Chief Censor OK’s Sex-Violence-Smut Voyeurism
THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION OF COMMUNITY STANDARDS INC. P.O. Box 13-683 Johnsonville SPCSNZ@hotmail.com http://www.spcs.org.nz
Chief Censor OK’s
Media Release 14 November 2004
Chief Censor Bill Hastings, in releasing the Annual Report of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) which was tabled in parliament on Thursday the 11th of November 2004, commented on the disturbing trend in the levels of “more callous, more reckless and more humiliating violence” depicted in commercial videos, computer games and computer images submitted to his Office for classification. In his comments broadcast on National Radio News on the 13th November he spoke about such material “taking on a harder edge,” in particular publications depicting “violence and humiliation” and “violence and degradation.”
“Few things are so violent or grotesque that they can shock the chief censor,” reported the NZ Herald (13 November, 2004). The Society agrees. For example, he has become largely desensitised to brutal explicit depictions of sexual violence and glorified graphic violence juxtaposed with explicit sex. However, among the 241 publications his Office banned he did highlight a few that he said horrified him. One was a commercial DVD Bumfights 2 Bumlife “… in which homeless people are shown accepting drugs and money to punch, kick and bite each other, are physically assaulted by the film makers, are made to perform humiliating stunts that injure themselves and others, and which depicts blatantly criminal activity as fun and profitable.” (OFLC Annual Report p.5). Another was the computer game Manhunt which “…rewards the player who kills in an especially bloody fashion with a video close-up of the victim’s struggle and death, and that gives the player no choice as to whether or not to kill, but instead only offers a choice as to how brutal the kill is to be…” He said both publications took even “the most experienced censor by surprise”. (Annual Report p. 5).
Mr Hastings said that Manhunt had the capacity to harm the public good. “To offer the infliction of extreme violence, misery and humiliation as entertainment and to portray dangerous pranks as harmless fun is to ask viewers and players to make an attitudinal shift that is likely to injure the public good.” (quoted in NZHerald 13 Nov. 04). One wonders what definition of “public good” he operates with given that he sees moral considerations as utterly irrelevant to his task as censor (disclosed in a published interview with Rev. Gary Milne of the Reformed Churches).
The Society, while commending the Office for banning this material, believes that it has failed in many areas to apply the law properly in the classification of a significant number of publications that contain “objectionable” content. For example, the sheer volume of highly degrading sexually explicit videos and DVDs that the OFLC makes available for home-viewing, by classifying them R18 without excisions, is a national disgrace. Last year the Society challenged the OFLC’s R18 classification of one of these hard-core pornographic videos (The Matador Series 2), typical of this genre, with the result that seven excisions were required by the OFLC to remove degrading sexual content. The OFLC had to ban the video when the distributor, New Zealander Steve Crowe (Managing Director of Vixen Digital Ltd), refused to make the cuts. It is noteworthy that not a single cut was recommended by the OFLC when it was first granted an R18 classification – one that was in place for over a year before the Society sought a reconsideration.
One only needs to consider the significant increase in the numbers of highly controversial films, featuring brutal sexual violence and gratuitous graphic violence that Mr Hastings has allowed to screen in mainstream public cinemas since he became first Acting Chief Censor and later Chief Censor, to realise that the his Office has failed to fulfil its statutory obligations.
Mr Hastings’s Office was responsible for clearing the controversial French film “Baise-Moi” also known as “F*ck Me” (international English title) for screenings at a New Zealand film festival and tertiary media studies courses in 2001. He personally opposed the Society’s application to the Film and Literature Board of Review for a review of his Office’s R18 classification when he charged the Society with having made its application outside the statutory time frame. He even went as far as obtaining a legal opinion from a Wellington barrister he knew personally, to back up his spurious charge against the Society, submitting it to the Board for their consideration. The Society robustly refuted this charge before the Board at a formal hearing on 17 December 2001. (Mr Hastings, a former deputy president on the Board before becoming Acting Chief Censor, chose not to attend the hearing). Early in 2002 the Board obtained a Crown Law opinion on the matter of timeliness and the Society’s application was ruled to be on time in its decision dated 13 March 2002. Baise-Moi features an orgy of graphic violence gratuitous brutal sexual violence, a four-and-a-half minute brutal rape of a woman (including lengthy close-up voyeuristic video shots of forced vaginal penetration). This is followed by the gratuitous depiction of the degrading anal rape of the woman. In a shocking murder spree in a sex club (called the F*ck Club), a man has his brains blown out while he is being fellated by a woman and another man is shot up his anus and killed after he is forced by a woman to strip naked, crouch on the floor on all fours and squeel like a pig. This sexual humiliation and degradation is presented as a pleasurable ‘turn-on’ for the women involved. Mr Hamish Dixon, a senior psychologist and director of Wellington STOP (an organisation that seeks to rehabilitate male sex offenders), described Baise-Moi as setting “a new low in sadistic sexual violence” in his submission to the Film and Literature Board of Review. The OFLC’s classification decision on the film acknowledged that it could be read as tending to promote and support extreme violence and noted the unrelenting juxtaposing of scenes of graphic violence with those of explicit sex (using in the latter, techniques commonplace in hard-core pornographic films). The classification of Baise-Moi comes before the Court of Appeal in Wellington at 10 a.m. on Thursday 18 November 2004. The Society (the appellant) will be challenging the Board’s classification of the film as suitable for adults in mainstream theatres (the film screened in over six cities for several months in 2002), an R18 restricted classification that allows the film to be screened during adult viewing times on television. The film remains banned in Australia and Ontario and the British censorship authourities imposed excisions to the rape scene.
2. VISITOR Q
Mr Hasting’s Office classified the Japanese film “Visitor Q” as suitable for adults in a film festival environment open to anyone 18 years and older, as well as to those in this age group who viewed it as part of a tertiary media film study course, in 2002. The film features extended depictions of the stripping and brutal rape of a young woman, degrading acts of necrophilia involving human excrement that highlight the sexual satisfaction of the man engaging in these acts, the mutilation of the woman’s corpse for sexual satisfaction, extreme lactation, incest and extreme cruelty. The film has not yet been screened in New Zealand and its classification is the subject of Court of Appeal action by the Society scheduled for March 2005. The Society obtained an interim restriction order against the film to prevent its scheduled screenings in 2002. The Chief Censor’s Office has opposed all attempts by the Society to get the film banned or have excisions imposed.
In July this year Mr Hastings granted the distributor of the film “Irreversible” a reconsideration of the film’s R18 classification imposed in April 2003 – one that limited screenings to film festivals and tertiary media and film studies courses. It features a horrifying nine-minute brutal and degrading anal rape of a woman by a homosexual man and graphic violence regarded by leading film reviewers as the worst ever depicted in the cinema. Well aware of the international outrage over the film’s ultra-violence, Hasting’s Office stated in its classification decision: “If Irreversible sets a new precedent on acceptable depictions of screen violence and other filmmakers follow its lead with ever more graphic depictions THERE IS THE POTENTIAL DANGER THAT AUDIENCES WILL BECOME DESENSITISED TO THIS LEVEL OF VIOLENCE” (Emphasis added). Hastings allowed this film into mainstream cinemas in three NZ cities this year and recommended “that the exhibitors provide [to film-goers] the telephone numbers for Rape Crisis and sexual abuse services at the end of the film.”
See: Sexual violence depiction causes audience
SPCS Press Release 21 March 2003 http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PO0303/S00182.htm
See: Submission: Promote Supports Ban On
SPCS Press Release 22 October 2004 http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/archive/scoop/stories/92/10/200410221041.b2fce16b.html
4. TWENTY-NINE PALMS
Mr Hasting’s Office cleared the film “Twenty-nine Palms” this year – rating it R18 for mainstream cinema screenings. It features a brutal anal rape and the rapist is shown to be gaining great satisfaction from the violation.
See: Interim Restriction Order
Application for "Twentynine Palms"
SPCS Press Release 13 July 2004 http://www.spcs.org.nz/article.php?sid=33&PHPSESSID=bf33571b0bbffb197eee3fef052ccf7e
DESENSITISED CHIEF CENSOR
The Society believes that it is not surprising that Mr Hastings allows such objectionable material into mainstream cinemas because he has become so desensitised to the true effect on audiences of depictions of gratuitous sexual violence. In a live interview with film reviewer Stephen Grey broadcast on Radio 95bFM on 27 March 2002, he admitted that after he first saw Baise-Moi he felt it should be banned.
Hastings: “God ! If there is any movie the law applies to for a ban it's this one [Baise-Moi]. 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.”
However, about six months after he first saw it, having by then seen it several more times with consultants, he changed his mind and issued a classification that as noted, allowed it to be screened in film festivals and to tertiary students. This classification was downgraded to a general R18 rating in a decision issued by the Board on 1 November 2001 and its this decision that the Society is challenging in the Court of Appeal on 18 November 2004.
The Annual Report records that 17% (241) of all the total of 2,073 publications classified this year were banned. The vast majority of banned publications – 149 out of 241 – were “computer image and moving image files sourced from the internet,” 26 were photographs, 18 magazines and five letters, and 21 VCDs promoting the use of drugs and violence to compel women to participate in sexual conduct.”
The 10 banned commercial submissions included the computer game Manhunt, two Steve-O videos promoting imitable choke-holds and setting people on fire as fun recreational activities, and seven sexually explicit DVDs and videos the distributors of which refused to make excisions required by the Office to remove degrading, dehumanising and demeaning material.
The Society believes that Chief Censor and senior management of the OFLC have failed in many areas to fulfil their statutory obligations to safeguard the public good from the ever-increasing deluge of objectionable publications featuring explicit sexual violence, degrading explicit sexual content and gratuitous graphic violence. While acknowledging the difficult task censors face, it points out that the Chief Censor and his deputy are on a salary in excess of $150,000. The public has a right to demand that the job is done properly and the law enforced as parliament intended it to be.
Chief Censor Be Sacked?
SPCS Press Release 9 April 2002 http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/archive/scoop/stories/ae/0e/200204091217.ec345e1a.html
Baise Moi ‘Fascists’ And Free Speech
SPCS Press Release 20 May 2002. http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PO0205/S00185.htm
‘Baise Moi’ NZ Ban interests Aussie P.M.
SPCS Press Release 23 May 2002 http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PO0205/S00218.htm
“Baise-Moi”, Porn And French Children
SPCS Press Release. 19 June 2002. http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PO0206/S00110.htm
“Baise-Moi” should be Banned says Bill
SPCS Press Release. 28 August 2002. http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PO0208/S00114.htm
SPCS Submission to Board On Baise-Moi
SPCS Report. 4 September 2002 http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PO0209/S00017.htm
Court of Appeal to Look at Sex-Violence Film
SPCS Press Release. 1 November 2004 http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/archive/scoop/stories/85/ff/200411011107.631ae5cc.html
Appeal On French Sex-Violence Film –
SPCS Press Release. 11 December 2003.
http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/CU0312/S00070.htm Court of Appeal to Look at Sex-Violence Film ''Baise-Moi''
SPCS Press Release. 1 November 2004. http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/CU0411/S00001.htm