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Baise-Moi and Censorship Collusion

The Society For The Promotion Of Community Standards Inc.

P.O. Box 13-683 Johnsonville

Baise-Moi and Censorship Collusion

On 14 May 2001 a censorship compliance unit officer of the Department of Internal Affairs in Wellington notified the Chief Censor Bill Hastings by fax that the Managing Director of the Auckland-based Metropolis Film Ltd, Mr Gordon Adam, had been offered the rights to the French sex-violence film “Baise-Moi” (Engl. transl. “F*ck Me”). Mr Adam had written to the officer, Mr Jon Peacock following on from an earlier phone conversation with him, stating “I confirm that Metropolis Film Ltd. has been offered exclusive rights for the territory of New Zealand for theatrical, video and TV use.” He also supplied evidence in support of the film and asked “that these factors be considered during the course of the film’s examination for censorship requirements”. This material was forwarded to the Chief Censor by Mr Peacock.

Mr Gordon Adam had not submitted the film for classification or paid the applicable fee of about $1,000 as required by law when any distributor intends to supply a film to the public. Instead it had arrived on the Chief Censor’s desk via a most curious route by-passing the route set out in law for distributors. Mr Adam knew that the film had an international reputation as highly controversial and had been banned initially in its country of origin, France, banned in Ontario and was subjected to significant cuts by the British censors.

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The film came to be classified prior to its mainstream cinema release in NZ in 2002 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 Film and Video Labelling Body (FVLB), Mr Bill Hood. This curious case of apparent collusion involving an intended 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.

In a letter dated 20 February 2001 Mr Bill Hood wrote to Mr Hastings:

“….As discussed during our conversation, please receive a VHS copy of Baise Moi. Clearly the content does have artistic merit, as was the case considered by two states in Canada, but nevertheless will require careful consideration.

“As agreed, the publication is not offered to you in a formal fashion but merely for you to consider as to whether this form of content could be made available to a selective audience in a film festival type environment.”

Mr Hood no doubt had in mind here the Beck’s Incredible Film Festival, whose director Mr Anthony Talbot Timpson was well known to him. Timpson obtained the sub-distribution rights to the film from Metropolis Films Ltd for screening at his 2002 festival, where it was promoted as a major attraction (for its explicit sex-brutal rape and ultra-violence). However, it never got to be screened there following a successful application for an injunction by the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards.

Following a careful examination of the film “Baise-Moi” Mr Hastings on 15 March 2001, under a very rarely used provision of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993, section 13(3), directed the Secretary of Internal Affairs to obtain a copy of “Baise-Moi” and forward it to him for classification. Of course this was promptly done as the video was already in the system thanks to Mr Hood’s informal submission. The film by-passed the Film and Video Labelling Body (FVLB) headed by Mr Hood and got classified without the payment of any fee by the distributor.

Although the distributor, Metropolis Film, whose Managing Director is Mr Gordon Adam [6b Jubillee Avenue, Devonport, Auckland] had never submitted the film for classification, nor made any submissions to the Board or High Court until after the Hon. Justice Hammond had ruled on 23 July 2002 that the Board’s classification was wrong in law; it sought costs against the appellant which first initiated the review under s. 47 of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 (“the Act”). Counsel for Metropolis Films Ltd Eugene St John made the false statement in Court before Goddard J. on 8 July 2003 that his client had submitted the film for classification. In fact the film was called in for classification by the Chief Censor, Mr Bill Hastings under s13(3) of the Act on 15 March 2001 and was therefore never submitted to the Film and Video Labelling Body (FVLB).

For a full report see:

A Curious Case of Censorship Collusion
Posted on Saturday 13 December 2003

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