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Mass Suicides Tonight A Sick 'Entertainment' Fest

Watching Mass Suicides Tonight - A Sick 'Entertainment' Fest

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards Inc. PO BOX 13-683 JOHNSONVILLE

PATRONS Sir John Kennedy-Good KBE QSO Professor TV O'Donnell MD FRACP CBE Marilyn Pryor Founder Patricia Bartlett O.B.E.

Media Release 30 May 2003... for immediate release


29 May 2003

Chief Censor Bill Hastings has cleared for screening tonight in Auckland a sick and offensive film containing gratuitous violence, shocking scenes of bloody youth suicides and a pandemic of copycat suicides on a scale never scene on New Zealand screens before. The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) issued its classification (OFLC Ref. No. 300584) yesterday, just one day before the film screens tonight, making it impossible for community groups concerned about it to seek an interim restriction order against. Good timing Bill. The film not received at the OFLC for classification until the 8th of April. Good timing Anthony.

The film, "Suicide Club" (or "Suicide Circle") has been classified R18 with no further restrictions. The censor's descriptive note is: "Contains violence and content that may disturb". It is the opening night shocker at a film festival run as a "one person operation" (Mr Anthony T. Timpson) and heavily subsidised by over $100,000 of tax-payers funds (via film classification waivers 1995-2003 granted to this commercial operator).

Devotees of bloody violence and the exploitation of young persons can look forward to this film being released on television soon as this classification prevents no real restrictions to its screening on this medium after the 8.30 p.m. so-called "watershed" time, when little Suzy and Benny are supposedly tucked up in bed with teddy in the land of nod. Once the video version is released it will be essential home viewing for those who want to know how to hold hands with mates when committing mass suicide.

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards is so disturbed about the failure of the censorship office to apply the law properly in the classification of this film and its failure to consult any community groups and/or professionals seeking to address the problem of youth suicide, that it has sent an Official Information Request to Bill Hastings asking him to front up with answers to ten key questions (see below). The open letter was sent to him by fax just hours before the classification decision was released.

Open Letter

29 May 2003

Official Information Request Re as yet unclassified Film “Suicide Circle/Suicide Club”

Dear Mr Hastings

Members of the Society executive met on Tuesday the 27th of May 2003 to discuss a number of concerns we have over the classification of films by your Office that are featured in the Beck’s Incredible Film Festival (BIFF). As you will know the Society has applied for interim restriction orders under s. 49(1) of the FVPC Act 1993 in respect to the films “Irreversible” and “Ken Park” after being granted leave by the Secretary of Internal Affairs to have the respective classifications re-examined without reference to the decisions issued by your Office.

We wish to draw to your attention our concerns over the as yet unclassified film “Suicide Circle/Suicide Club” (OFLC Ref. No. 300755) that was received for classification on the 8th of April 2003 (submitted by Mr Anthony T. Timpson/2 Brothers Films – Director of BIFF). (The festival commences in Auckland on the 29th of May 2003 and in Wellington on the 12th of June 2003). The festival brochures have been available to the public for about a month and yet a significant number of the films have not yet been classified by your Office as of today (29th of May), including “Suicide Circle/Suicide Club” which is scheduled to screen at the Civic Theatre in Auckland (max. capacity 2,379) tomorrow night – Friday 30th May at 6.00pm. It also screens on the 7th & 13th of June at the Chinatown Cinema (Auckland) and in Wellington on the 27th & 28th of June at the Paramount Theatre.

The Society ... contacted Ms Catherine Austin, Head of the OFLC Information Unit about our concerns over this film. She indicated that she had never heard of it and kindly offered to pass on our concerns to you. She took extensive notes documenting our concerns.

The film brochure states, quoting from a review by Tom Mes: http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/suicclub.shtml

“… it is no surprise that watching SUICIDE CIRCLE is a special experience indeed. What to think of an opening sequence in which fifty four uniformed schoolgirls commit simultaneous suicide by jumping hand-in-hand in front of a rush hour train at Shinjuku station, covering commuters in geysers of blood that washes in red rivers over the concrete platform? Welcome to tonight’s main attraction, don’t bother buying popcorn”

“… the widely-reported suicide case gains a number of equally unexplained copycat events – school kids and respectable citizens alike start hurling themselves out of windows and off rooftops like lemmings off a cliff. As the bodies start piling up, the investigation centers in on a hugely popular manufactured pop combo of pre-adolescent girls…. The suicide guru sings, ‘I want to die like Joan of Arc in a Bresson film.’”

“… Meanwhile, in a deserted alley littered with little girls stuffed inside body bags …. “

The Society is seeking answers from the Classification Office to the following questions:

1. What groups and/or individuals involved in suicide prevention and/or counselling has the Classification Office consulted with respect to the “objectionable” contents of this film – “Suicide Circle/Club” (The film is undoubtedly a restricted publication due to the graphic and gratuitous scenes of horror and violence as defined by s. 3 of the FVPC Act).

2. Is the Classification Office aware of the publications (a) NZ Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy (1998) and (b) Suicide and the Media: The reporting and portrayal of suicide in the media (1999)?

3. If so, is the Classification Office aware of the major findings of these studies?

4. Is the Classification Office aware of the work of the Youth Suicide Awareness Trust, Victim Support, or Yellow Ribbon Programme in Schools relating to Suicide awareness and prevention?

5. Is the Classification Office aware of the work of researchers such as Dr Annette Beautrais from the Christchurch School of Medicine?

6. What confidence can the public have in the integrity of the Classification Office if indeed it can be shown that it has not consulted professional and community service groups and individuals dealing with suicide prevention and victim support, prior to issuing a classification decision on a film like “Suicide Circle/Club”?

7. The 2002 Annual Report states: “The Classification Office often consults members of the public on films that offer up sensitive classification issues”. In the light of your statement, does the Classification Office consider youth suicide and copycat suicide phenomena a “sensitive” classification issue?

8. If so, what was the process it undertook to seek out suitable members of the public to consult on the contents of this film?

9. If it did not carry out any consultations, why not? Please provide the reasons and the grounds for the reasons for this decision.

10. Is the Classification Office aware of the concerns of the Ministry of Youth Affairs over the growing problem of youth suicide among New Zealand young people in the age group 16-19 years of age?

We look forward to response.

Yours sincerely

SPCS Executive committee

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