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‘Baise Moi’ NZ Ban interests Aussie P.M.

Thursday 23 May 2002 Released 3.30 a.m.

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards (SPCS) wrote to the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, on 17 April 2002 informing him of Justice Hammond’s decision in the Wellington High Court, dated 12 April, which imposed an interim restriction order on the film Baise Moi. The Society enclosed a copy of part of a transcript of a very revealing radio interview with Mr Bill Hastings, Chief Censor, who is in charge of the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC).

In the interview on Radio 95 bFM (Wednesday 12.16 p.m., 27 March 2002) Mr Hastings stated that after having first viewed Baise Moi, he formed the view that it broke every one of the censorship codes and should be banned (see partial transcript below). The letter and transcript were copied to federal Attorney-General, Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP, the Hon Michael Atkinson MP, Attorney-General of South Australia, and Hon. Bob Debus, Attorney-General of NSW.

SPCS urged the PM to seek an urgent review of the Australian OFLC classification of Baise-Moi, which was shortly to screen in Sydney and Adelaide.

In a news release dated 21 April 2002 the federal Attorney-General, the Hon. Daryl Williams, announced that he had “requested that the Classification Review Board review the R18+ classification of the French film Baise-Moi following a number of representations to me concerning the film”.

On Friday 10 May 2002 the four-member panel of the (Australian) Classification Review Board announced in a press release that it had “unanimously determined that the film, Baise-Moi is Refused Classification. This means that the film cannot now be legally shown in Australia.”

“In the Review Board’s opinion, the film warrants a refusal of classification because it contains elements beyond those set out in the classification guidelines and legislation. In making its decision, the Review Board took into account the combination of:

- strong depictions of violence
- sexual violence
- frequent actual, detailed sex scenes; and
- scenes which demean both women and men.

“Such depictions cannot be accommodated within the R18+ classification.

“In addition, the Review Board considered this film could not be accommodated in the X18+ restricted category. Although actual sex is permitted in the X18+ category, sexual violence and sexualised violence is not….”

The letter from the Office of the PM to the SPCS dated 3 May 2002, written and signed by Peter Conran, Senior Advisor to the PM, stated:

“Thank you for your letter of 17 April 2002 to the Prime Minister regarding the classification of the film ‘Baise Moi’. The Prime Minister has asked me to reply on his behalf.

“The Prime Minister was interested to hear of your experience with the classification of this film in New Zealand.

“The Classification Board is the body responsible for classifying films under Australia’s classification legislation. The Board classified ‘Baise Moi’ as ‘R18+’ in October last year…. The Classification Review Board is the only body that can review this classification.

“The Commonwealth Attorney-General has a statutory right to ask the Review Board to review the film’s classification, and he has done so following a number of representations…”

The PM and federal Attorney-General would no doubt have been very interested to read the following partial transcript supplied by SPCS.

Interview between Stephen Grey (film critic) and Chief Censor, Bill Hastings (Radio 95 bFM. Auckland. Transcribed from tape purchased from and supplied by Newsmonitor Services Limited, Auckland. Tel. 09-522-4330).

Stephen Grey: “Is Baise Moi that much of a shocking film that it's going to injure the public good?”

Bill Hastings: “Ah jeez yes Stephen. Have you seen it?”

Stephen: “Yes I have”.

Bill: "It's pretty 'out there ' !"

Stephen: “There's some real shit in it as well which I found quite interesting. Some of it is incredibly exploitational.”

Bill: “Oh God yes!.....I didn't enjoy it I have to say. And when I - The first time I saw it I thought, God ! If there is any movie the law applies to for a ban it's this one. I mean it's just like they read the legislation ..tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, ...we're going to put all that in and it's going to be banned. But you know I called it in early to the Office because some film festival or something didn't submit it at the last minute in order that we could consult widely so we went to women's groups, like Women's Refuge and three rape crisis centres and film experts at Victoria University and the public jury. We just read everything we could….”

PM John Howard and Daryl Williams were informed that:

(1) Mr Bill Hastings signed the Classification Office decision on Baise Moi on 20 August 2001. It was classified R18 with no excisions recommended. The decision stated: “The availability of the publication is limited for the purposes of study in a tertiary media or film studies course or as part of a film festival organised by an incorporated film society”. The descriptive note stated “Contains sexual violence, graphic violence and explicit sex scenes”.

(2) Following an appeal to the Film and Literature Board of Review by SPCS, seeking a ban, the Board downgraded the restrictions by giving it general R18 release. It changed the descriptive note to “This film contains frequent disturbing depictions of violence and repeated explicit sexual content”. It thereby removed the reference to “sexual violence” even though the explicit rape scene is one of the most controversial elements in the film.

(3) All women’s groups consulted by the Chief Censor (e.g. Auckland Rape Crisis) called for the banning of the film or for excisions to be made to the film if it was to be released as R18. All were opposed to it being released on video, recognising that it was “likely to be injurious to the public good”. The director of STOP, Hamish Dixon, who deals with male sex offenders, called for its banning.

Rev. Gordon Dempsey, President of the Society, signed the affidavit, which accompanied the legal submission prepared by Society lawyer, Mr Peter McKenzie QC, that was submitted to the High Court seeking the interim restriction order on Baise-Moi.

The substantive case comes before the High Court in Wellington on 12 and 13 June 2002.

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