A Serbian Film has got into more trouble in Spain.
The Barcelona public prosecutor has lodged a complaint against Sitges festival director Angel Sala, accusing him of screening child pornography. It is unclear whether the suit has been or will be admitted to court.
According to Spanish press sources, the Barcelona prosecutor's charge of child pornography relates to two rape scenes, one involving a newborn baby, another a boy of around 11 years of age. The baby in question was in fact a doll with legs animated by
The Barcelona prosecutor's move has stirred a wave of protests in Spain. Writing in the El Pais, film director David Trueba argued Monday that If we believe that everything shown on a screen is real, Christopher Lee will be arrested one day accused of
biting young virgins' jugular veins.
A Serbian Film played uncut at October's Sitges, stirring a wide range of reactions from critics and nutters. The showing moved Spain's Catholic Confederation of Family and Student Parents (Concapa) to lodge a complaint with Barcelona's public
prosecutor for minors.
That prompted a San Sebastian judge to serve a provisional injunction on Tale, banning its screening at early November's San Sebastian's Fantasy and Terror Film Week in early November.
Update: Film Festival Directors respond
11th March 2011. Based on press release
SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia wishes to show its complete support for Angel Sala and, by extension, the decisions that he has made while exercising his role as Director of the Festival.
Regarding the recent statements concerning the screening of A Serbian Film , the Festival wants to state that the above mentioned title is not a pornographic film, but, in fact, a fictional horror film, and is not meant as an
attack or humiliation against the sexual dignity of minors.
SITGES wants to thank all the support it has received from its audience, other film festivals and important cultural figures.
A Serbian Film was screened after carrying out all necessary informative and control measures in order to prevent any minors from accessing the screening. These measures consisted of information placed in the Festival media to
guarantee awareness about the content of the film to the audience before its viewing, as well as demanding proof of age from viewers entering the theatre.
A Serbian Film has also been screened at the two most prestigious markets in the world, the Cannes Film Market and Film Festival and the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California, and will be commercially distributed in the
United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
SITGES wants to thank again all support shown, as well as to express its respect to all the criticism that has given room to a necessary debate about the importance of freedom of speech and creation in the programming of film
SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia considers that it has acted rigorously in providing the audience with all the information it might require beforehand. Nevertheless, the rise of critical voices will make the
Festival reflect on their communication mechanisms in the future, emphasizing child protection, and defending freedom of speech and creation as it has done from the beginning.
Support letter by directors of Spanish film festivals
We, the undersigned, directors of Spanish film festivals, wish, in view of the leak to the press published this weekend, to state our surprise at the legal action taken against Angel Sala, director of the Sitges International Film
Festival of Catalonia, for having included in the 2010 programme of the said event, at sessions for adults only, A Serbian Film, which it is claimed contains violent, pornographic scenes conflicting with the rights of the child.
Over and above our surprise at pinning responsibility of this kind on a cultural programmer, and not on those theoretically responsible for the content in question (the director and the producers, if anyone at all), we wish to
recall, in addition to our support of A'ngel Sala, that the film has been screened over the last twelve months in festivals in Brussels, Montreal, London, Oporto, Austin, San Francisco, Toronto, Sofia, Hamburg, Helsinki, Puchon (South Korea), Ravenna and
Stockholm, among others. A Serbian Film has also enjoyed screening at the two most prestigious film markets in the world: Cannes, and the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. All of this without anyone, to date, having taken legal steps of
any kind against the film, those responsible for it or its programmers.
We must also add that the film has won prestigious awards including three at Montreal (Best Film; Gold Award for Best European Film and Most Innovative Film); the Audience Award at the Fantasporto Festival in Oporto (less than a
week ago); and the Best Screenplay Award at the FIPRESCI Festival in Serbia.
We also condemn the fact that behaviour such as that shown by the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Barcelona appears to be taking us back to times of censorship limitations on freedom of expression and cultural programming that we
sincerely believed belonged to the past.
Javier Angulo (Festival de Valladolid)
Josetxo Cerdan Los Arcos (Punto de Vista / Pamplona)
Jose' Luis Cienfuegos (Festival de Gij'n)
Jose' Luis Rebordinos (Festival de San Sebastian)
Carmelo Romero (Festival de Cine Espanol de Malaga)
Jose' Sa'nchez Montes (Festival de Granada / Cines del Sur)
Claudio Utrera (Festival de Las Palmas)
Javier Marti'n Dominguez (Festival de Sevilla)
Eduardo Tri'as (Festival de Huelva)
Josemi Beltra'n (Semana de Cine Fantastico y de Terror de San Sebastian)
Petition: Condemnation of Public Prosecutor
12th March 2011. See article
Eli Roth, director of Hostel , has also taken up the fight against film festival censorship.
He wrote to his followers on Twitter:
If Angel Sala does in fact go to jail festivals will stop showing any controversial or edgy films and censorship will win. Whatever you think of A Serbian Film a film festival director should not spend a year in jail for exhibiting
a filmmaker's work.
Please sign the petition
9th March 2011. Thanks to Angelus
Having seen today's article about A Serbian Film , it seemed to me that the debate throws the so-called dangerous cartoons law into sharp relief.
In this film we have a situation where illegal sex acts involving children are apparently being depicted, but the actual depiction is not of itself criminal simply because it isn't real . Similarly, in Catherine Breillat's
film Anatomy of Hell (Anatomie de l'Enfer) , a scene apparently showing a boy inserting his finger into a young girl's vagina was passed uncut by the BBFC once it had been established that the said female body part was not real but actually a foam
So, what would happen if an artist recreated one of those scenes as a drawing and someone was then subsequently prosecuted for possession of it? Would it be a defence, as it evidently would be for a video, that the child depicted was not actually real? Unfortunately, no. So what exactly is it that's so dangerous about drawings that they must be regulated even more tightly than photographic images?
Comment: Clarification on Comic Books
10th March 2011. Thanks to Kochin
The law only makes non-real depictions illegal to possess if they are are pornographic or a sex work as the BBFC refers to them. To answer your question a non-pornographic comic book adaptation of Anatomy of Hell would
not be illegal even if contained such scenes. Even if 50% or more of the pages of a comic book consist of explicit sex acts it does not necessarily mean the book is pornographic.
Consider this work for instance, which is widely available from popular UK book stores like Amazon etc: Lost Girls
The BBFC can pass cartoon depictions of actual (non-real) underage sex so long as they are not pornographic, and so long as they do not believe they are credibly likely to harm . For instance maybe a cartoon adaptation of Anatomy of Hell
traced directly from the film would be passed.
Comment: Film vs Drawing
11th March 2011. Thanks to Angelus who reiterates his point:
For any film, "sex work" or not, containing even a single image of a sex act between an adult and a child, possession of that film would (quite rightly) constitute a serious criminal offence. However, if it can be proved
that the sex act did not involve a real child then it is legal and it may be certificated by the BBFC. The difference is that in the first case, there actually was a sex act committed against a real child, but in the second case, even though the act is
realistically depicted, the "child" was not real.
Therefore, in the case of a photographic image, we must conclude that it is not simply the depiction of the sex act that is illegal, the act depicted must have actually taken place for the law to have been broken. However, for a drawing (and I was
careful to use the example of an isolated drawing, not one in context in a comic book), it is the depiction of the act that is illegal, irrespective of whether it actually took place or not.