Review Of Baise-Moi Classification Ordered In Oz
22 April 7.30 pm
Review Of Baise-Moi (“F*** Me”) Classification Ordered By Australian Attorney General
In a News Release yesterday Australian Federal Attorney General, the Hon. Daryl Williams AM QC MP, has requested that the Classification Review Board review the R18+ classification of the French sex-violence film Baise-Moi. This decision has followed a number of representations to him concerning the film, including one from the New Zealand-based Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc. The Society secretary David Lane wrote to the Australian Prime Minister John Howard on the matter in a 3-page fax sent on Wednesday 17 April 2002 and copied it to the Hon. Daryl Williams, Hon Michael Atkinson MP, Attorney-General of South Australia, and Hon. Bob Debus, Attorney-General of NSW, with covering letters.
The film Baise-Moi is to have had its premiere in Australia later this week in Sydney and Melbourne. The Society informed Prime Minister John Howard of the interim restriction order imposed on the film by Justice Hammond in Wellington and supplied him with a copy of a transcript of a radio interview with our Chief Censor, Mr Bill Hastings, in which he admitted that after he first viewed the film, he formed the view that it was definitely injurious to the public good and should be banned outright if the NZ censorship laws were to be applied properly. The NZ Film & Literature Board of Review classified it R18 with no further restrictions, a decision now supported publicly by Mr Hastings.
The National President of the Festival of Light, Dr David Phillips wrote to the Australian federal Attorney-General Hon. Daryl Williams on 11 April requesting him “to initiate an immediate review by the Film Review Board of the classification of the French film Baise-Moi.” He pointed out that the film’s distributors, Filmfixx, have issued the following warning: “This film contains prolonged sex scenes of an extremely explicit nature and scenes of graphic violence, which some viewers may find shocking and disturbing.” He also wrote:
Since Baise-Moi contains prolonged explicit sex scenes, it would normally be classified “X” (and be available only in the Northern Territory and the ACT). However Baise-Moi also contains explicit, graphic sexual violence including rape. The film classification guidelines state that in films rated R, “sexual violence may only be implied and should not be detailed; depictions must not be frequent, gratuitous or exploitative…” The guidelines also state that in films rated X, there shall be “no depiction of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion…” The guidelines say that films will be classified RC (Refused Classification – i.e. banned) if they contain “gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed; sexual violence; ..”
Dr Phillips argued that the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) “appears to have departed from the classification standards when it classified the film “R” – freely available to anyone in Australia aged 18 or over – despite clear contra-indications in the OFLC guidelines.” He concludes his letter:
The Australian public has a right to expect that the OFLC will follow its guidelines – otherwise why have guidelines? Why have the OFLC at all? The circumstances surrounding the decision are exceptional and justify an appeal to the Film Board. Would you please initiate an appeal against the “R” classification of the film Baise-Moi, lest this decision set a dangerous precedent for the future.
The Australian OFLC made its decision on Baise-Moi on 4 October 2001 in a majority decision of 6 votes to 5. The reasons given for its classification of Baise-Moi “R18+ (Strong sexual violence, high level violence, actual sex, adult themes)”, directly contravene the R18+ guidelines (quoted above).
The Hon. Daryl Williams carefully read the decision of the Board and in his News Release today stated:
I was persuaded that there is an arguable issue about whether Baise-Moi ought to have been classified R18+ and that there is merit in seeking a review of the Board’s interpretation of the guidelines. I am also conscious of the diverse reaction to classification of the film in overseas jurisdictions.
New standing provisions for “persons aggrieved” by a decision of the OFLC came into effect in Australia in March 2002 and these have been taken into account in granting this relief to the applicants for review. These provisions are found in s. 43 of the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 and enable groups like Festival of Light to seek a review of an OFLC decision.
According to Mrs Roslyn Phillips, Research Officer for Festival of Light (SA), this is the first time the Hon Daryl Williams has asked the Film Review Board to review an OFLC decision, of his own accord. He has only ever acted before after having been asked to do so by a state Attorney General. Our Society is delighted that the federal Attorney General has ordered a review of the Baise-Moi classification decision.