Fantasia Festival Review: Morgana

Year: 2019
Runtime: 71 minutes
Writers & Directors: Josie Hess & Isobel Peppard

By Morgan Roberts

Morgana Muses may outwardly appear to be your typical housewife and mother, but deep down, she is so much more. Directors Josie Hess and Isobel Peppard follow Muses, an adult film star, writer, and director, as she works on her films and comes to terms with her past.

I was not familiar with Muses before starting this film. Heck, I know nothing about the adult film industry. While the film is about her work and specific artistry, much of it is about her past. Muses grew up in a religious household, one which adhered to gender roles and expectations. Muses attempted to fit in the mold, but she was never really happy. Married with children, food her only companion, she had nowhere to turn. When her marriage fell apart, Muses’ mental health began to spiral.

Morgana Muses in Morgana (2019) Photo by Josie Hess – © House of Gary

Muses decides that she will end her life, but will do so after hiring an escort. She realizes that she craved human affection and intimacy. Rather than carrying out her plan, Muses decides to reclaim herself and her sexuality. She begins making adult films, specifically classified in the feminist pornography category. This movement rose in popularity due to adult filmmaker Petra Joy. There is an award named after her at the Berlin Porn Film Festival.

“Morgana” is interesting in the way it confronts taboo subject matter head on, and frames it as a means of empowerment.”

Throughout the film, we see Muses’ various works. From her initial film to her broadening her interests and desires. Muses was in her 40s when she started her adult film career. Just her existence in the industry inspired other women her age to explore adult filmmaking. Many industry people were impressed with her work, as she was embracing both her age and her sexuality. Moreover, Muses builds a family out of the members of her community. Disowned by her own, the colleagues and collaborators soon fill the void of the accepting family she never had.

However, there is more to Muses than her work. She had life-long struggles with her mental health, experiencing euphoric mania and extreme lows. They are points in the film where Muses cannot even get out of bed due to her depression. Muses is very honest about her mental health, and uses it as a way to connect with other people. 

Morgana Muses in Morgana (2019) © House of Gary Pty Ltd

“Morgana” is interesting in the way it confronts taboo subject matter head on, and frames it as a means of empowerment. While it would have been nice to see more people impacted by Muses’ work, and the way it has influenced other adult filmmakers, what Hess and Peppard have done is bring to a wider audience a woman re-inventing her life and give an honest snapshot of a human finding their way in the world.

“Morgana” will be showing at Fantasia Film Festival from 20th August to 2nd September.


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