A revealing documentary that covers two years in the life of Annabel Chong (nee Grace Quek). As Quek, she is a feminist who is receiving her bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California. As Chong, she is a porn actress who breaks a world record by having sex with two hundred and fifty-one men in a ten hour span (graphically chronicled in The World’s Largest Gangbang). The conflicting personas of Quek/Chong eventually come to blows, resulting in an emotional reunion with her mother in her native Singapore.
eyelights: its candid look at its subject.
eyesores: its lack of insight. its poor structure.
“There’s all these guys wanting to have sex with me. If that’s not an ego trip, I don’t know what is.”
I was once asked on a dating site “Is there such a thing as having had too many sex partners?”. My answer was “Yes, but it would have to be a lot!”. And I didn’t say that to give myself a free pass. It’s nothing like that.
Maybe it’s just me, but I have no issue with someone being hyper-sexual. Good for them, so long as it doesn’t pose physical and psychological health risks or cause disarray in their personal and professional lives.
But 251 is too many for me.
251 in ten hours, I mean.
That’s the number of men that Annabel Chong (née Grace Quek) had sex with on January 19, 1995, to set the world record for the biggest gangbang. Seriously. Look it up. Or better yet: watch the video documenting her feat.
Assuming it’s still in circulation, that is. (I didn’t check)
Personally, I don’t really see the point. Okay, you’ve proven that it can be done, but what’s the value of that, ultimately? Aside for showing stamina, it doesn’t require any skill that makes one remotely unique or admirable.
Thankfully, 1999’s ‘Sex: The Annabel Chong Story’ tries to provide insight into such an act; via candid interview footage with its subject, friends, relatives and peers, it attempts to explore Grace Quek’s psyche at the time.
It portrays an academically brilliant individual who makes poor decisions in her personal life, with many of her university teachers praising her essays, while a porn producer calls her a “babbling idiot” when she does interviews.
It’s this duality that’s so confounding about Quek in ‘The Annabel Chong Story’: On the one hand, she’s very hands on with respect to exploiting her porn image, seeming professional, but then she loses it completely on camera.
The worst was this interview on the Jerry Springer show, in which she seems half-crazed, perhaps doped to the gills (for all I know), defending her choices. Watching her was the least convincing argument for sound decision-making.
No one would be persuaded by this fool, let alone want to step in her shoes.
And this carries on from one interview to the next, as she and the people who know her provide various justifications for having chosen to do this gangbang, most of them wide-ranging and conflicting. It feels improvised.
Behind the scenes, nothing that Quek does convinces us that she’s made the right decision: There are even insider accounts of Chong being used, sucked dry of any money she made from her meteoric rise to the top of porndom.
There’s also rumour (if not evidence, based on her behaviour) of drug use, and there’s proof of her emotional instability in the self-harming that she does on camera, telling us that it’s the only way that she knows how to feel.
It’s hard to know where this all began, as the film never explores anything beyond a surface level. She does, however, take us to the site of her gang rape in London, while she was in college. Is this the source of her pain?
We will never know.
We also never grasp the true impact that having her record broken by Jasmin St. Claire, not even a year later, had on her. Although she seemed to take it all in stride, even showing up for the event, sadness appeared underlying.
Not that this was ever explored.
We never get to understand either Chong or Quek: We never go far back enough to get a proper history of Quek, though we explore her life to some degree by going to Singapore with her and visiting with her family and friends.
The most poignant part of the picture is when we discover that her mother, a TV kid’s show presenter, has no idea that her daughter’s become a notorious porn actress. Ouch. And it’s made even more gutting by an anonymous leak.
And although we see a weeping Grace and her mother talk it out as her bags are being packed, warned that she will have to “regain (her mother’s) dignity”, we are never given full access to the participants and their thoughts.
Or their hearts.
Grace Quek remains a mystery.
This video journal (“documentary” seems ill-fitting) isn’t even faithful to its title: Not only isn’t it focused on Grace Quek’s porn queen alter ego, Annabel Chong, but it doesn’t properly recount her origin and her whole story.
I was left with the impression that Quek was an intelligent but broken person, who tried her best to achieve something but didn’t have the talent to make her ambitions real (Heck, she wasn’t even a good actress by porn standards!).
I got the impression that she just hadn’t found her proper place in the world.
At least, not by 1999.
Ultimately, ‘Sex: The Annabel Chong Story’ is as scattered, as lost, as its namesake. Its on a quest for discovery, but it has no sense of direction, stabbing in multiple directions at once and never ever hitting its target.
And so it failed.
It’s an unfortunate outcome, in light of all that it had promised.
Date of viewing: August 13, 2016