Lara Roxx was a young wannabe porn star who decided that the best way to make a lot of money quickly in the adult film business was to uproot herself from Montreal and move to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, shortly after she got to the “City of Angels” one of her onscreen partners tested positive for HIV and she ended up testing positive as well. Lara’s life spun out of control after the news, and she has suffered from bouts of depression and drug addiction since.
Mia Donovan’s documentary, Inside Lara Roxx, follows Lara’s ups and downs over the course of the six years since she received the news. While there are elements of the film that are tough to watch, Donovan never exploits or looks down on Lara, and has a made a great film that will hopefully act as a warning to young women trying to break into the adult film industry.
Criticize This! spoke with Donovan about Inside Lara Roxx, which is playing at Hot Docs 2011. Read our Q&A below.
Brian McKechnie: How did you decide to cover the story of Lara?
Mia Donovan: At the time I was doing a photo series on sex workers in Montreal. And when I saw Lara on the news I felt really bad for her. I had met so many girls that reminded me a lot of her. I originally wrote her a letter asking if I could photograph her for the series I was working on. She got back to me a year later and we started talking. The next thing I knew I started documenting her, but I wasn’t sure I was going to do a movie.
BM: Was she hesitant being documented?
MD: No, she really wanted to do it but she was a little unstable as you see in the beginning of the movie. Because she was so burnt out it took about a year from when I first met her in the hospital to decide I could really do a documentary with her.
BM: What was the hardest part during the production for you?
MD: I guess the first few years it was whether or not I was being exploitative. After that it was difficult because our friendship became very intense and her life was so tumultuous. I guess the hardest was watching her during the drug period and not being able to do anything.
BM: You filmed for about six years. How did you know when a good time to end it was?
MD: I didn’t want to stop shooting until there was some resolution in her life. Otherwise it would have been just too bleak and depressing, and also unresolved. I guess I was waiting for her to come to some sort of peace as to what happened to her. It’s hard to explain but I just felt like it was the right time to stop.
BM: What surprised you most during the filming of the doc?
MD: L.A. was a bit surprising and anti-climatic in a way. I expected her story to resonate a bit more with people and it didn’t. People were willing to talk to us, but it seemed very easy for them to look at her and say, ‘Oh, well. She’s just one in 18 people who has ever contracted HIV [in the adult film industry]. It’s not really an issue.’ And less people use condoms today than they did in 2004. That was the most surprising.
BM: Has Lara seen the final film? If so, what did she think of it?
MD: She was very happy with it. She cried, and was very proud of it. She wants to share it with people who are in rehab, and she has a lot of ideas of how to use it as a vehicle for her to do outreach with people. I listened to her a lot over the years, and she’s seen different versions, and she understood the concept of the documentary and that it wasn’t going to be a picture-perfect film.
BM: Did you ever find yourself worrying about her or getting caught-up in her lifestyle during production?
MD: Quite a bit the last few years. When she was living with her boyfriend and doing a lot of drugs. If I didn’t hear from her for a few weeks I’d get very worried. And I got close with her mother and sister during that time because there were times that it got pretty bad. She’s like a little sister to me at this point.
BM: What do you hope the audience gets out of the film?
MD: When we first started the film I was inspired to make young women aware of the risks of getting involved in porn and just how dangerous a lot of these agents can be. But now, I guess… if you read a story about someone like Lara in the newspaper or something it’s very easy to dismiss these type of people or individuals. I just hope people will have a bit more understanding about the humanity behind these stories now.
BM: What are following up Inside Lara Roxx with?
MD: I have a stepbrother who was de-programmed from a cult in the early 90s so I want to do a film about de-programming and cults. It’s a bit more of a complex idea than this film.
Inside Lara Roxx plays Hot Docs on Thursday, May 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema, Friday, May 6 at 9:45 p.m. at the Cumberland 2, and Sunday, May 8 at 9:30 p.m. at The Royal Cinema. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit hotdocs.ca.
Top image: A scene from Inside Lara Roxx. Courtesy Hot Docs.