BBFC News

 2004

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November 29th   Video Songs

The BBFC have just passed the video version of Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs '18' uncut. This film famously contains hardcore and 35 minutes of sex scenes. Of course in reality the hardcore scenes are only about 5 minutes. See the BBFC press release about the cinema version for further details

So more hardcore that we can eventually watch on Sky. It was noted on the forum that Sky viewers who have not actively registered an interest in hardcore can view hardcore. Yet those that have chosen to subscribe to a sex service are  not allowed to.

 

November 16th   Switchblade but No Cuts

The uncut version has just been passed 18 on video

From www.ohmygore.com

Interviewing the film makers of Haute Tension (Switchblade Romance)

Switchblade Romance features some extremely violent imagery. Did you have problems with film censors?

No not at all, our producer Luc Besson said from the very beginning that we could do what we want, which was great. In the US they kept the film in its original state and so it was releases with an NC-17 certificate. In the UK we did not have to make any cuts either which was a big surprise as we are used to seeing UK versions of films on VHS and DVD with numerous cuts.

 

November 10th   Uncut Anatomy

Good to see that the BBFC have passed Anatomy of Hell uncut with an 18 certificate for a cinema release. What is more, I am assured that there were no pre-cuts.  Previous news stories like this one from The Sunday Times suggested that there would be cuts but this is not the case:

Catherine Braillat’s new movie, Anatomy of Hell, which is due to be released this autumn, mixes pseudo-intellectualism with graphic sex.  The plot, if I can credit it as such, goes something like this: woman picks up gay man to prove that homosexual men can enjoy sex with a pretty woman.  Over the next 70 minutes, the film offer erect penises, oral sex, vaginal intercourse, close-ups of the woman’s genitalia, a stone dildo and a rake. 

At the recent Edinburgh film festival, Anatomy of Hell had an R18 certificate, usually reserved for hardcore porn.  Yet the BBFC is to give just an 18, provided a scene is cut out where, in a flashback to his youth, the man is playing ‘doctors and nurses’ with a girl of about six.

 

November 4th   Damp Squid Protest

From The Guardian

The BBFC has come under fire from the campaign group Animal Aid, who are angered by a scene in the South Korean film Oldboy, released last month. The scene shows a man eating a live octopus. A scientific consultant to Animal Aid, André Menache, accuses the BBFC's defence of the footage of "giving legitimacy to brutal and savage scenes designed to appeal to the audience's most base instincts".

 

October 31st
Telegraphing the Golden Age of Repression

The BBFC decisions cited below seem eminently sensible, It is the Telegraph that is failing to move with the times. I wonder if their editors sit around sipping tea reminiscing about the golden age of repression.

Based on an article from The Telegraph

Films depicting explicit sex and violence which were shown in cinemas with an 18 certificate are being sold on DVD as suitable for schoolchildren.

Among the films that have been given a 15 certificate on DVD, instead of the 18 or X classification they received for their cinema release, are The Last Temptation of Christ, The Wicker Man and Don't Look Now.

The BBFC, which is awarding lower age certificates despite some DVD versions containing material removed for the cinema release, claims public attitudes have changed.

John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch UK, an organisation representing a handful of viewers and listeners, said, however, that the board was failing in its duty to protect children. Too many of the board's decisions are being made on a whim. It has no right to reclassify films just because it thinks times have changed, I do not believe people want these sort of films being made legally available to children. Our problem is there is no public scrutiny of what the board actually does."

Ken Russell's 1969 film Women In Love, which features Oliver Reed and Alan Bates in a nude male wrestling scene, and The Return of the Living Dead II, a great blood-soaked 1988 horror film, are among the other DVD releases that carry a 15 rating for the first time.

Other films that have subsequently been rated 15 on DVD include Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ, which was attacked as "blasphemous" on its release in 1988 and Nic Roeg's 1973 film Don't Look Now, which featured Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in scenes of tasteful lovemaking.

In the case of some older films the reclassifications have been even more dramatic. The X-rated 1958 horror film The Fly, which starred Vincent Price, was given a PG certificate when released on DVD in 2001. Its archaic special effects were no longer deemed to be shocking.

The same happened in the case of the 1953 film The Wild One, which starred a leather-clad Marlon Brando as the original rebel without a cause. The film, which provoked uproar in its day, is now considered tame.

Ken Russell, the director of Women In Love, welcomed the decision to reconsider his film, which one critic described as "women in heat" when it was first screened. I guess the board of film censors is growing up. It never occurred to me to question the original 18 certificate at the time because that is the way things were. I think this reclassification shows that the further we get away from Victorian times and the hang-ups that were part of that period, the more open-minded people become. I am delighted that more people will be able to see it."

A spokesman added that each release was assessed against guidelines which it introduced in 2000 following consultation with the public. The attitudes of the times have changed and it is important to look at each video and DVD release with a modern eye, the new guidelines have allowed more films with sex scenes to be classified as 15.
The sight of Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland writhing about in bed is not as shocking as it once was.

 

October 25th   Triple Censors Pass Triple X

A promising sounding article that in the end told us nothing about the presidents of the BBFC

From The Guardian

One is a Tory peer. Another was once a mandarin in the Northern Ireland Office. The third is a barrister from Wales with a wealth of expertise on topics from water to the post.

As controversy deepened yesterday about the decision to allow a new film depicting real sex to be screened uncut in British cinemas, the three members of the "presidential team" at the BBFC were facing fierce criticism from MPs and lobby groups and calls for government intervention.

The Guardian has learned that Britain's most senior team of censors viewed the film 9 Songs, by British director Michael Winterbottom, before it was passed for distribution without cuts to scenes showing authentic acts of penetration, masturbation and oral sex.

The film, to be released in February, was one of the most talked about at the Cannes festival in May. A tale of the relationship between a young couple in London, played by Kieran O'Brien and Margot Stilley, it features 35 minutes of unsimulated sex.

From January, the censors are to begin working with new guidelines but these would not rule out passing of films with real and graphic sex scenes.

It is understood that following the outcry that greeted the screening at Cannes, 9 Songs was referred to the BBFC's director, David Cooke, for appraisal. A further screening was then arranged for the presidential team led by Sir Quentin Thomas, former political director of the Northern Ireland Office.

Sir Quentin, who also held senior roles at the Home Office and Cabinet Office, assessed the film with Lord Taylor of Warwick, the Conservative peer and barrister, who is a vice president, and Janet Lewis-Jones, a lawyer who has served on a string of quangos and public bodies such as the British Waterways Board and the regulator Postcomm. None of the three was available for comment yesterday, but Sue Clarke, the board's director of communication, said the fact that the sex scenes were real had not been the most important consideration. That was discussed, but it was not felt there was anything in the film that would need to be cut. It was a question of intent. The intent of a sex film is sexual arousal. That is not the intention behind this film. She said public views had been canvassed during compilation of a revised set of guidelines. The board doesn't make moral decisions, because what is morally wrong for one person is not morally wrong for another.

She said the public could formally complain and a few people had done so. But only complaints from people who had seen the film were likely to be taken seriously. Local councils can prevent films they find objectionable being screened within the territory they control.

The director yesterday intervened to defend his film and the rating it has received from the censors. In his first interview since the ruling, Winterbottom told the Observer that anyone who enjoys pornography would be disappointed by it. He agreed the film was the most sexually explicit to be made in mainstream British cinema, but added: There's not an awful lot of competition.

 

October 18th   It Wasn't the Bedroom Scene

From The Scotsman

Artist Tracey Emin has hit out at British film censors after they awarded her new film about teenage life an 18 certificate.

Top Spot centres on six teenagers growing up and discovering friendship, sex and love in Emin’s home town of Margate. As the film is about “the essence of being a teenager”, the decision by British censors is a major blow for the artist.

Emin, 41, famous for works such as Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, a tent stitched with the names of all her sexual conquests, said the decision came as a shock. I made this very personal film about teenage girls, I never in a million years thought that they would not be able to see it.

The BBFC said it gave Top Spot, which draws on Emin’s own experiences, an 18 certificate because of a suicide scene. But Tartan Films, the distributors, has accused the BBFC of inconsistency – saying it has been easier on American films. Hamish McAlpine of Tartan Films described the decision as “bizarre”.

He said: There is no logic to this decision. There is absolutely no sex or depiction of sex in the film, and I fail to see what references to sex made in the film are not suitable for a 15-year-old to hear. As this film strikes a very moral stance against the exploitation of teenagers, all the references to sex are intended to teach 15-year-olds the dangers they face in an adult world.

BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark defended the decision, saying: The only reason this film has an 18 certificate is because of the suicide scene, otherwise it would be a 15. We were concerned the scene might influence a vulnerable age group. In The Virgin Suicides, you only see a band on someone’s wrist and slightly pink bathwater.”

Emin’s directorial debut will have its premiere at the London Film Festival. She chose the six girls, who had no acting experience, at an open casting session, and developed the script from her interaction with them, making use of improvisation.

 

October 18th   Singing the Praises of the BBFC

Press release from the BBFC

BBFC passes 9 SONGS uncut for an adult audience

The BBFC has classified Michael Winterbottom's film 9 Songs '18' uncut for cinema release. The film portrays the development of a relationship between two people, and includes a number of scenes of explicit, real, sexual activity. The Board carefully considered whether these scenes contravened the current classification Guidelines.

Some people may find such explicit images shocking or unexpected in a cinema film. The Board is sensitive to public concerns, and its Guidelines are based on extensive consultation. The Board's Guidelines allow the more explicit images of sexual activity at '18' if they can be exceptionally justified by context. The Board has concluded in this case that adults should be free to choose whether or not to see the film. The film does not raise issues of harm or sexual violence. The film's exploration of the relationship provides sufficient contextual justification for the Board to pass the work uncut at '18'. 9 Songs is wholly different in appearance, tone, intention and treatment from the sex works which the Board classifies either at '18' or 'R18' (and which in the latter case may be supplied only in licensed sex shops).

The Board's consumer advice for the film will make clear that the film contains frequent strong real sex so that anyone who might be offended can avoid seeing the film.

 

October 5th   Anatomy of the Raspberry Reich

Based on an article from The Sunday Times

Catherine Braillat’s new movie, Anatomy of Hell, which is due to be released this autumn, mixes pseudo-intellectualism with graphic sex.  The plot, if I can credit it as such, goes something like this: woman picks up gay man to prove that homosexual men can enjoy sex with a pretty woman.  Over the next 70 minutes, the film offer erect penises, oral sex, vaginal intercourse, close-ups of the woman’s genitalia, a stone dildo and a rake. 

The piece de resistance involves a used tampon being placed in a glass of water.  What happens to it next – presented as an act of communion – I won’t be specific about, but it is revolting.  At the recent Edinburgh film festival, Anatomy of Hell had an R18 certificate, usually reserved for hardcore porn.  Yet the BBFC is to give just an 18, provided a scene is cut out where, in a flashback to his youth, the man is playing ‘doctors and nurses’ with a girl of about six.  The ‘18’ certificate was virtually the last decision made by Robin Duval, who has just left as director of the BBFC.

The cut scene is in fact of a girl of about 9 with her legs spread open. However the sex is unsimulated as suggested

Seeming more harshly treated is the Raspberry Reich by Bruce La Bruce. This also features unsimulated sex but the BBFC cut 3:42s with the following explanation: Distributor chose to remove clear and explicit images of sexual activity which could not be exceptionally justified by their context in order to achieve an 18 classification (some explicit images allowed to remain). An uncut R18 was available.

 

September 20th   Oldboy at the BBFC

Thanks to Graham

It seems that, while none of us were looking, the BBFC have passed uncut three of the hotter potatoes of the year.

First is John Waters' A Dirty Shame, a comedy about sex addicts in blue-collar suburbia. The MPAA gave this movie an NC-17, much to the confusion of Waters, and the BBFC have recently given it an 18. Not too surprising, given that Waters has generally had a fair deal at the BBFC.

More surprising is Lukas Moodysson's A Hole In My Heart, a film about amateur pornography that features humiliation with vomit and urine and unsimulated sex throughout. Moodysson's intent appears to be to show the degradation of pornography by showing even more degrading acts than most pornography will allow - but of course, it's OK when he does it because it's art. If you can avoid choking on the hypocrisy, it's out early next year.

More surprising still is Park Woo-Chan's new film Oldboy. His previous film Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance also pushed hard at the limits of the 18 certificate, but this one goes further still, not least in an unsimulated sequence where the anti-hero rips apart a live octopus with his teeth. Many people assumed this would be one of the first things to go given the BBFC's previous stance on animal deaths, but Oldboy is out on October 15th as an 18 without cuts.

 

September 19th   Duvals Off

Robin Duval has now left his post as Director of the BBFC. There is an interview with Mark Kermode in the Observer where Duval looks back over his tenure.

The Melon Farmers would like to wish him well in his future jobs. As a measure of his success one only needs to look over the quantity of Melon Farming stories about the BBFC. They have declined massively as most of the campaigning effort has been re-targeted at other more deserving censors.

Of course that's not to say that everything is Melon Farmingly perfect at the Board. After all, we still have despicable state censorship where practically every second of video released in the UK must get state approval.

Well let's welcome the incoming David Cooke and hope that during his reign the BBFC become the classifiers that their name suggests and that it becomes voluntary to seek their advice.

 

September 19th   Hardcore 18s at the BBFC

Welcome David Cooke!

Based on an article from The Independent

Distributors of adult movies bring legal case that would allow hardcore DVDs to be sold in the high street

Porn movie distributors are mounting a legal challenge that could in effect abolish sex shop rules governing the distribution of hardcore video.

They claim that a new generation of ultra-explicit mainstream movies, such as Baise Moi and Intimacy, have made the distinction between art and pornography meaningless. They also say that the availability of imported blue movies from Europe means restricting sales to licensed shops is no longer tenable. Their move, if successful, would lead to hard-core DVDs being given the same rating by the BBFC as many horror films, making them available in high-street shops.

Real sex scenes can be viewed, with an 18 certificate, in the French film Baise Moi and the British film Intimacy. In contrast, sales of films rated R18 - featuring close-up sexual activity - have to be sold through licensed shops.

But 10 companies that own the rights to porn films have begun a process to reduce the certificates to 18, which means they could be sold virtually anywhere. They are to take their case to the Video Appeals Committee, which is drawn from a panel that includes the writer Fay Weldon, the broadcaster Claire Rayner and the creator of Blue Peter, Biddy Baxter.

The VAC's liberal interpretation of the Video Recordings Act led to a shake-up in the guidelines applying to R18 videos four years ago, allowing stronger material to be available. It opened the floodgates for legally available porn in the UK, with hundreds of films being given certificates.

The porn distributors, though, remain angry that sales are still restricted to a few hundred licensed shops. Three adult distributors were recently prosecuted for trying to circumvent the rules by sending R18 material via mail order. The legal cases were brought despite the fact that hard-core films are readily available by post from other European countries.

The distributors say the Government does nothing to stop material arriving from the Continent, which means UK distributors face tougher barriers for selling legal material.

Greg Hurlstone, director of one of the leading distributors, Prime Time Promotions, said: This restricts the sale of our products to 200 stores in the UK, but who is that going to protect? Porn is available 24 hours a day on the internet

Ofcom, the communications regulator, is consulting on the idea of allowing subscription channels in the UK to screen R18 material, and distributors feel this will further erode their business.

The adult film companies say they will tone down the explicit covers of their DVDs to make them more suitable for sale in high-street shops.

They have submitted eight films that have R18 ratings to the BBFC, asking for them to be given an 18 certificate. The BBFC is preparing a list of cuts needed to achieve that level, but the film companies are to reject these and take the case to appeal.

 

September 4th   Big is Scary at the BBFC

Spotted by Gap in the  Melon Farmers Discussions

From the BBFC
 
The BBFC has raised the 'PG' rating for Spider-Man 2 to '12A' for IMAX cinemas in the UK. The IMAX cinemas are located in Bradford, Bristol, Belfast, Bournemouth, Glasgow, Manchester and two in London.
 
When classifying a film for cinema release the Board carefully considers the impact of the special effects and sound track on the likely audience. In the case of SPIDER-MAN 2 the Board believes that the huge screens and powerful sound systems in IMAX cinemas, designed to deliver an intense cinematographic experience, mean that some young children may find the film more 'scary' than they would if they saw it at a 'traditional' cinema.
 
The '12A' rating does not mean that young fans cannot see the film as children under 12 years of age can see a '12A' rated film if they are accompanied by an adult. The '12A' rating for IMAX cinemas is designed to help parents with young or sensitive children to make sure that their trip to the cinema is not a distressing experience.

 

September 4th   Unmutilated at the BBFC

From Warren in the  Melon Farmers Discussions

Some good news for UK viewers...
The shocking French body-horror drama, Dans Ma Peau (In My Skin), has been passed UNCUT in the UK. The movie features some very graphic scenes of self-mutilation and self-cannibalism and have caused numerous walk-outs among viewers at film festivals and at the cinema. I was wondering how the BBFC would react to this film, since it presents the main character's problem rather bluntly and without any sort of explanation as to why she is doing this to herself. I was afraid they would see her acts as "imitable". It will be interesting to see if it gets passed uncut on video.

From a review by Virgile Iscan

The scenes of self mutilation are of course ugly, sometimes showing real sickness from a director showing herself ripped apart, ripping herself apart and exhibiting a sick, wounded and skinny body. Her self mutilating game is reflected in the way she films herself in the nude scenes, playing with her body, her skin and offering sometimes expressions of a real sickness.

In My Skin is certainly worth a look for its daring subject and depiction.

 

August 7th

  Censors without Consent

Is this the first R18 with absolutely no sex in it? How come the BBFC can censor my videos without first asking for my consent?

Spotted by IanG on the  Melon Farmers Discussions

From the BBFC latest decsions:

Pamela Anderson: Pamela and Tommy Uncensored recently passed a massively cut R18

To obtain this category cuts of 48m 42s were required. The cuts were Compulsory. Cut required to remove material featuring sexual activity for which the distributor could not provide evidence of consent from the participants with regard to its distribution. Cuts made on the grounds that distribution in the UK may constitute a breach of duty of confidence and a breach of privacy under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

June 29th

  18 Challenges

By BOD  from Melon Farmers Discussions

Something of interest, 12 or so adult distributors have recently got together and submitted R18 strength material to the BBFC for classification. Nothing new there you might ask and you'd be right, however there not asking for an R18 classification but an ordinary 18.. I can't say which titles have been submitted but I'm informed the whole process including a VAC appeal should take no more than 8 weeks. Is this the end for the r18 and licensing?

 

June 30th

  New Direction
From the BBFC Website

The BBFC today announced the appointment of David Cooke as the new Director of the BBFC. Mr Cooke is currently Associate Political Director at the Northern Ireland Office and has a wide experience of regulatory policy and practice in broadcasting, drugs, immigration, and criminal justice.

He will be taking up the post in September when the current Director, Robin Duval, retires.

David Cooke said:
“As a regular film-goer with a long-standing interest in film and film criticism I am delighted to be bringing my regulatory experience to the post of Director of the BBFC. It is vital for the classification process to be independent, fair and open; to command public confidence; and to be responsive to social concerns. Under Robin Duval, the BBFC has consolidated its expertise, communicated clearly the basis for its decisions and achieved high standards of productivity. I am greatly looking forward to working with the staff of the BBFC, the Presidential Team, the Council of Management and the Board's advisory bodies and stakeholders so that the Board can continue going from strength to strength.”

Robin Duval said:
“I am delighted to be handing over the reins to such a talented and able individual. I first came across David in the 1980s when we were both involved in broadcast regulation, and have admired his outstanding commonsense and sound judgement. Since then he has shown a diverse range of talents at the most senior levels of Whitehall in management and policy making.

“The BBFC is now a sizeable organization with a staff of over 60, including more than 20 full time professional examiners. It is currently handling more than 14,000 films and videoworks a year. The Director's job today is to lead the BBFC through an increasingly complex range of regulatory, legal and policy issues. David is the ideal appointment to lead the Board.”
David Cooke joined the Civil Service in 1977 and has worked in the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Northern Ireland Office. He has held six Director-level posts. In the Home Office Broadcasting Department between 1987 and 1990, David was responsible for policy on radio, cross-media ownership, broadcast programme standards and constitutional issues. He helped set up the Broadcasting Standards Council and Radio Authority and coordinated the White Paper Broadcasting: Competition, Choice and Quality and the Broadcasting Act 1990.

The post of Director was filled through open competition.

 

June 22nd

  Butt Head Advice

Thanks to Gav

On the BBFC website and seen this re: Shrek 2:

During post-production, the distributor sought and was given advice on how to secure a 'U' classification. As a result of this advice, sight of a headbutt by Princess Fiona was removed prior to submission. The submitted work was passed U without cuts.

Also just found out that Spider Man 2 has been cut for a PG rating during post-production to remove a headbutt. How pathetic!

 

June 13th

  Addicted to Censorship

This sounds like Government hype trying to make us forget about Iraq for a while.  Blair blaming smoking movie actors is particularly put in his place by the observation that heroic characters rarely smoke anyway. Society is moving at a reasonably rapid pace towards frowning on smokers anyway. Current self censorship by producers hardly necessitates further state nannying.

From The Independent

The BBFC are considering new measures to protect children's health by clamping down on Hollywood scenes of drinking and smoking, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

In future, tobacco and alcohol could be included alongside sex and violence when the film board classifies new movies - a step which could ban children from watching films where heavy smoking is portrayed.

The film industry has become the latest front in the battle over cigarettes. Government proposals enabling local authorities to impose workplace smoking bans, first reported in this newspaper, were backed by Tony Blair last week. Research suggests children are nearly three times as likely to try tobacco if they regularly watch movie actors smoke, with films exerting a more powerful influence than tobacco advertising.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, signalled his personal scepticism over the plans, however, when he said that smoking had become a "middle-class obsession". And those fearing the resurgence of a nanny state will be dismayed to learn that the habit faces the censor's blade.

The BBFC has included smoking and drinking in a list of activities that could be covered in new guidelines for age restrictions that will come into force later this year. A final decision on whether films that include smoking will be rated at 15-plus is expected within the next few months following a consultation exercise.

British cinema-goers have been asked whether they believe smoking and drinking should fall under the censor's axe. The BBFC said it was reviewing its classification guidelines earlier this year. Robin Duval, the board director said, it wanted to check public views on bad language, sex and violence in films.

However, the body later quietly added a number of other issues, including smoking and drinking, before starting the exercise in which 10,000 people have been asked for their views. Among the questions asked is whether only the "hero" of a film should be seen smoking or whether no smoking should be shown at all.

The initiative has received a mixed response from film critics, who raised the possibility of "anachronistic film- making" where scenes set in the 1940s or 50s would show no one smoking.

The film critic Barry Norman, said: It would be the most unbelievable piece of censorship. At the moment Bruce Willis is the only leading man I can think of who smokes on screen. The only other people who smoke cigarettes are villains - that's how you know they are the villain, when they light up.

But the Oscar-winning film producer Lord Puttnam was delighted with the BBFC's proposals. As a lifetime non- smoker and somebody who has lost family members to smoking-related illnesses I think it is all to the good. When I was at Columbia, I stopped scenes showing people snorting cocaine in two films. I have never regretted it.

The BBFC is also consulting on whether "racial or religious references which might be offensive to some people" should be considered by the censors when it comes to rating a film.

Sue Clark, the body's head of communications, said it was too early to say what the results of the survey showed but that they would help frame the new rules. One consequence could be an automatic 18-plus restriction on all cinema alcohol advertisements to protect children from being targeted.

Although the explicit portrayal of smoking in children's films was rare, it did occur, she said, citing Glenn Close's Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians.

The depiction of smoking on television is covered by an Office of Communications code. It states that its portrayal should be avoided in children's programmes and only included in other material "where context or dramatic veracity requires it". Broadcasters should also take care not to portray smoking as an "attractive activity".

 

May 26th

  Habitual Censors

I spotted Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun passing through the BBFC with 6:15s of cuts. The BBFC justified this as follows:  Distributor was required to cut indecent images of a child under the terms of the Protection of Children Act 1978, and images of sexualised torture.

I presume this is a an example of a film featuring a 16/17 year old that is now horribly illegal. I hardly consider that someone afforded the right to work, have sex and soon to have the vote should be labelled as a child and hence imply ludicrous suggestions of heinous crime. Perhaps the BBFC could state the age of the 'child' so we can judge for ourselves.

On another topic, good to see The Exterminator pass through with all previous cuts waived.

 

May 4th

  The C-Word at the British Board of Film C******

From the Guardian

Thanks to Ian at www.world-sex-news.com

Britain's film c*****s are to launch a survey to find out whether the public regards four-letter swearwords as acceptable in front of children.

Robin Duval, the retiring director of the BBFC, concedes that the British are almost alone in Europe in being so sensitive to bad language.

But he has decided to conduct a review of its policy on swearing after filmmakers complained there was little point banning 15-year-olds from seeing films simply because they contain language they are only too familiar with.

Under the existing BBFC guidelines a single use of the f-word in a film is enough to increase its classification from PG to 12A and repeated use of the c-word is enough to get a film classed 18 when it would otherwise attract a mass-market 15 certificate.

Among the films that suffered this fate last year were Veronica Guerin, portraying the assassination of the Dublin journalist by drug dealers, and a Californian lifestyle drama, Laurel Canyon, starring Kate Beckinsale, which earned its 18 certificate because it included three uses of the c-word.

There have always been counter-arguments, particularly within the film industry itself, challenging the board's policy of uprating works to 18 or 15 purely on the basis of strong and sexual expletives, concedes the newly published BBFC annual report.

Some people argue that 15-year-olds are so familiar with such language that barring them from films containing very strong language is pointless; others contend that context should have a greater bearing on the decision and that the potential for offence should be balanced against any positive qualities the work might contain.

The BBFC says it wants to explore this in their review of its guidelines and says it is interested to see whether people have changed their views about the offensiveness of swearwords such as the c-word since they carried out a similar exercise four years ago.

 

May 4th

  End of Term Report

The latest BBFC Annual Report for 2003 has just been published. I have read little so far but I did get the impression that the BBFC had put themselves forward as a harmonised European censor. As if other countries would opt to be humiliated by the need for the government to pre-vet everything that we view.

The report is available in Adobe pdf format on the BBFC website. Select "BBFC" then "Downloads"

Anyway the BBFC have issued the following press release:

In an increasingly rich media environment, the BBFC's role as a provider of basic advice and guidance is likely to expand Robin Duval, retiring Director of the BBFC, predicted in his foreword to the Board's Annual Report, published today.

The Board will need to stay close to standards of public acceptability. There will be a greater value in the provision of information and advice alongside the formal classification ratings. The public will want it and I believe the industry will increasingly become persuaded of the benefits in delivering it.

The future prospects for a wider European harmonization of film standards, however, seemed as remote as ever:

The British are almost alone in Europe in their sensitivity to bad language. The French place a much higher premium upon the cultural value of a film than other nations. The Spanish tend to take a harder line than anyone on sexual immorality and the Scandinavians are most sensitive on violence and least on sex. Some European nations prohibit censorship for adults, others cut or ban films. In some countries the age ratings are advisory only, in others (including France) they are mandatory. The example of videogames, which are now regulated in most of Europe from Hilversum, suggests that harmonisation may only be achievable by agreeing to abide by the standards of the most restrictive nations.

Looking back on his five years as Director of the BBFC Mr Duval highlighted the huge increase in workload from less than 6,000 works in 1998 to 14,000 in 2003, whilst commending the Board's staff for reducing turnaround time to around a quarter of what it had been. As a result of this increased productivity the Board has this year reduced the fees for classification by 11 per cent with immediate effect. The Board's fees have been reduced or rebated four times since December 2001 and are now more than a third lower than they were in 2002.

In his introduction to the Annual Report, the Board's President, Sir Quentin Thomas also emphasised the need for the Board to stay close to standards of public acceptability.

He also said: It is essential that the Board enjoys the widest possible measure of public, political and media understanding and confidence. That means gauging as best we can where the public stands. At the beginning of 2004 we launched a further programme of consultation to establish once more how far our Guidelines continue to reflect public concerns. To that end the Board is using a variety of research methods including a website questionnaire; 'hall tests'; a national survey of over 4000 people; focus groups and contributions from individuals, interested groups and the industry. Our aim is to publish new Guidelines before the end of the year.

 

April 28th

  Madhouse at the BBFC

Another of the infamous Video Nasties has been passed without BBFC cuts.

1981 US/Italian video by Ovidio G Assonitis Also known as There Was a Little Girl

A deranged woman escapes from the loony bin and gate-crashers her twin sister's birthday party. Guests are attacked by a big black Alsation and/or a mystery maniac. The dog gets its come-uppance when lobotomised by a power drill.

 

March 9th

  He Came, He Saw, He Censored

Press release from the BBFC website

Robin Duval has announced that he will retire in August after five and a half years as the Director of the BBFC. He was appointed at the end of 1998.

During his time as Director the Board has become more accountable to the public and more transparent in its decision making. Mr Duval oversaw the Board's first major public consultation exercise resulting in the Classification Guidelines published in September 2000. In this period also, the Board's overall workload has more than doubled from 5712 titles in 1998 to 14,000 last year. At the same time improved efficiency has resulted in a drop of over 20 per cent in the classification fees charged to the industry.

Mr Duval said: My period as Director of the BBFC has been immensely stimulating and challenging. I shall be very sad to leave. I believe the publication of the Guidelines, the Board's websites and our continuing engagement with the public through research and publicity have made the Board's decisions much more understandable and acceptable. The Board also now enjoys a reputation for consistency and professional efficiency.

There is no way of knowing when is the best time to retire, but I would like to think at least that I am leaving the BBFC in good shape. I will miss particularly the kindness and support of all those I have worked with in my five and a half years at the BBFC.


Before joining the Board Mr Duval was, for seven years, the Deputy Director of Programmes at the Independent Television Commission. As a TV regulator he was responsible for monitoring television standards at the ITC and IBA for 13 years. He began his career in BBC radio and then spent three years as a writer and producer of television commercials at J Walter Thompson. In 1968 he joined the Central Office of Information (COI) as a scriptwriter and went on to become Head of Television and Film Production.

The search for his replacement will begin immediately via open competition.

 

February  26th

  End of Term

Robin Duval is expected to leave the BBFC later this year. He has been Director for 5 years but has overseen some significant changes (certainly the most significant since the introduction of the Video Recordings Act). Rumour has it that the BBFC feel that, in terms of liberalisation, they've taken things about as far as they can go (without a change in the law, that is).

 

February  22nd

  Dissecting Taboos

From The Independent

A DVD of an autopsy - the first to be available in British shops - is due to be released in April if the BBFC awards it a certificate.

The 50-minute film, Autopsy, shows a US pathologist, Thomas Noguchi,carrying out the procedure on an unidentified man. Footage shows the former Los Angeles chief medical examiner removing and cutting up organs.

The film has been condemned for turning a body dissection into entertainment. John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK said: I hope the BBFC will not grant this a certificate so that it doesn't even get on the market and be made into nothing more than entertainment.

The DVD firm Revolver signed a deal 10 days ago to distribute the film. The marketing director, Jezz Vernon, said: We felt there was a demand - a curiosity to explore a previously taboo part of death.

A BBFC spokeswoman said: Just because something is shocking doesn't mean it can't be classified.

 

February 6th

  Face Sitting at the BBFC

The BBFC's view of potential harm is somewhere between tenuous and ludicrous. The whole of the adult population lives with risk thousands of times more potent than some of the petty things trumped up by the BBFC. Surely the risk of strangulation is totally dissipated by "can you hold on a sec love whilst I catch my breath?" How does this risk compare with darting across a road in traffic liable to be speeding.

Thanks to Wayne

Just wondering if anyone checked out the BBFC's classification listing for the R-18 classified version of the American hardcore film "I'M YOUR SLUT 2"? Check out some of their reasoning for cuts made including the hilarious reasoning that a woman sitting on a man's face is dangerous and restrictive of his breathing-hence cut!!! What a riot! Without a doubt THE funniest reasons for cuts made to an R-18 feature I have seen to date!

 

February 4th

  More Massacre

Brownie points to the BBFC. I reported last year that Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 was passed 18 by the BBFC but the R rated version submitted was heavily cut in the US and ended up not particularly gory.

In the process of certification the BBFC pointed out that there was also an unrated version. The distributors have located the unrated version and have recently submitted that version. The BBFC again have passed it uncut at 18.

It was in fact the unrated version that was originally rejected back in 1990.

This means that the DVD due to be released by Entertainment in Video (in March/April 2004) will be identical to the Region 1 release - i.e. both cuts of the film, original ending, deleted scenes and documentary. All uncut.

 

February 3rd

  Unhinged at the BBFC

Good to see that another of the video nasties has passed the BBFC uncut. Unhinged is not exactly considered one of the classic nasties but it is still another step in the right direction.

1:05s of cuts have been waived for The Boston Strangler, a 1968 US film by Richard Fleischer. It seems a fair while ago to worry about cuts, but these cuts were in fact required when the video was last submitted in 1988.

 

January 8th

Getting it Right?

A Press release on  the BBFC website. Well worth passing on your views.

BBFC ASKS THE PUBLIC ARE WE STILL GETTING IT RIGHT?

Three years after the publication of the film and video classification guidelines the BBFC is going back to the public to ask 'are we still getting it right?'

Robin Duval, Director of the BBFC said:
“We make much of the fact that our guidelines enjoy public support, so it is essential that we regularly go back to the public to make sure we are still reflecting the general view. Our current guidelines are the most researched guidelines of any content regulator, but this time we will be asking even more people for their views on every classification issue from the usual ones of sex, bad language and violence through to how well the 12A cinema rating is doing.”

The public will be asked for their views using a variety of methods. Visitors to the BBFC website will be asked to fill in a comprehensive questionnaire covering all aspects of classification policy; in 'hall tests' carried out around the UK members of the public will be asked to take time out to sit down and read the guidelines and then fill in a questionnaire; around 30 focus groups held throughout the country will look at specific classification issues.

Mr Duval said:
“Public opinion does not always move one way. It is more than three years since we consulted so it will be interesting to see if attitudes have shifted and if so which way. When we consulted last time we were surprised by the strength of feeling about the portrayal of drugs, particularly in films for young people. So this is one of the issues we will be asking the public who take part in the focus groups to consider. We will also give particular emphasis to the violence guidelines, including how concerned people are about the influence of violence and violent techniques at different classification levels.”

“The issue of bad language never goes away. For every person who says that you hear worse in the playground there is another who expects the strongest expressions to be reserved to the highest ratings. There are also regional variations in the offensiveness of particular words. We will be interested to see whether people generally have become more relaxed about bad language, or whether films like Billy Elliot or Sweet Sixteen still need to be rated more highly just because of the strong language.

“Focus groups will also be considering how well the 12A cinema rating is working. They will be asked how helpful the consumer advice is that accompanies 12A films, whether it should be extended to accompany all ratings; whether perhaps there should be a lower age cut off point; and whether the advisory nature of the rating should even be extended to higher rated films.

“This consultation will run over several months and we will be looking not just for the general public's views but those also of all interested sectors. We hope to publish new film and video classification guidelines towards the end of 2004.”

 

January 4th

  Different Policies

A very positive move detailed on  the BBFC website:

December 23rd, 2003

A New Code of Practice for the video/DVD release of different versions of a film at different classification categories in the UK

Rationale

At present BBFC classification policy does not allow two versions of a title to be distributed if their classification certificates do not match. Over the past few years there has been a move towards Distributors releasing alternative versions of more classic product. These may comprise 'Director's Cuts', which contain new material not present in the version originally submitted to the BBFC, or simply uncut versions of films that contain material previously cut to obtain a lower certificate (at the cinema and/or on video). However in a number of instances these would require a higher age rating than the original, which the BBFC has not permitted. The key concerns have been that two versions of the same title would lead to customer and retailer confusion, possible breaches of the Video Recordings Act and loss of parental confidence in the classification system.

The BBFC is now prepared to relax this policy, providing the packaging of cassettes/DVDs can reliably deliver certain essential information. The BVA with the BBFC has drafted a code of practice relating to the design of packaging for different versions of films at different classification categories . This code will apply to (i) versions of films containing additional material not previously submitted to the BBFC, (ii) versions of films restoring material previously cut by the BBFC for video/DVD release to obtain a lower classification, (iii) versions of films intended for video/DVD which include new material or restore material originally cut from the theatrical release, by the distributor or the BBFC, to obtain a lower certificate. The code need only be observed if the additional material will raise the classification category of the work beyond previously classified versions. It need not be observed if the 'Director's Cut' or alternative version will remain at the same classification category as the original. This code of practice should be adopted by all UK video distributors.

All alternative versions of works that will be released with a higher certificate than the original should, for the purposes of product packaging, be viewed as new film entities and not extensions of the original.

This, it is hoped, will avoid customer and retailer confusion, both in store and at home. All packaging for such releases must differentiate itself, by look and tone, from the original video packaging.

Agents who subscribe to this code of practice are bound by the following guidelines and must undertake to enforce them.

Guidelines

  • Participating companies will ensure that the packaging for the higher rated version differentiates itself, by look and tone, from the packaging for the lower rated release. In the case of works cut for theatrical release, but which will be released on video/DVD only in an uncut version, it will not be necessary to alter the artwork used for the original cinema release. However, it will be necessary for the packaging to inform consumers and retailers that the video/DVD is different from the theatrical version (see below).
     
  • Where a differently rated version of a film is released whilst the original version is still on the shelves, use of original key art, film branding and imagery should be kept to a minimum to avoid consumer confusion.
     
  • Packaging designs will not directly set out to appeal to children below the age to which the relevant classification applies. This includes the use of child related characters, text, imagery and tone of design.
     
  • All packaging will clearly display BBFC certificates and consumer advice panel in line with BBFC policy.
     
  • All packaging for the higher rated version will be clearly labelled to show that this version differs from previous releases. Text must be displayed on the front of the packaging (minimum 3mm height and in a clear contrasting colour) stating that the version 'contains additional material', is an 'alternate version' or similar; or that it is a 'director's cut' (as appropriate). This text must be placed immediately below the title or be incorporated within it. Use of the term 'Special Edition' will not be sufficient.
     
  • Advertising of this product will be suitable to ensure it is not aimed at inappropriate consumers. This means avoiding any provocative reference to the newly inserted footage.
     
  • Trade advertising will contain a warning for retailers when a title is to be available with two different certificates.
     
  • Sales briefs will be sent to all retailers to ensure they are pre-advised when a title is available with two different certificates.
     
  • Disc art will reflect the differences in packaging to help retailers avoid confusion by staff in store where product is not live on display.

Administration

The above code of practice will be monitored by the BBFC and VSC to ensure all parties are adhering as agreed. Once the BBFC has notified a distributor that a different classification certificate is required for a new version, packaging must be submitted to the BBFC for approval.

If you have any queries please send them via email to helpline@bbfc.co.uk or call the BBFC Customer Helpline on 020 7440 0299.

 

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