BBFC News

 2002

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24th December   Spotting Waived Cuts

14s of cuts to Trainspotting have been waived by the BBFC. James Ferman's regime had a policy of cutting supposedly 'instructional' details from videos. Renton's (Ewan McGregor's) shooting-up scene suffered accordingly. The policy has now changed and we are able to view the complete scene on DVD. An increased running time suggests that other additional footage has been added but only 14s may be attributed to censor cuts.

 

19th November   Icky Sicky Mucky Mingers

Coincidently, 2 icky films to report on

My thanks to Robert. A new series on the UK softcore satellite channel, TVX, Ickey Sickey Mucky Mingers , featured a scene of urination in the mouth. There was no explicit proof shot, but either it was for real or else an unlikely effort had been made on the special effects front. Such scenes are routinely cut by the BBFC so it appears that softcore may sometimes be more explicit than hardcore. However it was a short lived example as the scene was cut from the next showing. I wonder what the BBFC guidelines say about golden showers when scenes are faked but still convincing.

The BBFC have certainly got their scissors out this month. Ichi the Killer has become the victim.

Many thanks for the info regarding uncut versions.

The Hong Kong version of Ichi the Killer has been cut by approximately 13 minutes (115 minutes versus 128 minutes). The uncut Japanese version lacks English subtitles. The first uncut English language version is expected to be a Dutch 2 DVD set.

Anyway the BBFC issued the following press statement

The BBFC has required 11 cuts (approximately three and a quarter minutes of screen time) to the Japanese cinema film Ichi the Killer . The cuts have been made to remove extreme sexualised violence. These are the most substantial cuts required by the BBFC to an 18 rated film since 1994.

The Board's main concern is with content which is likely to promote harmful activity. The Board's Guidelines constrain, in particular, depictions which eroticise or appear to endorse sexual violence. Of specific concern are sexual images in a violent context which are designed to titillate. The Guidelines take account of academic research which indicates that violence when mixed with explicit sexual images (women forcibly stripped, shots which linger on naked breasts or genitalia during rape or assault) may produce a harmful response in some viewers.

The scenes cut from Ichi the Killer include naked women being sexually mutilated or beaten or killed. They contain images of erotically explicit violence which have never been passed by the BBFC at any classification level.

Ichi the Killer is a live action film based on a popular Japanese manga comic. Ichi, who has unusual powers, is caught in a conflict between two rival yakuza gangs. The film taken as a whole belongs to a genre of vivid fantasy violence which has been part of Japanese cinema for many years. The Board does not consider that the cartoon-like damage perpetrated by male gangsters on one another in the rest of the film is likely, at the adult classification level, to inspire emulation. However, this contrasts sharply with the eroticized scenes of violence against female characters which the Board has cut. These scenes appear to the Board to have no function other than the pleasure of the onlooker.

 

18th November   Things you ought to know...but I have been too lazy to
  1. The Driller Killer has finally been passed '18' uncut on video with all the 1999 pre-cuts waived. A DVD version is due to be released soon by ILC Prime (possibly February) and will include the uncut version of the film, a trailer and an Abel Ferrara commentary.
  2. Tenebrae has also been passed '18' uncut on video with the 5 seconds of 1999 cuts waived. Anchor Bay UK will be releasing a special edition DVD in March next year featuring the uncut version of the film, commentary, interviews and documentary etc.
  3. L.I.E . ( Long Island Expressway ) has been passed '18' uncut for cinema release. It received an 'NC-17' rating in the States and caused some controversy when shown at the Cambridge Film Festival earlier this year. It's about a 15 year old boy's relationship with an older man (played by Brian Cox).
  4. The Trip has now been passed 18 uncut.  This marks the end of the longest standing BBFC ban (and the longest BBFC ban in history at 35 years!).  The Trip was rejected on film three times (in 1967, 1971 and 1980) and once on video (in 1988).  this is the first time it's been classified.
  5. Ken Park has now been dropped by its UK distributor, Metro Tartan. The two London Film Festival screenings (supposed to happen last weekend) were also cancelled at the last minute. This had nothing to do with the BBFC or Westminster Council. Director Larry Clark tried to strangle the owner of Metro Tartan, Hamish McAlpine, after a row in a restaurant. Because of this physical attack, Hamish doesn't want anything to do with Larry Clark or his film! Whether the film ever comes out in the UK now depends upon whether it is picked up by another distributor
  6. Mark Kermode has written a piece in this month's Sight and Sound about Ken Russell's The Devils , which is well worth a read. He has now found the footage the BBFC originally cut from the film in 1971 (for an 'X') as well as material pre-censored by Warners (before it came to the BBFC). Warners are being very difficult about restoring the footage to the film. However, a documentary on the film - including some of the missing footage - is due to be shown on Channel 4 later this month.

 

20th October   Seeing Red over Green

Update: The substitution of soundtrack music will incur a lesser fee for reclassification so there should be no reason to delay the release

As previously reported Green Britain is a documentary about cannabis use. A longer than usual classification process was down to the consideration of legalities. BBFC guidelines bar the promotion of drugs yet on the other hand the BBFC can surely not override freedom of speech.  It seems a strange topic to get het up over when boths sides could have chilled out and sorted their differences over a smoke or two. I leave it Paul of Green Britain to tell the story

Green Britain 'the video ' has at last been classified in the UK, it has been granted an 18 cert, no cuts required.

I have been disappointed with the British film classification process. As an independent I have struggled over the last 20 months to fund and produce my film, I have now been forced due the classification delay to re-edit and remove some library music, which I no longer can afford.

To add to my misery I have now had to re-submit my film for classification and will be charged an additional fee, not to mention the cost of re-dubbing my master tapes.

My film was submitted late July and I paid the fee early August, the film was classified Oct 4th. In the mean time I had the film classified in Holland (it took 4 days) and cost me nothing.

The delay may have been more palatable had the BBFC required cuts. I believe that the classification process in the UK needs a commercially viable time-scale for the classification of 'sensitive films'.

I also believe more information should be made available as to why the film is being scrutinised and debated over, especially as the delay can cause serious financial difficulties.

Green Britain is a documentary film that looks at the world of cannabis and the past 16 months campaigning in the UK. It is hardly an obscure subject.

I am hopeful that I will be able to produce the film within the next 2 weeks....assuming I get classification.

Paul@greenbritain.com

 

30th September   Sweet Swearing

Thanks to the use of the word cunt, Ken Loach's new film is certificate 18. Scriptwriter Paul Laverty says the decision is a disgrace

Based on an article in The Guardian

The BBFC has been troubled by the rough language, especially the "aggressive" use of the word "cunt", in Ken Loach's new film Sweet Sixteen . They have decided that no one under 18 can legally see the film.

As the scriptwriter I have been presented with an arithmetical breakdown of naughty words and can only say I'm appalled by the repetition and lack of imagination. At this point I always like to blame Ken and improvisation with actors. So for the first time in Ken's long career, one of his feature films - his 17th - has been given an 18 certificate.

I realise the BBFC has an important job to do. So, with high hopes, I wrote them a little note, praying they would reconsider and give it a 15 certificate.

Here goes:

In my research before writing Sweet Sixteen I visited dozens of schools, children's homes and several secure units for teenagers. I also spent lots of time with young teenagers at clubs of various descriptions, and perhaps most useful of all were random street corners in various towns around the west coast of Scotland ...

I was amazed at how many had seen our previous film, My Name Is Joe . Some even quoted dialogue from various scenes. One schoolboy told me: "They speak just like us." The same issue came up again and again in many of the encounters I had. They recognised their own world reflected back at them via the story and the dilemma of the characters, principally because of the language we used.

I think there is another very important point of principle here; it concerns the world of the story. "Cunt", as used in polite Manhattan society, or at Wimbledon, or at Ascot, is of a totally different nature to the word as used by these kids on street corners in the west of Scotland. In many ways all they have in common is the spelling. In terms of its resonance, its rhythm, its acceptance, and many other cultural subtleties I genuinely do wonder if it is even the same word. To equate Hugh Grant using the word in one of his films with Stan using it, albeit aggressively, in Sweet Sixteen is not to compare like with like.

I am not blind to the predicament and the difficulty you now confront. But I do ask you to be bold and imaginative in the exercise of your discretion. There are tens of thousands of 15- and 16- and 17-year-old Liams out there. They are more important than any critic or jury, but, as usual, without clout. I hope you will give them a chance to see themselves, for once, as protagonists.

Kind regards ...

I thought I could hear Liam's ghost whisper in my ear as I wrote: "Fat fucking chance, ya prick. Somebody wi' a name like Sir Quentin's no gonni get this." And so it proved to be.

We trust teenagers to get married, hold down jobs and buy property. They can drive fast cars and have a passport. We can send them to prison, and they can carry out the most complicated human endeavour of all - parent children - but we can't trust them to read a simple warning about language that some people might find upsetting.

The 18 certificate for Sweet Sixteen seems particularly British. (I have been told that since this is a decision of the BBFC, the Scottish Parliament has no competence to deal with the question. I hope the Scottish Executive will politely demonstrate that they have the talent to deal with such a matter.) It is unimaginable that the equivalent teenage population on the Continent would be similarly excluded.

It is now certain that the 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds - and many who were much younger - who shared their lives with us in preparation for this film will not be allowed to see Sweet Sixteen in a cinema by law. Is it important? I think it is. I believe it is censorship and I suspect, since it is impossible to prove, "class" prejudice suffuses the decision, the guidelines and the whole bloody apple cart.

Along with Liam, Pinball, Night-time, and his mates who run the fastest pizza joint in the west of Scotland, I'd like to add my own "two fingers" to the BBFC, and, as a contribution to freedom of expression, I'd like to attach the infamous little word used with all the aggression I can muster.

 

30th September   Killers as Nature Intended

Natural Born Killers: The Director's Cut has been passed 18 uncut and will be released here on DVD on 18th November 2002. It's identical to the US 'unrated' release available from Trimark and restores all the MPAA-cut material. The distributor here is VCI.

Dario Argento's Terror at the Opera has also been passed uncut with all previous film and video cuts waived - and extra material added. Due for release on 7th October

 

26th September   A Love Ban at the BBFC

The BBFC have just rejected a certificate for Love Camp 7, a 1968 US video by R.L. Frost

This was originally banned as a video nasty back in the early 80's. No doubt it is readily available for import for all those that appreciate this recommendation from the BBFC.

 

6th September   Evil Dead Censorship Trap

A Japanese film by Toshiharu Ikeda has always been considered a seriously extreme film. Interesting therefore to see that it has passed through the BBFC. It has received 8s of cuts justified as follows: Cuts required to two close shots of a knife cutting flesh in a sexualised context

 

1st September   Grass Roots Problems at the BBFC

I have contacted the BBFC about this story and they inform me that the classification of this documentary is being carefully considered and may require legal advice. It has not been rejected.

I have read BBFC guidelines about drug use and have somehow accepted the wording about not promoting drug use in the context of fictional movies relating drug use to cool fashionable slickly dressed heros in shades suggesting that drugs are de-riguer. However I find it beyond belief that the BBFC can reject a documentary promoting drug use in a non fictional context. It is surely the very essence of free speech that we can verbally oppose a current law. I can even except that if there are a few genuinely instructional clips in the film then these could be cut. I cannot accept that the BBFC have any right what so ever to ban the expressions of views merely because they are contrary to Britsh law.

Hello, I am in independent film maker who has been refused classification on a cannabis documentary film. Check out www.Greenbritain.com.

It has taken 18 months of my life to complete the film and it is an incisive look into the debate, I have been accused of promoting illegal drug activities and encouraging people break the law. Bollocks.

They will have to tread carefully as their ban is barring, amputees, spastic paralysis victims, arthritic, ms patients the right to be heard. They want to know why their opinions are illegal.

The film also includes 2 MPs, ex head of Scotland Yard, scientists, Howard Marks, MS spokesperson, growers, how to make hash etc.

I would appreciate any advice on this issue. Contact Paul@greenbritain.com 

 

26th August   Twelve Changes at the BBFC

From The Sunday Times

Young children are to be allowed into films open at present only to over-12s. The 12A classification will allow under-12s, if accompanied by their parents, to watch films now restricted to older children. It will replace the 12 certificate, making productions such as Titanic, Spider-Man and many James Bond films available to younger children.

The change, expected to be announced within two weeks, is the first policy move by Quentin Thomas, president of the British Board of Film Classification. It will be seen as indicating he is likely to follow the liberal agenda of Andreas Whittam Smith, his predecessor.

The change comes after several local authorities this summer defied the 12 certificate given to Spider-Man . Parents objected, and some councils, including North Norfolk, Solihull and Tameside in Greater Manchester, overruled the rating to allow under-12s into cinemas if they were accompanied.

The content permitted in a 12A will be the same as in a 12. This allows small amounts of violence or nudity, such as Kate Winslet baring herself in Titanic , and a few four-letter words, as in Four Weddings and a Funeral .

Sony Pictures intends to take advantage of the 12A rating to relaunch Spider-Man with a marketing campaign aimed at younger children. However, it is understood that the board will insist that 12A films come with written ' health warnings' in their promotional material, alerting parents to scenes that may trouble children.

 

26th August   Hot News

As times roll on another of the so called video nasties list has been passed with previous cuts waived. Tony Maylam's The Burning has now been passed without BBFC cuts and is assumed to be uncut.

There were times when it seemed that the censors had trouble with words such as cannibal & chainsaw. More evidence of change as we see Cannibal Holocaust 2 being passed with a 15 certificate. It was in fact cut but the cuts were for animal cruelty and are not age related.

I have also been informed that Baise-Moi has been passed for video. I don't yet know if this is the same cut version as we saw at the cinema.

Last House on the Left recently received a video certificate after 31s of cuts. If I recall, these are longer cuts than those originally asked for which prompted the unsuccessful appeal.

 

4th August   Noe Cuts Please

From The Guardian

Britain's newest censor, Quentin Thomas, faced his first controversial issue when the director of a French film said he would rather the UK banned it than cut it.

Irreversible , a bleak epic featuring a nine-minute anal rape sequence and a man having his face pulped with the base of a fire extinguisher, had its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this week, where some film critics walked out of the industry screening. The film goes before the BBFC on Monday when Thomas will decide whether to suggest cuts.

The film, which opened in competition for the Palme D'Or at the Cannes festival, has been shown uncut across Europe, Japan and Canada. In France, it received a 16 rather than 18 certificate. But the BBFC may add it to a line of French films, including The Pornographer and Baise-moi , where Britain has broken from the rest of Europe and requested cuts.

The French director, Gaspar No, said the film tackled the hideous nature of rape and if Britain could not stomach a scene exposing sexual violence, he would rather the film was not shown here. He said: If Britain cuts it, the film won't be released here. I can't understand how a country like England would ask for cuts when Cannes, the most bourgeois film festival in the world, showed it. You can't cut the film because of [its long takes]. It would become obvious to an audience that there had been cuts. US movies are much more damaging than this one, in their promotion of violence, power and weapons. Rape happens in life. Why can't it be shown on screen so people can have a clearer vision of it? On a moral level you can't object.

Hamish McAlpine, owner of Metro Tartan films, the film's UK distributor, said he hoped it would be on general release here in January. He said: As a British person I feel insulted that we are deemed by the censor to be immature and incapable of watching adult material. It is too early to tell how this new BBFC leadership will work. But it's unfortunate that this film is being used as the bellwether of whether or not the BBFC is to become more in line with the rest of Europe.

 

4th August   Ground Control to President Tom

After reading Thomas' first interview in the Sunday Times one is left with a sense of forboding. I can but imagine the wrap up at Thomas' job interview:

So lets get this straight:

  • You have never seen a porn movie
  • You are hardly interested in modern cinema
  • You believe that your purile opinions override the hard fought rights of the British people
  • You don't believe in justification of your decisions
  • You would like to deny your fellow man their sexual pleasures

You sound like a right old strong sexual expletive....ideal for the job...

He has got very quickly into spewing sound bite bollox and contributed to the Independent the suggestion that his own opinions are both above the law and above the views of the British people:

Thomas said the decision to allow hardcore sex videos to become more widely available had followed full and thorough legal procedures, but there remained a question mark over whether that was what people really wanted.

 

Anyway the BBFC have issued the following press release:

The BBFC is pleased to announce the appointment of Sir Quentin Thomas CB as President. The appointment took effect on 1 August 2002. He succeeds Andreas Whittam Smith who stepped down after four and a half years.

Quentin Thomas has a lifelong interest in cinema. He combines this with a clear view of the value of the BBFC system, underpinned by his wide experience of regulation in the social and cultural field. Quentin Thomas said:

"I am very much looking forward to taking up this appointment and learning more about the difficult issues the BBFC has on its plate. At a time when the arrangements for overall regulation for the media and telecoms are being revised, the need for a separate body dedicated to prior classification of films and videos is clear, as the Government has recognised. The BBFC enjoys the confidence of the public, the local authorities and the relevant commercial and creative interests.

"The BBFC model is a good one: it is independent self-financing, effective and efficient. It provides clear guidance when it is needed. Its duties are carried out in the public interest, but with no charge on public funds. It has built up a highly professional team, working on inherently difficult issues. This is an exciting time to be joining the BBFC and I look forward to working with the two Vice-Presidents, Lord Taylor of Warwick and Janet Lewis-Jones and the Director Robin Duval and the staff of the BBFC."

The Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP, will lay an order before both Houses of Parliament proposing to designate Sir Quentin under the Video Recordings Act 1984 as the authority responsible for making arrangements for the classification of videos and, where appropriate, video games.

Quentin Thomas left the Civil Service at the end of 1999 after a career in the Home Office, Northern Ireland Office and Cabinet Office. His last post was as Head of the Constitution Secretariat responsible for coordination and oversight of the Government's extensive programme of constitutional reform.

From 1988 to 1998 he played a prominent part in the Northern Ireland political and peace process. He led the team which first met Sinn Fein following the 1994 cease fire. He led the official team supporting Ministers in the 1996-8 roundtable talks, chaired by Senator George Mitchell, which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement (April 1998). He was knighted for "services to peace in Northern Ireland".

In the Home Office Quentin Thomas gained much experience of the criminal justice system, the criminal law (dealing at one point with the law on obscenity, indecent displays and film censorship) and various regulatory regimes, including: street offences and prostitution, immigration, animal experiment, broadcasting and gambling. His last post in the Home Office (1984-8) was as Head of the Broadcasting Department, with responsibility for advising on the development of broadcasting policy, including cable and satellite broadcasting, and on relations between government and the broadcasting authorities and other regulatory bodies. He was Secretary to the Royal Commission on Gambling (1976-8).

He is 58, married with 3 grown up children.

 

4th August   Psychos at the Board

From The Sunday Times

(The is the biggest pile of tripe I have read about for a long time. Can't the censors just fast forward through the material like anyone else!).

The BBFC has called in a psychotherapist amid fears that its censors' minds could become corrupted by their daily diet of sex and violence.

Hard-core porn, martial arts violence and vampire horror has proved too much for the 16 full-time censors who work from 9am to 5pm five days a week for the film and video watchdog. Now the board has hired a therapist who held her first group session with the censors at their London headquarters last month. Those who are worried they are being "desensitised" through a near-continuous exposure to gore and sex were told they could book a private session at any time.

The censors are freaking out, said an insider last week. The throughput is extraordinarily high. They are often having to do solid hard-core porn all day . . . the intellectual content of the job is not what it was.

 

22nd July   Last Whitterings

From The Independent

On Porn

Andreas Whittam Smith likes pornographers. Well, perhaps that is putting it a bit strongly. Certainly he appreciates their honesty.

When the sex film people sent a delegation to our offices, I said to them: 'This Office Tart movie ' it's got no artistic merit whatsoever, has it? They replied: 'No.' I said: It's not meant for anything other than sheer titillation, is it?' They said: 'No, that's right. I immediately thought to myself: 'I can work with these people'. What I liked about them is that they had absolutely no cant,That seemed so refreshing.

Over the past four-and-a-half years, encounters like the one he describes have become par for the course for Mr Whittam Smith, whose reign as president of the BBFC ends this week.

With his approval, the board belatedly approved the release of a slew of "video nasties", ranging from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the newly-certified Straw Dogs (One of my weaknesses as a censor is that I can't take horror seriously).

Films containing full-frontal nudity and all manner of amorous activities now qualify for 15 certificates, while it has become commonplace for a certain kind of arthouse movie to include scenes featuring actual sex. At the same time, the board has signalled its intention to downgrade the 12 classification to "advisory-only", like PG, possibly as early as this autumn.

Yet it has been far from a free-for-all. For every relaxation, there has been a subtle tightening of rules around the margins. References to drug-taking have been all but eradicated from movies with anything less than an 18 certificate, while graphic sexual violence remains virtually taboo.

And, lest we forget, it was only after a fierce legal wrangle that the BBFC finally consented to approve the sale of uncut sex videos, even through licensed adult outlets.

There's one mystery I've never been able to fathom the whole time I've been in this job, which is why the British allow themselves to be the most regulated nation in the world," he muses. "Is it because we are more puritanical? No, that doesn't wash, because the United States is very puritanical in some ways, but far less heavily regulated. There's no clear answer, other than that we seem to have an ingrained paternalism, which must be some kind of inevitable consequence of our historical development.To me, the BBFC's primary job should simply be to enable parents to regulate their children's viewing. In my deepest heart, I object to the notion of paternalism.

Though it may seem odd for the nation's supreme arbiter of taste and decency to disapprove of censorship, Mr Whittam Smith is confident he speaks for the majority of the British public. My guess is that 80 to 90 per cent of the population is happy with censorship laws as they are, while 10 per cent are for heavier censorship and 10 per cent are libertarians, Those who want more censorship just happen to be disproportionately represented by one incredibly powerful newspaper, the Mail.

While he has clearly relished the challenges, not to say run-ins, that have characterised his time at the BBFC, there is one thing Mr Whittam Smith will certainly not miss: viewing bad films. I'm watching this unpleasant Japanese gangster film at the moment featuring sustained sadism, which is either going to have to be fantastically cut or refused a licence, It's like having your teeth pulled out.

On Advisory Certificates

Children will be able to watch movies that are currently rated 18 in cinemas within a decade, Andreas Whittam Smith predicted last night. The growth of opportunities to view unregulated movies on the internet has made the abandonment of compulsory 15 and 18 certificates inevitable,

His comments to The Independent on Sunday raise the prospect of young children being granted access to films featuring high levels of sex and violence, as long as they have the permission of their parents. In the very long-term, all ratings will become advisory, There will be a long pause before the next relaxation, but it will all happen in a 10-year period.

Whittam Smith's remarks come as the BBFC prepares to downgrade the 12 rating to an "advisory-only" certificate like PG. The move, which is being finalised after months of consultation with parents around the UK, will allow children of all ages to watch such films as Spider-Man and Pearl Harbor, provided they are accompanied by "responsible" adults. He also said he believed the change would be in place by the autumn. There's nothing in a 12 that is terribly serious, and parents are the best judges of what their children can watch, provided they are given the right information about a film's content by cinemas and distributors."

Whittam Smith said he believed the most problematic issue facing his successor, who is expected to be named within a fortnight, would be how to treat films containing acts of sado-masochism. Vivid depictions of sexual violence are still largely regarded as taboo by the BBFC.

 

1st July   Dogs Unleashed

Fine news from the BBFC. Straw Dogs has finally passed unscathed for video and DVD. The film has been demonised by the censors for years now with an ever increasing sense of incredulity. It seems a good time to stop the silliness and we should give a pat on the back for the dogged persistance of the film's many supporters.

The BBFC have issued the following press release: BBFC passes STRAW DOGS uncut on video

The BBFC has classified the 1971 Sam Peckinpah film Straw Dogs '18' uncut for video and DVD release. When Straw Dogs was previously considered by the BBFC for video release in 1999, it was refused a classification certificate. This was because its distributor at the time declined to make the cuts requested by the Board to the film's rape scene. The version on which the Board then based its judgement was a pre-cut American print of the film.

In the central scene, Amy, played by Susan George, is raped by her former boyfriend and then by another man. The pre-cut American version deleted most of the second rape in which Amy is clearly demonstrated not to enjoy the act of violation. The cuts made for American distribution, which were made to reduce the duration of the sequence, therefore tended paradoxically to compound the difficulty with the first rape, leaving the audience with the impression that Amy enjoyed the experience. The Board took the view in 1999 that the pre-cut version eroticised the rape and therefore conflicted with the concerns expressed in the Video Recordings Act about promoting harmful activity.

The version considered in 2002 is substantially the original uncut version of the film, restoring much of the unambiguously unpleasant second rape. The ambiguity of the first rape is given context by the second rape, which now makes it quite clear that sexual assault is not something that Amy ultimately welcomes.

For the current submission, the Board showed the video to leading clinical psychologists specialising in work with sex offenders and to a panel of members of the public. The response of the clinical psychologists was that the present version of Straw Dogs was not harmful and was not likely to encourage an interest in rape or abusive behaviour towards women. The psychologists agreed that the ambiguous first rape was in fact a fairly realistic depiction of a quite complex situation. They also agreed that, by the end of the second rape, any general messages reinforcing 'rape myths' were undermined by the lack of ambivalence shown in Amy's reaction to the second attack. It was also noted that Amy's flashbacks later in the film further undermined any impression that she might welcome rape or that it has no serious effect on its victims. The psychologists commented that the scene was filmed in a relatively discreet manner, with limited potential today for titillation.

The issue of context was also important to the members of the public to whom the video was shown as part of a research exercise into the acceptability of images of sexual violence. A focus group of 26 people viewed Straw Dogs, with 20 people accepting '18' uncut as the most appropriate category, 5 suggesting only minor cuts, and only one favouring rejection. No respondent asked for major cuts of the kind required by the Board in 1999.

Significantly, respondents saw the manner in which Amy copes with her experience as essentially positive and concluded that the present version of the scene - as well as the flashbacks shown afterwards - reinforced the idea that rape is not to be taken lightly because of the serious effect it can have on individuals. No concerns about possible harmful effects were identified.

The Board recognises that the rape scene in Straw Dogs has lost only part of its power over the years, despite the age of the film. Nonetheless, in this restored version, and in the light of the evidence of expert opinion, our own conclusion now is that the film has no significant potential to cause harm to viewers or, through their actions, to society as a whole. We have also taken account of the evidence of the public acceptability of the work.

The Board maintains a strict position on depictions of sexual violence that endorse or eroticise harmful behaviour, and will continue to do so. The Board does not believe that the present version of Straw Dogs is in breach of that policy.

The film had previously been passed 'X' uncut for cinema release in 1971 and '18' in the pre-cut version for cinema reissue in 1995.

 

1st July   Sex, Lies and Videotape

FilmFour have started a hopefully regular column in the banned section of their web-site. SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE will document the whole sorry episode of the Last House on the Left appeal , presenting the arguments, with accompanying evidence, as they were put forward to the Video Appeals Committee. 

 

18th June   A Vacant Decision

So the Video Appeals Committee have turned down the Last House on the Left Appeal. I guess that we will just have to accept that 'classifiers' will always be 'censors'. Especially in Britain where privacy, liberty and respect are so readily withdrawn from the people in favour of the Government puppetry of the BBFC, Food Standards Agency etc.

As always the BBFC are allowed their say, this is their press release:

The Video Appeals Committee (VAC) announced today the outcome of the appeal by Blue Underground Limited against the BBFC's decision to reject the video of The Last House on the Left . The VAC was unanimously of the view that the appeal should be dismissed.

The BBFC had required 16 seconds of cuts to scenes of sexual violence before the video could be given an '18' certificate. Blue Underground Limited refused to make the cuts, and the BBFC therefore rejected the video. The distributor then appealed to the VAC.

The Board argued that the scenes were harmful under the terms of the Video Recordings Act and were in contravention of the Board's published Guidelines. It also took into account convictions of the work under the Obscene Publications Act.

In upholding the Board's rejection of The Last House on the Left, the VAC in its Judgment expressed the opinion that the Board's Guidelines were "a sensible and accurate reflection of public concern especially where violence and sexual violence are concerned and we endorse them. We believe this video work is substantially in conflict with the Guidelines."

The VAC also agreed with the Board's contention that there was a danger that parts of the work may be imitated. The Committee found that the "viewer is asked to relish the violence, the violence is relentless and the parts to be cut are at the extreme end of that violence and humiliation". It found that harm may be caused in the case of a significant number of viewers. The VAC was "firmly of the view that the Board was right in refusing to certify it without cuts."

And Carl Daft of Blue Underground, the distributor:

It is with a mixture of astonishment and utter disgust that I regretfully have to announce that Blue Underground's recent appeal to the Video Appeals Committee in the case of the cuts required to THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was not, in fact, successful.

Contrary to the evidence before them, and indeed whilst completely overlooking the Board's blatant inconsistencies as demonstrated throughout, the VAC have, in their wisdom, concluded that THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT does still pose a danger to adults in society, and therefore upheld the Board's decision to require cuts. I wonder if the head of M.G.M in the States knows that he is about to put out such harmful material to an entire continent? Or the distributors in every other (civilised) European country - in most of which the film has been available for years: don't they know the 'harm' they are causing?

I am of the view that there was absolutely no point whatever in us turning up on the day. The Committee had, for whatever reason, made up their minds beforehand and no amount of hard evidence and legal argument was to sway them from that outcome. In their judgement, they barely conceded a single point to us ' everything was written in the Board's favour. Such an approach not only shows a blatant disrespect for the word of leading Counsel David Pannick QC, it is also a sorry indictment on the concept of 'fair play' whereby everyone outside of the Board was seemingly there to make up the numbers. This is further a terrible day for the Independent Film Industry in this Country and for Freedom of Expression in the U.K: doubtless the Board will continually hark back to this judgement when making future censorship decisions on our behalf. The result was shocking in every meaning of the word.

We will be making official comment in the arts section of The Independent this coming Friday, and also on the FilmFour web-site and other publications in due course. The film will be now be released in the BBFC friendly version in October.

 

7th June   Big Fat Cuts

The cinema version of A Ma Soeur was uncut but the video has been substantially cut by 1:28s with the following BBFC justification:

Cut required to scene of sexual assault on young girl to address the specific danger that video enables the scene to be used to stimulate and validate abusive action.

Given that it is not considered obscene I cannot see why we shouldn't be able to watch this film on video. Note that is available in France with a 12 rating albeit without an English soundtrack.

The BBFC have responded to further questions with the following response:

The cinema version was passed '18' uncut following expert legal advice. Nevertheless the Board was concerned by the film's climactic scene, which shows an underaged girl - played by a 13 year old actress - being raped. Our legal advice confirmed that the scene was not indecent within the meaning of the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Board therefore agreed to pass the scene intact.

The Board also took the opinion of a leading consultant clinical psychologist at the time of the original cinema submission. He expressed a concern that, in his clinical experience, the rape sequence could potentially be used by paedophiles to 'groom' their victims. The Board was satisfied, however, that this concern about potential abuse was minimal in the context of an adult cinema release where the possibility of children being taken to the cinema for grooming was remote.

Videos, by contrast, are more easily accessible for personal use by abusive individuals and the risk of the video's use for grooming was felt to be far higher. Furthermore, the potential for the scene to be played repeatedly and out of context on video concerned the Board far more so than on film. It was felt therefore that, on video, the scene presented a particular problem as both stimulus material and to validate abusive behaviour. The Board's concerns were confirmed by a further opinion from a second consultant psychologist specifically in relation to the video release, which echoed the opinion of her colleague. The scene was therefore removed in its entirety on video.

 

28th May   Reporting on 2001
The BBFC have just released their latest annual report covering 2001. There is an accompanying press release:

New media no threat yet to the video industry says BBFC Director

With video and DVD classifications showing a 15 per cent increase in 2001 it is too early to fear a serious threat to the industry from the so-called new media, BBFC Director Robin Duval said in the Board's Annual Report published today.

Commenting on the increase in submissions Mr Duval said:

"Not so long ago it was considered fashionable to suggest that the new digital media would soon spell the end of the video industry. Videos and DVDs would be replaced by watching films on mobile phones or downloading them directly from the internet. But the figures published in the BBFC's Annual Report reflect the fact that the majority of people still want their favourite films on high quality video or DVD. Last year's rise is part of a steady trend which has seen a 125 per cent increase in submissions on four years ago with no sign of a recession. The advent of DVD has given a huge boost to the industry, and a lot of back catalogues are now finding their way back to the BBFC for reclassification on DVD.

"The number of works cut by the BBFC rose slightly to 2.8 per cent of submissions. Many of these were sex videos which showed an increase as a result of the relaxation in the Guidelines following the High Court decision against the BBFC in 2000. The 'R18' category, however, only accounted for just over six per cent of all works classified by the BBFC. Of the 14 cinema films cut, the majority were cut to obtain a lower category. The '15' rated Before Night Falls, a biopic of the Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, was cut for animal cruelty. Only one '18' rated film, Baise-Moi, was cut in 2001."


The BBFC's President, Andreas Whittam Smith, in his introduction to the 2000 Annual Report raised the question of making the '12' rating advisory. Towards the end of 2001 a pilot in which children younger than 12 were allowed into '12' rated films accompanied by an adult was held in Norwich.

Mr Whittam Smith said this year in his introduction to the 2001 Report:

"I believe that over time the public will wish the Board's decisions to be advisory rather than mandatory. That is why we have been exploring the case for making the '12' certificate at the cinema a useful guide for parents rather than an outright prohibition based on age. For such a system to work, it would be essential for film distributors routinely to provide Consumer Advice with all advertising and promotional activity. We carried out a successful two months trial of this system in Norwich. As we have received a favourable response, we have started a second round of public consultation."

The release in December of The Lord of the Rings with its national publicity carrying the advice that the film might not be suitable for children under the age of eight provided a practical test of how Consumer Advice might be delivered. The BBFC has since been working with the industry towards the provision of 'Consumer Advice' more widely in 2002, particularly in junior category films on posters and in advertising.

Robin Duval concluded:

"This Annual Report is the last one for the President, Andreas Whittam Smith, who takes the opportunity to look back on his four and a half years at the BBFC. As he points out it has been a period of considerable change with the Board becoming more open and accountable. He presided over the introduction of the first set of publicly researched and backed Guidelines and over other modernising initiatives including the current 'advisory 12' experiment. He will be much missed. I am joined by everyone at the BBFC in wishing him every success in his new role as First Church Estates Commissioner."

 

28th May   Appealing for Time

Blue Underground's appeal against the cuts to Last House on the Left was heard last Thursday. The result of the appeal is expected in a couple of weeks or so.

 

8th May   Attack of the Boneheads

Star Wars, Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones has been cut by 1 second by the BBFC to remove a headbut. The cut was to achieve a PG rather than the 12 that would otherwise have been awarded.

As observed by goatboy: And the really stupid thing about this is according to theforce.net the headbutt is in one of the TV ads, so we all get to see it anyway. Well done BBFC.

 

2nd April   Semen on Board
The BBFC have issued the following press release. I have heard that these cuts were very much on the insistance of Andreas Whittam Smith before he left.

The BBFC has passed the French language cinema film, The Pornographer, '18' for adults only, but has required a cut to a graphic sex scene.

The BBFC required that eleven seconds be removed from an unsimulated porn sequence in which a women is seen with semen on her face following oral sex. This is in line with the BBFC's Guidelines at '18' which state that the Board may cut or reject the more explicit images of sexual activity - unless they can be exceptionally justified by context. The Board did not feel that the images cut were justified. The distributor has chosen to remove seventeen seconds.

 

26th March   Maniac at the BBFC

Bill Lustig's Maniac has  finally  been approved for video/DVD release by the BBFC. The  film was originally rejected outright for cinema release in 1981.  Although it was available on video pre-VRA (in a version watered  down by the distributor) it wasn't formally submitted for video release until 1998 when it was once again rejected outright.

However, the Board has now relented and passed it 18 after 58  seconds of cuts.   Cuts have been made to two sequences.  A  strangulation scene (around 13 minutes in) has been reduced to half its original length and a scene in which a bound woman is killed on a  bed  (around  65  minnutes in) has been cut to remove four shots of the killer's knife in contact with the skin between her breasts.

The video and DVD will be released by Anchor Bay (UK) later in the year.

 

23rd March   Hooligans at the BBFC

The BBFC have just announced the rejection of Hooligans with the following justification:

Hooligans is a video compilation of actual football hooliganism, which it endorses and celebrates. The Board has concluded that the work has potential to cause harm within the meaning of the Video Recordings Act and is therefore not suitable for classification.

While the Board accepts that some of the material contained in Hooligans has previously appeared in the public domain, its concern lies in the manner in which the material is presented. Hooliganism is an entirely valid subject for critical documentary treatment, and in that context illustrative news footage has a legitimate function. That, however, is not what is on offer here. Hooligans presents a series of violent and antisocial acts in an exciting and exhilarating manner. Such material may appeal to and validate the behaviour of real life hooligans, confirming them further in their violence. It may also assist in encouraging others who are attracted to such antisocial activities.

The impact of the repetitive and brutal acts of violence is further compounded by the driving musical soundtrack, with its potential to raise the level of viewer excitement. No alternative option to the violence is offered and police efforts to control hooliganism are even criticised by the commentary.

The lack of any real contextualisation or analysis of the behaviour shown leaves the clear impression that the video merely seeks to exploit the phenomenon of hooliganism for the purposes of entertainment. The commentary is supportive of what it refers to as the 'so-called' hooligans and the vox pops provide no alternative critical dimension. Indeed they are proud of their violence. The Board was also concerned by an apparent racist and xenophobic dimension in the video.

It is the Board's conclusion that the video is likely to be widely viewed by the people whose behaviour it celebrates. It may well have the effect of reinforcing and validating their behaviour or of encouraging those on the fringes to join in next time.

The Board did not feel that the problems could be usefully addressed by the provision of a cuts list. The issue is not only the great number of specific visual images, but the overall tone and construction of the tape.

 

23rd March   Nightmares at the BBFC

Another of the video nasties is returning to the video shop shelves. Nightmares in a Damaged Brain has just passed through the BBFC for an 18 certificate. It will be released on DVD & VHS on April 22nd. Further details at www.nightmareinadamagedbrain.co.uk. It will be marketed as Nightmare .

Initial indications were that it had passed uncut. The version submitted was in fact slightly pre-cut and the BBFC passed it without requiring further cuts.

A little further research revealed that the version submitted was obtained from US distributors and seems to be about 2 minutes shorter than the uncut version. Maybe an R rated version.  This has not been confirmed as there seems to be some running time lost in the transfer. It has not been cut by the British distributor.

The end result is a version with a few small cuts along the lines of the UK cinema release. However there are less of them so it is about half way between the uncut version and the cinema version. The fact that there are some pre-cuts has also made the life of the BBFC a little easier. ie the released version is not that prosecuted during the panics of the video nasty era. Unsurprisingly, it took several viewings by the BBFC before the decision was reached.

 

20th March   Savage Cuts

Just noticed a heavily cut video passing through the BBFC with the title Cannibal Ferox 2. It has a grandiose cuts list described by the BBFC as follows: Cuts required to sexual and sexualised violence ( forcible removal of woman's underwear and subsequent shots of full nudity; sight of woman's breast being clawed and wounded with resulting flow of blood and collection of blood in a bowl; sight of woman's breast being exposed, her breast being kissed, her loin cloth being undone, her pubic hair being touched and her positive response to a sexual assault; sight of man forcibly tearing open a woman's shirt, revealing her breasts and struggling with her). Further cuts to sight of cocks attacking each other during a cockfight.

I can't say I have actually heard of this title before so I guess this a bit of exploitative retitling. The film is originally titled Nudo e selvaggio and has an English title for international release of Stranded in Dinosaur Valley.

 

6th March   Whittering Away

The Melon Farmers wish Andreas Whittam Smith every success in his new job. Whilst not quite achieving the ideal that adults should be able to choose their own viewing, things at the BBFC have undeniably improved during Whittam Smith's presidency. In particular the openness of the BBFC has been a notable achievement. The website is now an invaluable view of whats going down and further queries are always met with an intelligent and reasoned response.

The BBFC have issued the following press release:

Andreas Whittam Smith steps down as President of the BBFC

Andreas Whittam Smith will be standing down as President of the British Board of Film Classification on 31 July after over four and a half years in office. Mr Whittam Smith has made the decision after being appointed First Church Estates Commissioner, which is a Crown appointment.

Mr Whittam Smith succeeded Lord Harewood as the ninth President of the BBFC in December 1997. He declared three objectives for the Board: to promote consistency in classification, to encourage public openness, and to make sure the Board was well-informed about public opinion of its work. The Board's achievement since in meeting all three of these objectives is a tribute to his leadership.

One of his first acts was to establish a review of the Board's classification guidelines to gauge whether they accurately reflected public opinion. He instigated a series of public presentations around the country in 1998 explaining the Board's policies which resulted in the publication of the Guidelines for the first time. This was followed by an extensive public consultation and research exercise in 1999/2000 which was the most rigorous scrutiny of a regulator's guidelines ever undertaken and resulted in the Board's current Guidelines, published in September 2000.

His recognition that one of the main purposes of the BBFC is the protection of children led him to establish the Advisory Panel on Children's Viewing in 1999. Its twelve members, drawn from the fields of social work, the judiciary, children's media, clinical psychology and education, maintain a watching brief on the activities of the BBFC where the interests of children are concerned.

Mr Whittam Smith said:
"I will be very sorry to leave the BBFC as I have enjoyed my time as its President very much. The Board is now seen as an open and accountable organisation with a set of Guidelines which reflect current public opinions. That is not to say that the Board is above criticism from some quarters. For example, I recognize that not everyone yet shares my and the Board's view that adults should be able to make their own viewing decisions.

"I look forward eventually to a time when all of the Board's classification decisions are advisory, as they are in most European countries, but this is some way off. As a first step the Board is currently looking at the possibility of making the '12' rating advisory, allowing parents rather than the BBFC to decide whether younger children can see the film. A vital part of that will be the provision of information about the content of films to enable parents to make informed decisions about their children's viewing. A recent successful example of this was the Consumer Advice on the highly successful film The Lord of the Rings. This showed that the industry can incorporate this sort of information both on press and TV advertising and I look forward to this becoming the norm for all films, particularly at the junior classification categories.

"I have presided over an exciting time of change at the BBFC, along with the Vice Presidents, Lord Taylor of Warwick and Janet Lewis Jones. I have watched some very interesting and thought provoking films as well as some I wished I had not seen! I wish my successor well along with everyone at the BBFC."

Mr Whittam Smith's successor will be selected via open competition.

 

6th March   Damaged Brains at the BBFC

House on the Edge of the Park has just been passed 18 by the BBFC. The Vipco release has suffered a whopping 11:43s of cuts. The cuts have been mainly attributed to sexual violence. This must surely be one of the most heavily censored films for an awful long time. I am not sure how this stacks up with Whittam Smith's proclamation: not everyone yet shares my and the Board's view that adults should be able to make their own viewing decisions.

Iconic nasties , Nightmares in a Damaged Brain and Island of Death, are also under consideration.

 

1st March   An Age Old Problem
Thanks to Sergio

An old porn film was recently classified R18 after the removal of an entire scene. Boogie Down with John Holmes loast an 8:08s scene with the following BBFC justification: Cut required to all sight of possibly underage girl (no proof of age available).

After a further email query the BBFC added:

We queried the actresses' age - as we quite regularly do with '18' and 'R18' porn films. However, because of the age of the material (1970s) the distributor was unable to provide us with any assurances, so the scene was removed. The scene was not removed because the actress 'looked' possibly under 18 but because the distributor couldn't prove how old she actually was.

(I am fascinated to know what law prohibits 16 and 17 year olds from appearing in porn films anyway. Given that the Americans have always been very strict about their 18 age limit it would seem unlikely that 15 year olds have ever featured in films from reputable producers. Traci Lords may have fooled because she looked over 18 but she was still over 16. It would seem to me that the BBFC are playing a little overcautiously on this one),

 

17th February   Emanuelle and the Last Gore Gore Girls

The BBFC have recently passed Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals with 1:58s of cuts. They explain as follows: Cuts required to sight of woman's nipple being sliced off, sexualised rape and sexualised evisceration of women.

According to HM Thieves & Excise, the uncut Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is an obscene film liable to seizure. With the cuts it is considered totally legal. In fact I have just received 2 reports of the US DVD being stolen by customs.

Also good to see more from Herschell Gordon Lewis. The latest videos submitted by Tartan have all been passed uncut: The Wizard of Gore , The Gore Gore Girls and She-Devils on Wheels. Interesting to note that a nipple slicing has been left uncut in The Gore Gore Girls . Okay so chocolate milk gushes out of the tit, but it's still a nipple slicing!

 

8th February   Beast at the Board

Videos spotted progressing through the BBFC.

10s of cuts to Road House were required by the BBFC in 1990. (ie a double ear-clap along with some dialogue and a punch to the groin).  The BBFC have now waived the cuts and substantial additional footage has also been located.

Thanks to David for spotting another video nasty finally getting a BBFC certificate.

I have just noticed that the BBFC have just passed The Grim Reaper , which we all know is really Anthropophagous Beast , with a running time of 82m 13s and no cuts are stated. However, before we jump for joy, the running time is considerably less than the uncut running time of 88m 14s stated by Dark Side magazine. I very much doubt the foetus scene is in the film.

I can confirm that The Grim Reaper as submitted  is the cut US release missing a couple of the more gory scenes, ie the foetus eating and the climactic entrail munching.

Thanks to Adam for spotting the uncut The Good Son. The video release was delayed for some time on the back of worries about press hysteria. The BBFC allowed a version cut by 33s in 1995. Cuts were to a scene where two 10 year old boys engineer a motorway pile-up by dropping a lifelike dummy into a stream of traffic. The BBFC felt that the possibility that such a scene could be viewed and copied by mischievous children was too great to ignore. The BBFC also cut the sense of mounting excitement with which the boys greet the escalating devastation. It has now been passed uncut

I mentioned earlier that The New York Ripper has remarkably been passed by the BBFC with just 22s of cuts. The certificate has now been added to the BBFC website with the following comment: Cuts required to detailed, close up sight of a woman's stomach, breast and nipple being cut with a razor blade

 

1st February   Co vs Org

The BBFC have taken action against the Ban the Board of Film Censors website. This campaign cheekily used the address www.bbfc.org.uk compared with the official BBFC site at www.bbfc.co.uk.

The BBFC tolerated a previous version of the campaign, Bulletin Board of Film Censorship at the same address for a long time. However the later version of the campaign promised to be far more critical perhaps expediting BBFC action. The BBFC registered a complaint with Nominet resulting in the hopefully temporary loss of Ban the Board of Film Censors.

I feel that the official BBFC site should carry a prominent link to the relocated Ban the Board of Film Censors website so that readers are not inconvenienced by an enforced change of address. The Melon Farmers will of course help in the redirection of people trying to locate the new address.

Thanks to Shaun Hollingworth for putting his views to the BBFC and obtaining the following statement from the BBFC.

It is true that we took action to take possession of the domain name "bbfc.org.uk". This was purely in order to avoid confusion with our own site. However, we had no problem as such with the content (inaccurate though much of it was) provided the site could not be confused that of the BBFC. As soon as our complaint was registered with Nominet (regarding the domain name, NOT the content of the site), bbfc.org.uk announced that all content would in future be mirrored at 'www.britishboard.com', a name with which we were perfectly content. And we fully expected them to continue with exactly the same material under their new domain name. However, it appears that the site has now closed down altogether. That is nothing to do with us and is perhaps only temporary. It is not fair to say that the Board cannot take criticism - we are perfectly happy to do so and quite used to it. However, when misleading and inaccurate information (which we're afraid bbfc.org.uk contained more than its fair share of) might be confused with our legitimate site [and this was fairly obviously the intention behind taking that domain name] we were not prepared to accept it. We have no difficulty with criticism of the Board on sites such as Melon Farmers, which cannot be confused with us.

22nd January   Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Thanks to Gavin

The BBFC have confirmed for me today that the upcoming DVD Criterion Collection Region 2 release of The Rock will be fully uncut and still retain it's '15' rating. Now the public can see the full version as it was originally seen in the theatres back in 1997. I noticed the extras had been through the board a few days ago, so I decided to question them about what rating it would be. So now we know.

(Hardly one of the glorious decisions of the byegone BBFC. The Melon Farmers now "expect" the far more reasonable stance of the Board and can but hope that other distributors resubmit any stupid cuts from days gone by so that we can see a few more films in that way that was intended).

 

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