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Court of Appeal to Look at Sex-Violence Film

1 November 2004

Court of Appeal to Look at Sex-Violence Film “Baise-Moi”

The Society filed its submissions with the Court of Appeal on Friday 29 October in its case against the Film and Literature Board of Review dealing with the classification of the French sex violence-rape film “Baise-Moi” (translated “Fu*k Me”).

The case is to be heard by the Court of Appeal on Thursday 18 November 2004 in Wellington, commencing at 10 a.m. The appellant’s appeal is against the judgment of the Hon Justice Goddard (issued by the High Court in Wellington, 11 November 2003) which dismissed the Society’s appeal against the Board’s Determination of the classification of Baise-Moi.

That classification, the Board’s second unanimous Determination on appeal, restricted the film to persons 18 years of age and older, allowing it to be screened nation-wide in mainstream cinemas in 2002/2003. It issued a separate and distinct classification to identical copies of the film in DVD and video formats, classifying them as “objectionable” despite the fact that s. 26 of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act (“the Act”) requires the same classification to apply to all “identical copies” of a publication regardless of format (DVD, video or 35 mm film).

The Society sought a total ban on the film (this would apply to all formats) or for excisions to be made to the film’s four-and-a-half minute explicit and brutal rape scene (including close-up and lingering shots of vaginal penetration and graphic scenes of anal rape), when it sought leave for a review on 8 October 2001 of the original classification (issued by the Office of Film and Literature Classification and dated 20 August 2001).

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The Board issued its first unanimous Determination on 13 March 2002, one that was less restrictive than that issued earlier by the Classification Office. The Office’s restrictions limiting the film to film festivals and tertiary film/media studies courses was dropped by the Board in that Determination and the film was issued a standard R18 classification for its theatrical release.

The Society then successfully appealed this more liberal classification by Board to the High Court. The Hon Justice Hammond’s ruling dated 23 July 2002, determined that the Board had made legal errors in its classification decision and remitted the matter back to it for a fresh Determination. Earlier, on 12 April 2002, he had granted an interim restriction order, following an application to the High Court by the Society, one which blocked all planned screenings of the film and knocked it out of the Becks Incredible Film Festival.

The Chief Censor, Mr Bill Hastings, confessed on public radio in 2001 (27 March 2002, Radio 95bFM) that after having first viewed the film in 2001, he took the view that it should be banned. He then admitted that he had changed his mind following a period of public consultations on the film.

See: “Baise-Moi” should be Banned says Bill Hastings
Wednesday, 28 August 2002, 9:15 am

One of these consultants, Mr Hamish Dixon, a qualified clinical psychologist and senior manager of Wellington STOP Inc, described the film as “set[ting] a new bench-mark in terms of sadistic sexual violence”. Eight of the 33 members of the general public who were invited to view the film and were consulted by the Chief Censor in 2001, said it should be banned and the majority of the others called by excisions before it could be screened publicly.

The Australian Classification Review Board banned the film in 2002 and the British and at least one Canadian provincial censorship authority (Ontario) only allowed the film to be screened with R18 restrictions after significant excisions had been made to the brutal and gratuitous rape scene.

See: ‘Baise Moi’ NZ Ban interests Aussie P.M.
Thursday, 23 May 2002, 9:18 am

The highly controversial film Baise-Moi was never submitted to the Film and Video Labelling Body (FVLB) in 2001 by its Auckland-based distributor Metropolis Films Ltd. which has the exclusive rights for New Zealand theatrical (public cinema) and non-theatrical release (video and DVD home rental market). The Classification Act 1993 requires all distributors intending to supply a restricted film to the public to submit it to the FVLB and pay a fee of about $1500. The Managing Director of Metropolis Film Ltd is Mr Gordon Charles Adams.

A sub-distributor in Auckland, Mr Anthony Talbot Timpson who operates as “Two Brothers” Films and at the time was organiser of the Incredibly Strange Film Festival, had ‘lined up’ Baise-Moi as an opening sensation for his festival in 2002 and yet it was never submitted following its importation into the country as required by law. The film fitted the genre of Timpson’s festival with its sensationalist promotion of explicit sex, horror and graphic violence.

The highly controversial route by which the video reached the hands of the Chief Censor is set out in a major report available on line. It opens with the following:

“The film “Baise-Moi” came to be classified prior to its mainstream cinema release in NZ by a route which suggests a “curious case of censorship collusion” involving the importer/ ‘distributor’, Chief Censor Mr Bill Hastings and the CEO of the FVLB Mr Bill Hood. This curious case of apparent collusion involving a NZ film distributor and the heads of two supposedly independent statutory censorship authorities – Mr Bill Hastings and Mr Bill Hood - raises serious questions about the robustness and independence of our NZ censorship system…………..”

See: “A Curious Case of Censorship Collusion” http://www.spcs.org.nz/article.php?sid=9&PHPSESSID=3214c566c9f4efff69229cbfa306e834

The Court of Appeal is being asked to consider three grounds to the Society’s appeal. The Society contends that the Film and Literature Board of Review committed at least three legal errors, errors that Hon. Justice Goddard did not uphold in her judgement.

Failure to address the “dominant effect of the publication as a whole” as required by s. 3(4)(a) of the Act. Failure to consider the impact of television medium as required by s. 3(4)(b). Wrongly placing different restrictions for classification purposes in respect to different mediums or formats of the same publication (see s. 26 of Act).


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