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Film Festival Not Victim of Malice as Claimed

Press Release Friday 12 July 2002

Film Festival Not Victim of Malice as Claimed

Mr Bill Gosden, Director of the NZ International Film Festival, has accused SPCS of “maliciousness” in the timing of its applications to have the classification decisions on two opening night films reviewed by the Film and Literature Board of Review. In his submission to the Board President Ms Claudia Elliott, posted on the Film Festival website, he also describes the Society’s tactics as “vicious”.

The President of the Society Rev. Gordon Dempsey says “the Society rejects allegations made against it that the timing of the applications for review are motivated by malice and that its tactics are vicious.” He argues that “the function of a public watch dog such as the Society is to do its job properly at the appropriate time. It has done this by making its applications as soon as it obtained copies of the classification decisions from the Office of Film and Literature Classification, researched the issues involved and had the application approved by the Society executive. It has alerted the Board president of its concerns over certain film classifications and sought reviews as it is entitled to do under the law. It has done this well within the 30-day period of appeal following the publication of the decisions, as it is required to do under the Act.” Furthermore, Dempsey notes: “The Secretary for Internal Affairs, Mr Christopher Blake, has taken the view that the Society’s first two applications are ‘neither frivilous nor vexatious’ and granted it leave to make the appeals. SPCS has sought interim restrictions orders as it is entitled to do under the law as soon as leave was granted for review by the secretary. The granting of the order rests with the president not the Society.”

The Piano Teacher.

The classification decision on the film “The Piano Teacher” was registered by the Office of Film & Literature Classification (OFLC) on 17 June 2002. It will be published next week in the List of Decisions for June, on Monday 15 July 2002. Under the Films, Videos and Publications Act 1993 (the Act) the OFLC cannot issue the list of published summary decisions to the public before the 10th working day of the month immediately after the decision has been registered. Under the Act an applicant seeking a review by the Film & Literature Board of Review of a classification decision made by the OFLC, has only thirty working days from the date of publication of the List of Decisions, to apply for a review. With respect to the film “The Piano Teacher” the Society has until 30th July 2002 to make application to the secretary of Internal Affairs seeking a review.

The Society lodged its application on 9 July well within the 30-day appeal period. It had no prior knowledge of how long it would take for leave to be granted by the secretary or even if it would be granted. Leave must be granted before an application under s. 49 of the Act can be made by the applicant for an interim restriction order and only after the application fee has been paid. The latter can only be done after leave has been granted.

The full classification decision on the film “The Piano Teacher” was released to the applicant for the classification, in this case the Film Festival organisers, soon after the decision was recorded in the list on 17 June. The Society had no way of knowing that the decision on this particular film had been made at that time. The Society only managed to get a copy of this OFLC full decision on 8 July from the Classification Office.

An application to the Secretary of Internal Affairs seeking leave for a review requires the applicant to establish a ‘prima facie’ case that a review is warranted. The OFLC classification decision number must be given on the application form as well as the date the decision was registered and the month it was published. This information can only be obtained by gaining access to the OFLC decision.

Prior to making the application the Society also had to establish if there was a need for a review. This requires extensive research and careful planning on the part of the Society which operates on the basis of executive decisions made in committee. There are costs to be considered by the committee as each application cost $200.00 with considerable expense incurred in preparing a legal case before the Board of Review by way of written and oral presentations.

The Society only obtained a copy of the Wellington Film Festival booklet in late June and began making enquiries of the Classification Office as soon as concerns were raised and could be brought before its committee for consideration so that a decision could be made concerning any applications for reviews.

Based on information from the Classification Office Information Unit some classification decisions on some of the film festival features have yet to be completed. The decision on the film “Mulholland Drive” had not been registered when enquiries were made on Tuesday 9 July.

The timing of the Society’s application for interim restriction orders is in line with its role as a public watchdog. A watchdog that barks after a burglar has plundered the home and left the property is not doing its job! Material that is judged “injurious to the public good” by the President of the Film & Literature Board of Review can be put off limits to the public, temporarily, pending a review. The Society’s task is to alert the President of public concerns and possible breaches of the censorship laws.

Y Tu Mamá También

The decision on the film “Y Tu Mamá También” was registered by the Classification Office on 20 May 2002. It first became available to the public by way of the List of Decisions for May 2002 published on Tuesday 18 June. The Society obtained a copy of the List of Decisions about this time. As noted above the Society did not get access to the Wellington Film Festival brochure until late June. It requested a copy of the full OFLC decision on the Mexican film on 1 July and received a copy that day via e-mail.

The application to the secretary of Internal Affairs with respect to this film was made soon after once the matter had been thoroughly researched and the committee consulted. The President of the Society Rev. Gordon Dempsey and Vice President Dr David Hutchison were involved in the latter stages of the preparation of the applications.

Brief Crossing

The decision to make application for a review with respect to the film “Brief Crossing” was only able to be made after the Society accessed information from the OFLC decision which it first obtained on 8 July 2002. The application was made today 11 July. Again it could have been weeks before the secretary granted the Society leave to appeal. The Society has operated in accordance with the intention of parliament as embodied in the Act.

Contact: SPCS PO Box 13-683 Johnsonville


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