Skip to content

Plot: two friends reconnect and engage in a passionate, steamy affair.

Historically there are two ways for directors to get their foot in the door. That’s either by doing a horror (typically a slasher because of how cost efficient they tend to be) or a raunchy comedy. Miguel Chávez chose the latter for his debut and My Cousin the Sexologist (released domestically as Mi Prima La Sexòloga) marketed itself as “erotic comedy” while nothing comedic ever actually transpires. To nobody’s surprise it was critically savaged and subject of some controversy back at home in Bolivia because of its crude depiction of sexuality and relationships. Both the director and lead star drew the ire of various domestic women’s interests groups and feminist organizations. My Cousin the Sexologist is frustratingly episodic and completely uneventful, and when it’s not it frequently forgets what it is supposed, or promises, to be. Despite all that it was somehow deemed commercially viable enough to secure a domestic theatrical release. The controversy was strong enough to generate interest outside of Bolivia and allegedly at some point there were talks for an American spin-off. It has found its way onto various on-demand and streaming services around the world since. If nothing else, it’s custodian to the urban hit song 'Dale No Pares' by MaJeLo (for which Chávez directed the music video, with Stephanie Herela co-starring). Not bad for a cheap shot-on-video drama resembling a 90-minute pilot to an unproduced telenovella.

Chávez had earlier directed the controversial “100% cuero” ad campaign for Corimexo furniture that lasted (and continues to last) several years. The ads featured popular domestic models Maricruz Rivera (2007), Gabriela Catoira (2009), Pamela Justiniano (2012), and Daniela Lopez (2012) cavorting and lounging around in skimpy lingerie or sometimes even less. The most famous model to appear in said campaign was Stephanie Herela. Herela participated in the 2014 Miss Bolivian Tropic beauty pageant, underwent liposuction and breast enlargement either sometime before or after, and from there parlayed her newfound fame into a lucrative career as brand ambassador, corporate hostess, social media influencer, television personality, dancer, and all-around internet babe. As the Bolivian Stormi Maya or Fernanda Urrejola (with all the curves but without any of the talent) it was all but inevitable that la Stephanie would take up acting. Not only would she star in Chávez’ debut feature, but she would also do her own make-up and provide her own wardrobe. In return Chávez bombarded her to executive producer position as a bonus. Likewise is Kimberly Aguilera also a popular Instagram model but she not nearly has the same clout as Herela has.

Manuel (Andrès Salvatierra) is a bachelor living in the province of Beni who for the past several days has been receiving persistent anonymous calls on his cell phone. His roommate and best friend Marco (Majelo Quiroz) suggests he answer the next call to see what all the fuzz is about. Before long his cell is ringing again and on the other end he hears the sensual voice of Maria Helena or Malena (Stephanie Herela), the girl who he had been carrying a torch for and who he hasn’t seen in over a decade, informing him that she’s now a “well-known and popular” sexologist in Buenos Aires, Argentina and that she will be returning to her old stomping grounds in Santa Cruz for a two-week vacation. Malena invites Manuel over to her studio so they can have a few laughs, some drinks, and catch up on old times and each other’s lives. On the first night the two exchange the usual formalities and there’s electricity in the air. Malena who brings up the idea to meet again as much as they can over the next two weeks. Malena is struggling to apply her studies in a way that her family can understand, and what better subject than her good friend Manuel? Manuel, bewildered that an attractive woman like Malena would be interested in him, is so distracted that he completely forgets about the dinner date he agreed to with his ex-girlfriend Verónica (Kimberly Aguilera) which understandably leads to some friction between the two. Over the next two weeks Manuel continues to see Malena and the two engage in a passionate affair. Manuel and Malena go shopping in company of his son Manuelito (Thiago Ribera) and Malena introduces him to her metro/homosexual best friend Francesco (Joaquín Machado Foianini) who, of course, makes a pass on him. Will Malena follow her heart and be with Manuel or follow the money and prioritize her career as a sexologist?

What started as a pithless exercise in comedy that makes the Gloria Guida canon look like that of Laura Antonelli suddenly and without warning explodes into a instructional feature. My Cousin the Sexologist devotes most of its second act to Herela explaining (in easily manageable 5-10 minute vignettes, ideal for classroom usage) half a dozen sexuality - and psychology-related concepts in a pseudo-scientific manner. Which, by all means, is a good thing since sexual education in Latin America differs greatly from country to country, and is non-existent wherever religious institutions are the arbiters of morality. This, after all, is not a shameless “exposé” on the School Girl Report (1970) model but an instructional feature for which there was a widespread and specialized market in the forties and fifties before the advent of television. After that brief detour My Cousin the Sexologist regains its composure and awkwardly limps to the conclusion. It will make you wish for the humid sleaze of Eleven Days Eleven Nights (1987) and Top Model (1988), the playfulness of the average Gloria Guida romp, the zaniness of an Edwige Fenech bedroom farçe, or the sensual scabbiness of an Isabel Sarli flick. None of which My Cousin the Sexologist has. At least there’s Stephanie Herela and her pneumatically enhanced and frequently disrobed form. Not even that is enough to save My Cousin the Sexologist from feeling directionless and on the wrong side of cheap.

The screenplay was written over a two-month period in late 2015 and early 2016. Production was scheduled for eight weeks from March into April that year with a skeleton cast and crew consisting largely of enthusiastic volunteers and first-timers in front as well as behind the camera. Post-release Herela found herself in hot water for appearing in the Corimexo ad campaign that had her lounging around furniture in the nude. This, understandably, generated criticism from women’s interests groups and feminist organizations. One such group Mujeres Creando filed a formal complaint against executives of Corimexo and director Miguel Chávez for psychological and media violence. Protests erupted both on social media and on a grass roots level with the collective outrage effecting the removal of the ad from various platforms and Corimexo censoring the advertisement for their special collection of sofas and leather chairs. Miguel Chávez hasn’t directed anything since, and in 2017 Herela produced/starred in a web mini-series called El Sexo Según Stephanie (or Sex According to Stephanie) and has continued to prosper as both a model and as an influencer on social media.

Which sort of brings up our second point of contention: how can a Bolivian production not exploit the palm trees, sunny beaches, and cultural hotspots to its advantage? Herela’s bikini pictures are the stuff of legend - and not once is she seen sporting one. My Cousin the Sexologist takes place in beautiful Santa Cruz yet is almost exclusively set in a featureless condominium complex and one street that could be literally anywhere. This is a problem that could have easily been solved by the inclusion of royalty-free stock footage or a bout of guerrilla filmmaking. Cine-S classic The Hot Girl Juliet (1981) (with Eva Lyberten, Andrea Albani, and Vicky Palmas) was at least as dirt cheap – and even they took to the beaches and to the streets in between the bedroom scenes. The Room (2003) has higher production values, as does the median Emanuelly Raquel , Lorena Brink, or Reya Reign video for that matter. Hell, even Neil Breen is not nearly as cheap as this. On the plus side, if you want to learn the ins and outs of Bolivian Spanish allegedly the enunciation here is very clear. Supposedly My Cousin the Sexologist provides excellent examples of speech, sayings and slang for adult Spanish learners. When that’s not the case Herela’s wiggling her huge plump ass, or Salvatierra is taking his shirt off.

It’s bad enough when a comedy isn’t funny and it’s even worse when a soft erotic romp isn’t sexy. My Cousin the Sexologist fails miserably on both counts. No wonder then that la Herela has quietly shelved whatever acting aspirations she had. What has become of Miguel Chávez is presently unclear. It would be entirely plausible that he quit the film business altogether after this debacle and returned to the world of advertising. Either that, or he has been brooding on a new project in the years since. What is clear is that Stephanie Herela could be so much more than just a model and influencer, if somebody would only hire her in a feature that played up to her strengths. Here’s hoping that Benjamin Combes, Pedring A. Lopez, or Ernesto Díaz Espinoza will see it fit to bring Herela out of retirement for a proposed sequel to Commando Ninja (2018), Maria (2019), or Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman (2012). Either that or Rene Perez should consider her (and Kimberly Aguilera, for that matter) for the next episode in his ongoing Playing with Dolls and/or Cabal (2020) sagas. If Christina Lindberg, Gloria Guida, and Andrea Albani could have careers, why not Stephanie?

Plot: everything is not well in casa Gustafsson. Hilarity ensues!

In what is either Sweden’s biggest cult classic or the ultimate kalkonklassiker Rötmånad (or Dog Days, rated X and released in specialized blue-film grindhouses across North America as the more poetic What Are You Doing After the Orgy?) Christina Lindberg, the biggest domestic export and soon-to-be sexploitation queen, can be seen giving her best performance ever and often with very little in the way of clothes (although not always in that order necessarily) in what is her best offering by a wide margin. Rötmånad (Dog Days hereafter) is a comedy in tune with the times, and something that could’ve just as easily have been made in Great Britain, Germany, or Italy. There isn’t much worth recommending in the early Lindberg canon but Dog Days is the exception. Indicative of where la Lindberg’s career was heading, Dog Days is rife with the blackest of humour and there’s plenty of naked Christina for everybody to go around.

Christina Lindberg was a former archeology student that took to nude modelling, and was a Penthouse Pet (June, 1970). Like Leena Skoog before her Lindberg and her voluptuous figure were bound to attract the attention of producers, and she debuted in the inauspicious Dog Days in 1970. In 1973 she released her photo book This Is Christina Lindberg by her photographer and soon-to-be husband Bo Sehlberg. By the end of the decade Lindberg had to make a choice; stay employed and graduate into hardcore (the way Marie Forså and Marina Hedman did) or change careers. Christina chose the latter, retrained herself to become a journalist and now is the driving force behind the n° 1 aviation magazine in Sweden.

The men behind Dog Days were the duo of Bengt Forslund and Olle Nordemar. Forslund gave Lasse Hallström his first directorial features after his music video work with/for ABBA and Nordemar was a specialist in family/kids movies. In the late sixties he introduced Inger Nilsson and her iconic Pippi Longstocking to the world with a television series based on the Astrid Lindgren novels, followed almost immediately by a threatrical movie, and no less than three sequels. Forslund and Nordemar chose Jan Halldoff to direct as he had a knack for social realist comedies and dramas, often (but not always) involving youth culture of the day. Very much like Skoog in her Laila (17 år) (1969) reels there’s something very cinema verité the way Halldorf photograps Lindberg, and there didn’t seem to be much acting, or anything, involved. Even without the benefit of subtitling or English dubbing Dog Days is a pretty funny affair – and the title becomes crystal clear when its Darwinistic streak kicks in…

Somewhere in the rural environs of Sandhamn in Värmdö Municipality on the Stockholm Archipelago barber Assar Gustafsson (Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt) has been spending the summer with his 17-year old daughter Anna-Bella (Christina Lindberg) and family dog Ludde at their vacation home. They experience a rude awakening from their quiet, idyllic life in the country far away from civilization when Assar’s wife and Anna-Bella’s mother Sally (Ulla Sjöblom) – the town prostitute, believed missing (and presumed dead) for the last 5 years – makes a sudden and unexpected return. When Sally discovers that Anna-Bella has blossomed into beautiful young woman she promptly announces her plan to start a brothel out of the bathhouse. She immediately starts grooming the uninhibited Anna-Bella who’s prone to walking around the house semi-nude, so Sally arranges an assessing man (Curt L. Malmsten) and a photographer (Jan Blomberg) to make the most out of the situation. She uses Anna-Bella to attract customers to her cathouse and Assar is blackmailed into working as a waiter. The brothel becomes an overnight success thanks to Anna-Bella’s silent presence.

The brothel, and the coming and going of various guests (Gunnar 'Knas' Lindkvist and Christer Jonsson), and the naked shenanigans of the mostly mute Anna-Bella attract the attention not only of their neighbour Jansson (Ernst Günther), and a Finlander in a rowboat (Frej Lindqvist) but also that of Jan (Eddie Axberg). Almost immediately sparks fly between Jan and Anna-Bella. Having had enough Sally murders Jan in cold blood on the grounds that as a prostitute Anna-Bella can’t afford the luxury of emotions and that Jan was a nuisance. Assar is none too happy when he gets wind what Sally has done, and rigs her love-nest explode to ensure her permanent absence and a return to their quiet country life from before. Learning of Jan’s death Anna-Bella metes out retribution by killing her mother. One day a tortured Assar is installing a lightning rod Sally had continually bugged him about, and is electrocuted in doing so. Memorial arrangements are made with the priest (Carl-Axel Elfving), and the only way Anna-Bella knows how of repaying friendly mortician Ivar Frid (Bo Halldoff) is by offering her body. They retreat to Sally’s dynamite-rigged love-nest and everything explodes. In the aftermath of this series of unfortunate events only family dog Ludde remains….

Scandinavia has always had a far more liberated, relaxed, and not nearly as repressed attitude towards nudity and sexuality compared to the rest of Europe and the North American continent. Denmark and Sweden were considered the Mecca of hedonism and both took an active role as a pioneer in the bridging the gap between soft – and hardcore pornography. They welcomed Joe Sarno when he was exiled from America in the late sixties and graced the world with the likes of Solveig Andersson, Marie Forså, Leena Skoog, Margareta Sjödin, Marina Hedman, and Marie Liljedahl. Canada had the maple syrup porn of Valérie (1968) (with Danielle Ouimet) and Sweden had Inga (1968) and the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels. The rise of Christina Lindberg coincided with the halcyon days of the bawdy sex comedy in such places as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. So, it’s no wonder that miss Lindberg ended up in one of the many Schoolgirl Report (1970) sequels years later. Denmark was one of the first countries to legalize hardcore pornography in 1969, but the sexploitation genre took a blow only when the rest of Europe followed suit about ten years later. There was a brief revival of the genre during the early-to-mid 1980s with the Cine-S in Spain and the Brazilian pornochanchada, but they were quickly made redundant with the wide availability of the harder format in the then-booming home video market.

And what other reason to seek out Dog Days than to see Christina Lindberg in her prime? Compared to her sometime colleague and contemporary Leena Skoog, Lindberg is something of a boorish bore. Whereas Skoog illuminated the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels with her radiant sensuality, carefree uninhibitness, and considerable girlish charm Lindberg doesn’t generate so much as a pulse at the best of times. Skoog would go on to star in Britain’s first 3-D film Four Dimensions of Greta (1972) from Pete Walker whereas Lindberg would star in ugly and kinda nihilistic sexploitationers as Exponerad (1971), Maid In Sweden (1971), Thriller - A Cruel Picture (1973), Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973), and Wide Open (1974). The things Christina appeared in make you wish she found a footing in Germany, Great Britain, or Italy, who at least made their sex comedies lighthearted, full of slapstick and, well, fun. There’s more than plenty of naked Christina for anyone to go around in all of her movies, but none of them are particularly worth revisiting after an initial viewing. Gloria Guida also consistently made churlish sex comedies – but at least they were fun, and for every more melodramatic one there was a lighthearted romp with Lino Banfi in return. No such thing was the case with Lindberg’s career that went from bad to worse in the span of just a few years. No wonder Christina called it a day at the dawn of the eighties, alhough she would have found a home in Spain’s shortlived Cine-S circuit. Oh well, at least it’s good to see her get reappraised in recent years thanks to Quentin Tarantino.

It’s a question for the ages why Dog Days was released with an X rating in North America. Outside of Lindberg’s near-constant state of undress there’s nothing particularly explicit about it. Next to that, this wasn’t a case of The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973), Malabimba (1979), or Satan’s Baby Doll (1982) either where the presence of hardcore inserts would condemn it automatically to a universally fatal X-rating and thus to a release exclusively in the sex cinemas on 42nd street and practically no marketing campaign worthy of the name. Nor did it have to compete for attention on the home video market (as that was still a decade away) or see only limited threatrical release and distribution across the Atlantic as many Italian titles had to a decade later. Dog Days is an anomaly of sorts in the early Christina Lindberg canon and it was indicative of exactly in what type of movies she would make a name for herself. Which sorts of begs an additional question: what would have become of Christina had Tinto Brass discovered her at the dawn of the eighties? Would she have become the Swedish Serena Grandi, Luciana Ottoviani, or Debora Caprioglio? One thing is certain: Dog Days is Christina’s best film… and you should really see it, if you can.