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Sexually Violent ‘Entertainment’

The Society For The Promotion Of Community Standards Inc.

Sexually Violent ‘Entertainment’ And The Chief Censor

Monday 24 June 2002

“The availability of films, videos and DVDs featuring ‘sexual violence’ combined with ‘graphic violence’, to those 18 years of age and older, has dramatically increased since Mr Bill Hastings was appointed to the roles of Acting Chief Censor in December 1998 and Chief Censor in October 1999.” Rev. Gordon Dempsey, President of the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards said: “this is the conclusion the Society’s executive has come to based on a careful two-year study of a wealth of information supplied to it by the Information Unit of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC).”

“Since the Films, Videos and Publication Act (‘the Act’) came into force in October 1993, the OFLC, which Hastings heads, has classified over 30 publications with a censor’s descriptive (warning) note ‘contains sexual violence’. This activity is always combined with other ‘objectionable’ elements noted in the censor’s warnings, including ‘graphic violence’, ‘scenes of torture’, ‘drug taking’ and ‘explicit sex’”, he said.

All of these publications can, with a few exceptions, be viewed in a public cinema and/or hired for home screening by anyone who has attained the age of 18 years. One exception is Baise-Moi, the French sex-violence film that is currently the subject of a High Court interim restriction order imposed on the film on 12 April 2002 under s. 67 of the Act. The applicant for the order was the Society, which has appealed the classification decision made by the Film and Literature Board of Review, dated 13 March 2002, that gave it a general R18 classification.

Dempsey said: “The marked increase over the last three-and-a-half years of ‘sexually violent’ publications, is of serious concern to the Society’s executive who believe that it reflects a failure of the OFLC to properly apply the law. From October 1993 to October 1999, a period of six years, nine publications containing ‘sexual violence’ were approved, while from October 1999 to October 20001, a period of only two years, 21 have been approved. Since October 2001 the Chief Censor has seen fit to approve many more such films and videos for classification. For example, on 19 December 2001 he personally approved a film for general R18 release on DVD that contains the descriptive note ‘contains strong violence, sexual violence and scenes of torture and degradation’. The OFLC decision he signed states: ‘the publication depicts acts involving the infliction of cruelty and serious physical harm, sexual violence, and sexual and physical conduct of a highly degrading nature, and shows the perpetrators deriving sexual pleasure from undertaking theses activities.’ These activities involve the exploitation and coercion of children for sexual purposes by adults. The acts explicitly depicted involve urination and human excrement.”

“This year,” Dempsey said, “Mr Hastings approved for R18 release the films Bully which contains ‘violence, sexual violence, drug use and sex scenes’ and Visitor Q containing sexual violence and degrading and dehumanising sex acts including necrophilia (sex with a corpse). Mr Hastings personally endorsed both films to a largely student audience on Radio 95 bFM in Auckland on 27 March 2002. Both films now have an interim restriction order placed on them by the President of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Ms Claudia Elliott. The Society applied for these restriction orders in April.”

“Baise-Moi, without a doubt,” Dempsey argues, “is the most sexually violent film ever to receive a classification other than ‘objectionable’ by the OFLC. The decision was approved and signed by Mr Hastings on 20 August 2001.”

“The Society has sought to highlight nationally the failures of the Classification Office,” he said, “by appealing the OFLC decision on Baise-Moi, first to the Film and Literature Board of Review on the 17th December 2001 and more recently appealing the Board’s decision to the High Court in Wellington on 11-12 April and 11-12 June. National attention has now been focused on this case and all parties are now awaiting the ruling by the Hon. Justice Hammond, which is expected within the next few months. The Society through its lawyers has argued that the High Court should remit the matter of the classification of Baise-Moi back to the Board of Review, giving clear directives to the Board to assist it to correctly apply section 3 of the Act to the ‘objectionable’ contents of the publication. Section 3 deals with the meaning of ‘objectionable’ publication.”

“The Society has also sought to highlight the failure of the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. George Hawkins, to fulfil his statutory duty and appoint a deputy chief censor,” he said, “by applying to the High Court on the 28th March 2002 for a judicial review of the matter. Once papers had been served on the Minister in early April, he promptly set about doing what he was required to do by law. He has now undertaken to fill the position by the end of July this year. The Act states in s 79 (1): ‘There shall be a Chief Censor and a Deputy Chief Censor…’”.

“The Society has pointed out that Mr Hastings, has operated as the sole executive officer of the OFLC for over three years, during the period that the vast bulk of this ‘objectionable’ sexually violent, degrading and dehumanising material has been given approval for home and public viewing. The Society believes he must be held personally accountable. His three-year contract comes up for renewal in October this year.”

The “constitutional, legal and management issues surrounding the absence of a Deputy Chief Censor” (OFLC Report 2000, p. 7) have been noted in the last three annual reports of the OFLC. “The Society believes,” said Mr Dempsey, “that an effective deputy chief censor should be able to able to help reign in the deluge of ‘sexually violent’ and ‘objectionable’ publications that are being approved by the current Chief Censor.”

“The Society is convinced,” he said, “by the growing body of published research findings that there is a firmly established link between the rise in exposure of the general public to ‘sexual violence’ and ‘graphic violence’ in the so-called entertainment field, to the rise in these depraved activities in their criminal manifestation in our society.”

“In contrast the Classification Office and Board of Review appears to reject this connection,” he said. “Decisions from these statutory bodies present the view that films like Baise Moi should not be banned or cut due to ‘objectionable’ contents, but should be made available on the basis of its ‘artistic merit’ to young people who have attained the age of 18 years. Mr Hastings considers film festival-goers and students of film media studies attending tertiary film or media studies courses should be able to view this film.”

“Who is he trying to fool?” asks Dempsey. “Perhaps he would like to consider the following questions that students of film and media studies may well ask their lecturers and tutors….

‘Please Sir, can we re-run that explicit and brutal rape scene in slow motion to study the use of camera angle, lighting and the finer nuances of dialogue?

‘Please Miss, can we study those voyeuristic lingering shots of penetration so we can better understand the postmodern feminist genre undergirding this intellectually arousing film.’”

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