Traverse City Film Festival: Lovelace, one of the most provocative and anticipated films of this year’s festival, was screened to a packed house at Lars Hockstad Thursday night. The energy and intrigue in the audience was tangible as the curtain rose to reveal the secrets of the tumultuous life of Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), proving the lasting power of fascination aroused by Deep Throat—the first mainstream pornographic film—over three decades ago. The film’s uncanny attention to period detail captures the grooviness and grit of the early 1970s as the sexual revolution swept and titillated the nation, with porn star Linda Lovelace as its poster girl. Lovelace explores both the phenomenon of Deep Throat, which broke box office records and changed the culture of American pornography forever, and the darker story behind the deeply complex woman who made it famous. Told in nonlinear, fragmentary narrative, Lovelace smartly portrays both the familiar, rose-tinted story of sex and success, and the haunting details of the abuse endured by Lovelace that she later admitted to in her autobiography. In a story that is both charming and heart wrenching, sexy and powerfully political, this tantalizing film depicts how Linda Lovelace was forced into becoming the world’s first porn star, and eventually escaped a life of oppression to become an empowered and inspiring spokeswoman of the feminist movement.

Following the film, co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, and producer Laura Rister gave an audience Q&A, giving behind-the-scenes insight into the casting of a controversial film, the process of digging at the truth of a story by telling it through multiple narratives, and why they felt that Linda Lovelace’s story was one that needed to be told. then sat down for an exclusive interview with Epstein and Friedman.

Ariana Hendrix: Based on your interpretation, who was Linda Lovelace?

Rob Epstein: She was just a girl who hooked up with a guy who very quickly got her into pornography, and then she became internationally famous within a year. Then she became a superstar and had to escape all of that and finally create another life for herself. So, she was a very complex and complicated person, and that’s the story we tell.

Jeffrey Friedman: We’re more interested in asking the question of who she is, really, rather than trying to answer it. I would like for people to think about that and talk about that.

AH: Based on the films you’ve both worked on in the past (Howl, The Times of Harvey Milk), you seem to be attracted to provocative human subjects. What compels you to tell these stories?

JF: Those are the subjects that interest us, and so those are the subjects that we tackle and that we find intriguing and important.

RE: The stories that interest us are very specific and particular, but within that, they have something to say about being human, in a way.

AH: What are your thoughts on sex in American cinema?

RE: I think it’s interesting that as a culture we seem to be so much more concerned with, and limited by, how we portray sexuality in cinema, but we have no qualms about how we portray violence. We can go as far as we want with that, but when it comes to sex, we’re squeamish. I think that’s just a reality. But even in this project, it’s hard to do sex in the cinema.

JF: And, we never saw this as a film about pornography or sex. The sexuality in the film is really psychological…it’s not really about sex acts, per se, but about [Linda] becoming free in her own body and then claiming her body.

RE: And then the sex scenes that we chose to depict from Deep Throat and have re-created are really just supposed to be fun.

AH: What attracted you to the Traverse City Film Festival, and what has your impression been since you arrived?

RE: We love it, here, we never want to leave!

JF: Michael [Moore] invited us to come and told us it was really great, and he was right! It’s spectacularly beautiful here, I had no idea. It seems like a jewel of a festival. You can sense that it’s a community-driven festival, and I think that people will want to keep coming as word of it continues to get out.

Lovelace will be released in theaters on August 9, 2013.