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Chief Censor's Office Identifies Film Complaints

11 November 2005

Chief Censor's Office Identifies Film Complaints

The Chief Censors' Office - the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) - notes in its Annual Report 2005, recently tabled in parliament, that the two films most complained about by members of the public over the last year, were "9 Songs" and "Irreversible". Both were films that the Society sought unsuccessfully to have banned or cut, by seeking reviews of the classifications by the Film and Literature Board of Review. In both cases the Board unanimously upheld the R18 classifications issued by the Classification Office. The OFLC Report 2005 states:

"Most complaints about 9 Songs centred on the fact it contained explicit sex scenes and was to be shown at cinemas....9 Songs attracted the most inquiries and complaints of any individual publication in 2004/05.

"The film that attracted the second largest number of inquiries and complaints was Irreversible.... Complainants generally argued that the film should have been banned." [p. 43]

The Society's president, Mike Petrus, said today:

"These findings vindicate the very real concerns raised by the Society over both films and its decisions to seek a review of both classifications."

Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, used his discretionary powers to allow the brutal rape film "Irreversible" to be reclassified, following an application by the Australian distributor for its general R18 cinema release in New Zealand. The distributor did this soon after it had been screened as part of a film festival and Mr Hastings aided and abetted the dissemination of this sick R18 film throughout the Rialto Cinemas in New Zealand. The reclassification permitted by Mr Hastings led to a relaxation of its rating.

The highly controversial nature of this film had already been highlighted in a successful appeal to the High Court by the Society, against a decision issued by the president of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Ms Claudia Elliott. She had refused to grant an interim restriction order, applied for by the Society, against the film, that would have, if granted, restrain its exhibition pending its review before her Board.

The Hon. Justice Ronald Young ruled that the president had committed in error of law in applying a high threshold test in terms of whether or not she, in her role as President, should issue the order. Her decision was quashed by Young J. However, he chose not to issue an order remitting the matter back to the president which would her forced her to reconsider the restriction order. The Society remains convinced that the film should have been banned. The OFLC, the Board and the Courts lacked the will to ban it. Mr Petrus said:

"The widespread complaints over 9 Songs demonstrate that the Society is continuing to play an effective "watchdog" role in the field of film censorship. In its Annual Report 2005 the Chief Censor's Office brushes aside the public's expressed indignation over the sexually explicit content in the film by stating that in fact, any sexually explicit film classified R18 can be exhibited in a cinema. This illustrates how out of touch the Office is with mainstream New Zealanders who do not want such sexually explicit material in public cinemas."

On 19 August 2005 the South Australian Classification Council refused classification to "9 Songs". Australia's classification guidelines say that scenes of real sex cannot be accommodated in the R18+ category. Films showing explicit sex can be classified X18+ , but only if they do not include fetishes such as bondage. "9 Songs" contains many scenes of explicit sex including ejaculation, plus two scenes of bondage. The only possible category for this film is "RC" (refused classification)."

"The Clasification Office's decision to classify the publication "Unbound Volume 1 Number 4" as "objectionable" sits well with the Society," said Mr Petrus.

"The Society applied to the OFLC to have it classified soon after it had been tabled in the House of Representaves by the Rt Hon, Winston Peters. It was invited by the OFLC to make a written submission on the publication and did so, pointing out that the essay by Auckland bookseller Jim Peron, an "openly gay man", tended to promote and support paedophilia, in this case men having sex with boys".


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