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Canada & Ireland Censors Show Way For NZ

Parental Or Adult Guidance On The Passion Of The Christ By Canadian And Irish Censors Shows Way For Revised NZ Censorship

The Film and Literature Board of Review is holding a hearing at 1.00 p.m. on Monday 15 March 2004 at the Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, in relation to review the classification of Oscar award-winning producer Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. The R16 classification given to the film by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, headed by Chief Censor, Mr Bill Hastings, is being appealed by the NZ distributor, Hoys Distribution, with the backing of Mr Gibson's company Icon Productions.

The Society's president, Mr Mike Petrus, says that "the Board of Review should take careful note of the [following] highly relevant classification decisions, particularly Alberta’s Censor’s point that the violence depicted is ‘mitigated by historical context and reverent tone’". (In an article published in the NZ Herald on 27 February the Society dealt with the issues of violence and its historical context as opposed to "gratuitous violence", in terms of the classification of The Passion).

Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ has been opened to young teenagers accompanied by parents or guardians in recent classification decisions in Canada and Ireland, confirming similar censorship ratings in Australia (MA15+ allowing those under 15 years to attend if accompanied by parent or guardian) and the United States (those under 17 years can attend if accompanied by parent or guardian). The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification, in its decision dated 17 February 2004, noted that "In relation to these depictions [of ‘scourging’ and ‘crucifixion of Jesus’] ‘the overall viewing impact does not exceed strong’ [and] found that The Passion of the Christ sits firmly within the MA15+ classification" See:

NZ’s Chief Censor, Mr Hastings, who was born in Canada and spent much of his earlier career there before coming to NZ to take up a position in the Victoria University Law Department, has regularly highlighted the Ontario Classification Office as one that our own Classification Office should supposedly model itself on, due to what he claims is its close adherence to human rights issues and a proper consideration of issues of freedom of expression. The NZ Government Administration Committee has seemingly taken up his Office’s submissions and recommended, as he points out in his recent Office’s Annual Report (p. 10), that "the Government investigate the suitability of the Canadian province of Ontario as an ‘overseas classification authority’ from which ratings could be taken."

The Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB) has given it a classification: 18A [persons under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult] Warnings: Brutal Violence; Gory Scenes. (See: )

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards would have no problem with this classification.

In Quebec La Regie Du Cinema Du Quebec (RCQ) has given it a classification: 13 years + [persons under 13 years of age must be accompanied by an adult] with warnings of violence. (See: )

British Columbia's Film Classification Office (FCO) has given it a classification: 18A [persons under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult] with warnings: Explicit Violence; May Offend Some Religious Groups. (See: ).

[NOTE: British Columbia's Film Classification Office classifies and censors movies on behalf of Saskatchewan and the Yukon.]

Alberta's Film Classification And Arts Education has classified the film: 18A [persons under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult] with warnings: Brutal And Gory Violence; Disturbing Content: Content Elements: i) frightening depictions of demons; ii) frequent, intense bloody beatings in a context of ridicule and scorn; iii) prolonged, detailed portrayal of torture by flogging - bloody wounds; iv) portrayal of death by crucifixion - broken bones, bloody wounds, intense agony. Its Classification Rationale: Rated 18A for intense depictions of torture and brutality, mitigated by historical context and reverent tone.

(See: )

[NOTE: Alberta's Film Classification and Arts Education classifies and censors movies on behalf of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.]

Ireland’s censor has issued a 15PG certificate for The Passion of the Christ and has taken the rare step of issuing a reason.

John Kelleher said he did not believe that director Mel Gibson's purpose was anti-Semitic and the film was not related to "Jewish people in general".

He said the film would be relevant to people in Ireland, but urged caution about its scenes of "explicit cruelty".

The Passion of the Christ is to be released in the Republic of Ireland on 12 March.

'Personal statement'

In his statement Kelleher - a film producer appointed last April - says that The Passion is "clearly a strong personal statement of the director's own religious faith".

He describes Mel Gibson's film - a graphic depiction of Jesus Christ's last hours and crucifixion - as "a serious cinematic dramatisation of an event that goes to the core of belief of very many people in Ireland".

Mr Kelleher told BBC News Online that it was "pretty rare" of him to explain his decisions in public.

"I intend to do so on a regular basis if there is something relating to a film which I believe consumers (principally parents) should be aware of," he said.

(See: )

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