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Delay Promotes ''Irreversible'' Anal Rape

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards Inc.
P.O. Box 13-683 Johnsonville
Press Release
6 September 2004

Board President’s Delay Promotes ''Irreversible'' Anal Rape

Today, one month after the Society applied to the President of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Ms Claudia Esther Elliott, for an interim restriction order (an injunction) against the French extreme-violence-anal-rape film ''Irreversible'', the president has issued a decision refusing to grant the order. The Society made its most recent application for the order as it was entitled to do, under s. 49 of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 (“the Act”), on 5 August 2004, after having first been granted “leave” by the Secretary of Internal Affairs to have the classification of the film reviewed by the Board. The film began screening on 5 August 2004 in Wellington and Auckland at the Rialto Cinemas and a little later at the Rialto Cinema in Christchurch.

Ms Elliott’s tardy response by way of a decision issued on 17 August 2004 that refused the Society’s application for the injunction was subsequently found to contain two serious legal errors following a judicial review (initiated promptly by the Society [the plaintiff] following receipt of the president’s flawed decision). The errors were identified in a High Court decision issued at 4.15 p.m. on Friday 27th of August 2004 by the Hon. Justice Mackenzie (for decision see appendix). He ordered the president (the first defendant) to correct the errors and reissue the decision in the light of the High Court’s ruling.

Today’s decision by the president refusing to grant the order, means that there is nothing to stop further theatrical release of the film in New Zealand up until late October 2004 when the Board meets to consider the re-classification of the film. There is also nothing to stop it being released at any time after that meeting unless the Board classifies the film “objectionable”. Board decisions can take up to nine months to issue (e.g. Living Word)
Society president Mike Petrus says:

“The Society has lost all faith in the integrity of the review process and wonders why the Board is even bothering to meet to consider the Society’s submissions on “Irreversible”. Of course it must, as it has a statutory duty to do so under the Act. However, the president’s decision completely sullies the integrity of the review process giving the distributor open slather to promote material that is injurious to the public good and her decision prejudges the case advanced by the Society that the film should be classified objectionable, before the full Board can consider the evidence.

“The film was allowed to run continuously for up to four and five times a day while the president dithered around wrestling with the issues of whether or not to preserve the integrity of the review process and safeguard the public from injury through exposure to gratuitous depictions of brutal sexual violence and graphic violence juxtaposed with sex scenes.

Section 48 of the Act states: “Every application under subsection (1) of this section shall be dealt with as soon as practicable.” [by the president of the Board]. Following the ruling by the Hon. Justice Mackenzie, the president sought further submissions from the parties to assist her make today’s decision. The Society protested to the president over this further deliberate delay through its solicitor, indicating that it would not be making submissions. The deadline set by the president for submissions was set for 1 September 2004, the day the president knew the Rialto screenings would come to an end (based on website schedules supplied to the High Court by the Society).

The film “Irreversible” was released well before the 30 working day review period commenced – a period in which applicants can apply for interim restriction orders.

This is not the first time errors of law have been identified in the president's decisions, by a High Court judge. Last year the Hon. Justice Ronald Young found that legal errors had been made by Ms Claudia Esther Elliott in her two decisions relating to the films "Ken Park" and "Irreversible". Both decisions by the president denied the Society the interim restriction orders they had applied for in respect of these two films. (The film "Irreversible" was classified in April 2003 and that decision was subject to a reconsideration by the Classification Office in July 2004 that resulted in a widening of its availability to mainstream cinemas under its new R18 classification).

The Department of Internal Affairs website indicates that there are now four other organisations and an individual, besides the Society, that have applied for leave to have the classification of "Irreversible" reviewed: VoTE (Viewers of Television Excellence); VISION Network (NZ) - a grouping of 350 NZ evangelical churches; Rape Crisis (Auckland) Inc. and PROMOTION (a Wellington-based organisation) and Ms Linda Marieskind, a NZ registered psychologist have applied for leave. (Auckland Rape Crisis Inc. was the fourth defendant in the judicial review that was considered by Mackenzie J.)

All of these applicants submit that "Irreversible" should be classified "objectionable" under s. 3(2) of the Act or be refused classification until significant excisions are made to the film to remove objectionable content The Society submitted the following review of the film "Irreversible" by NZ gay activist Chris Banks, to the president for consideration, entitled:

"Homophobic horror and disgust".


The following are extracts from Mr Bank’s review......

“This is a simple warning to anyone considering attending "Irreversible" ......... don't go.

"Irreversible" is the most brutally homophobic film ever released. Its art-house pretensions have fooled many reviewers, but director Gaspar Noe's own words in interviews have revealed this picture for the provocative, dehumanising trash that it is…..

The film opens with two men being led from a club called "Rectum". One is on a stretcher with his arm broken, the other seems OK but is handcuffed by police. A crowd of onlookers hurl a tirade of homophobic abuse at the two men.

We then see what led to this event. Marcus and Pierre, the two men, force their way into the club in search of a man known as "The Tenia", who we are later to learn has anally raped and beaten Marcus's wife. This anal rape scene will be played out in a single nine-minute take later on in the film, and has been the source of most of the controversy surrounding "Irreversible". The homophobic elements have been less widely publicised. It is pretty obvious that "Rectum" is a gay S&M venue, but it is portrayed as the scariest hell imaginable. All of the men portrayed in the club are engaged in various sex acts and reply to Marcus and Pierre's requests for information on the whereabouts of "The Tenia" by begging to be fucked.

Marcus, in particular, gets more and more agitated when he can't find "The Tenia", and starts to verbally abuse every man he comes across - "fag " and "faggot" are the only words used to describe gay men in this movie. When one man pushes the aggressive Marcus to the ground, breaking his arm, Pierre steps in and knocks the man to the floor.

As a crowd of men look on without interfering, Pierre takes a fire extinguisher from the wall and smashes Marcus's assailant in the face with it. Repeatedly. In a single, unbroken take, Pierre continues to pummel the man until his skull cracks, his face is mashed and his brains leak out. An onlooker then describes the scene as "awesome". The character of Marcus is homophobic to the core. His entire motivation for the attack is homophobia - after a few unreliable tip-offs he seems content that he will find his girlfriend's rapist in a gay sex club. Why? Because she was anally raped?

… [Gaspar] Noe's response to accusations of homophobia is let people know that he, a straight man, is one of the masturbating bystanders watching Pierre smash a gay man's head to an unrecognizable pulp.

The Chief Censor's decision... has taken into account the disturbing nature of this film, which is also relentless mysogynistic and racist.

One can only imagine that the outcry which accompanied "Cruising" has not been forthcoming for "Irreversible" because it will not get anywhere near a mainstream audience, and that most have recognised it as a shallow gimmick from a director who has proclaimed on numerous occasions that he won't stop making films until he makes one that is banned…..


To read the decision by Mackenzie J. see:

To read Chris Bank’s review see:

or review extracts

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