going to hear. We started to hear like, “We love what you’re doing!” “We live the lights on when we have sex now.” “We’ve never seen voluptuous women or women together! And directed by an African American director? That’s impossible.” That’s not possible. It doesn’t work. There are African American directors in porn that make urbanized, stereotypical porn that gets recycled all the time. Flash back to a friend talking to me before I went to LA like twenty years ago. He said to me, “Hey, when you go to LA, make sure you have some like forty ounces, and make it like real greasy, and like stereotypical porno.” (the audience laughs) But that’s like a real thought. But I want to see a black dude and a black woman have sex, and like he is not from the hood, and he is not going to rape or rob her. (audience chuckles again) That shit’s real. This is the first time I ever talked about race in porn, because I kind of look like an asshole. Because I want to get hired. Like I’m a professional, and I’m black, and I’m working. But I don’t identify with that. I try to separate myself from that. Like, I want to make my work. And I think it isolates me to make a very different kind of work. So I have to be the best, I have to be aware of what I’m doing so that I can continue to move forward. I’m not going to engage a person and say, “Hire more black people. Hire this kind of person.” I have to just be the best. And I can live with that.”
Rest in peace, Carlos. My thoughts are with your wife and your community.