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2003: Jan-June

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24th June   Irreversible Censors


The New Zealand Classification Office have banned Irreversible from public screenings but have allowed it to be shown to academics and to film festival goers.

Their news release reads as follows:

Irreversible is classified as:

Objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted for the purpose of study in a tertiary institution, or for the purpose of exhibition as part of the 2003 Beck's Incredible Film Festival or a film festival organised by an incorporated film society, and in all cases to persons who have attained the age of 18 years.

Irreversible contains scenes of extreme violence and sexual violence, explicit sexual images and dialogue, and other problematic elements such as portrayals of drug use and offensively racist, misogynistic and homophobic representations. Two scenes are of particular concern for their lengthy and graphic depictions of murder and rape. The Office has considered the effects of these depictions at length. The concerns identified include the possibility of emulation, the disturbing nature of the images, including their potential to increase women's fears about personal safety, and the possibility that the film's high level of extreme violence might further desensitise an audience already inured to media violence.

Excisions have been considered. The Office is grateful for the contributions on this subject made by the members of the public who viewed the film, and for the discussion and reflection that produced the suggestions made by Wellington Independent Rape Crisis. A high proportion of the audience at the public consultation indicated that they considered the film objectionable unless the length of the depictions of murder and/or the rape was reduced. However, a significant number of people thought no excisions should be made. Although members of the Rape Crisis collective reached a consensus that the film should not be banned, individual participants had varying views about whether there should be excisions and what should be excised. The reasons given by all of those who thought the rape scene should be left intact are similar: to reduce its length would diminish the impact of a scene that confronts its audience with the horrific nature of rape. Excisions to make the scene palatable would destroy its message, and risk altering the integrity of the film-maker’s vision. Viewers who argued against excisions also felt that the sickening brutality of the murder is an important part of the film's message. Suggestions for the removal of specific images have largely been dealt with in the body of the decision.

The Classification Office has concluded that excisions are not required. Viewers are almost guaranteed to find the film shocking and disturbing. However, any audience that perseveres through the film's initial assault on the senses is likely to have a thoughtful response to the issues it confronts. The Office has canvassed a range of public, professional and critical reactions to the film. A clear majority of these reactions involve serious consideration of the film's treatment of gender relations and violence. The film, therefore, contributes to this wider discourse. The film also contributes to critical film debate on screen representations of violence and sexual violence. It does compel its audience, and anyone interested in film, to think about the nature of their reactions to film violence in general and the rape/revenge genre in particular.

Although the film does not require excisions, in the Classification Office's view, it does require further restrictions on its availability and on the terms of its exhibition to minimise the likelihood of injury to the public good. The likelihood of injury to the public good if the film is made generally available lies in the exposure of children and young persons to material that they do not have the maturity or experience to deal with. A restriction to an adult audience, for whom the film is clearly intended, prevents this injury.

The likelihood of injury to the public good arising from the publication's availability to adult viewers has also been identified. The film is particularly likely to disturb adults if it is viewed without foreknowledge of the strength of the material. There is a clear likelihood of injury to the public good if people who have been subjected to any form of sexual abuse are re-traumatised by the film's depictions of violence and sexual violence. Prospective viewers need to be sufficiently informed to be able to choose for themselves whether or not to view the material. Restricting the availability of the film to film festivals and tertiary study increases the likelihood that adults will view the film in an informative context and provides recognised forums for challenging and controversial films. In the case of Irreversible , students of film are likely to find much of interest in its innovative techniques and structure. Viewing in a public forum also facilitates control over access and addresses the concern that the publication may be edited and used for other purposes.


5th June    Parks Closed


A week out from opening night, the Sydney Film Festival has been caught up in a censorship row after the banning of Ken Park . The film includes scenes of explicit sex, suicide and auto-erotic asphyxiation. It has been refused classification by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September, some observers described Ken Park as too hard-core for cinema release. But it has since screened at numerous festivals.

Co-directed by the American film-maker and photographer Larry Clark, best known for Kids and Another Day in Paradise , the film is about four teenagers struggling with uncertain futures in suburban California.

Australia also recently banned  the sexually explicit French film Baise-Moi, the Office of Film and Literature Classification has refused classification for a film. After a 6-1 decision, the board said Ken Park dealt with sexual matters in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults . The film contained scenes of actual sexual activity involving actors playing minors. The R18+ classification permits material that is high in impact,The intensity, cumulative effect, tone and treatment of the scenes of actual sexual activity exceeded this impact test."

The film is understood to have been submitted for classification by a distributor wanting to release it on video. The festival has appealed and hopes for a decision before the film's scheduled screenings on June 17 and 18.

The festival's president, Cathy Robinson, was upset and angry at the decision. Any festival-goer seeing Ken Park , which she described as a significant film dealing with social issues affecting young adults, had to be over 18. She also said it was ironic that the 50th festival was seeing a return to the censorship controversies that dogged the festival in the past. In 1969, there was a storm when the Swedish film I Love, You Love was banned for showing a pregnant woman having sex.

The distributors have now decided to appeal the decision.


6th May   Wal-Mart Nutters

From AVN

Yesterday Wal-Mart announced that it had halted sales of Maxim, Stuff and FHM, men's magazines that feature a mix of scantily clad starlets and bawdy humor but go to some lengths to avoid being labeled as pornography.

The move was made after pressure from Christian nutter groups, which have been successful in lobbying Wal-Mart in the past regarding magazine content. Wal-Mart once even refused to stock Sports Illustrated, because of the swimsuit issue.

Maxim has been sold in Wal-Mart for the last three years, while FHM was added recently. The standards and general content of the magazines have not changed.

Maxim, Stuff and FHM have a combined circulation of almost five million, with much of their success deriving from newsstand sales. Maxim is the largest of the three, with an average circulation in the second half of last year of 2.5 million, and it sells an average of 848,000 copies a month on newsstands, a highly lucrative revenue stream.

Stephen Colvin, president of Dennis Publishing USA, which owns both Maxim and Stuff, shrugged off the move, noting that Wal-Mart accounts for "less than 3 percent" of the copies his company sells at newsstands.

However, free speech activists are concerned that the sheer size of Wal-Mart means a boycott by that company on any magazine or product can effectively ruin a publishing house, effectively placing Wal-Mart in the role of a corporate censor for America.

16th March

  Chinese Nervous Breakdown

From Ananova

The Chinese government has ordered the Rolling Stones not to play some of their best-known songs during two shows in the country, because they contain sexual references.

The band will not be allowed to play Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Women, Beast of Burden or Let’s Spend the Night Together . The Stones are due to perform in Shanghai on April 1 and in Beijing on April 4 - the first time they’ve played in China.

Concert organiser Chen Jixin says the four songs were also cut from the mainland release of the band’s 40 Licks album by China’s culture ministry. Chen said she didn’t know why the government had banned the four songs. The Chinese Ministry of Culture said no one was immediately available for comment.


16th March

  Six Million Dollar Blame

I wonder what TV George Bush watched as a kiddy. They surely must have cause of his conversion from being a mere nutter to being an arch war criminal.

From Reuters

Children who watch violent television shows, identify with the characters and believe they are realistic are more likely to be aggressive as adults, U.S. researchers recently reported.

But the researchers found the most violent shows did not have the strongest effects, the shows children liked the best did. These included shows that by today's standards would not be considered especially violent.

But if parents watch television with their children and discuss the differences with reality, they may be able to temper the effects of TV violence, the team of psychologists said.

They interviewed Chicago-area children aged 6 to 10, their teachers and parents, and analyzed their television viewing habits. They waited for 329 of them to grow up and marry, then interviewed them again, talked to their spouses and checked criminal records.

Fifteen years later, the men and women who had most watched, enjoyed and identified with violent television programs tended to be more aggressive, the team reported in this week's issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association. Psychologists Rowell Huesmann and colleagues at the University of Michigan caught up with children first interviewed in 1977 about which violent TV shows they watched.

The findings were the same even when a child's economic status, race, parents' personalities and occupations and other factors were taken into account. Some of the "violent" programs included Starsky and Hutch , The Six Million Dollar Man and Roadrunner cartoons.

Men who really liked such television shows as children were much more likely to have pushed, grabbed or shoved their spouses, shoved someone who insulted them, been ticketed for speeding or convicted of another crime.

Women who enjoyed violent shows, including Charlie's Angels , were four times more likely to have thrown something at their husbands, shoved or punched someone else, or been caught speeding or committing another crime.

The researchers did not believe that children predisposed to aggression or violence tended to watch such shows. It is more plausible that exposure to TV violence increases aggression than that aggression increases TV-violence viewing, Huesmann said in a statement. Also, the study suggests that being aggressive in early childhood has no effect on increasing males' exposure to media violence as adults and only a small effect for females.

The researchers were especially struck by their finding that it is a child's identification with characters rather than the degree of violence that predicts later aggression. Violent scenes that children are most likely to model their behavior after are ones in which they identify with the perpetrator of the violence, the perpetrator is rewarded for the violence and in which children perceive the scene as telling about life like it really is. Thus, a violent act by someone like Dirty Harry that results in a criminal being eliminated and brings glory to Harry is of more concern than a bloodier murder by a despicable criminal who is brought to justice.


16th March

  Explicit Artcore

Rocco Siffredi is starring opposite Chanel model Amira Casar in a new film by controversial French director Catherine Breillet. Anatomie de l'Enfer , which translates to "Anatomy of Hell", is based on Pornocratie , a sexually explicit novel written by Breillet. The story explores the world of pornography, and Breillet intends to push the boundaries of censors with the film version of her work. The film is being shot on a closed set in Portugal and is expected to wrap in mid-February. Anatomie de l'Enfer will debut at Cannes 2003. Siffredi has worked with Breillet before - he starred in her 1999 film Romance .


16th February   Daredevil Censors

From The Star

The film adaptation of the Marvel Comics character Daredevil, wont be hitting the big screens in Malaysia this month.  The Film Censorship Board has banned the film of the same name for its unhealthy elements and specifically for its violent content. 

The film’s distributor 20th Century Fox has submitted an appeal to the board to review its decision.  

The board gave five reasons for the ban, citing the first as the theme which focused on the dealings of a secret society. (like film censors maybe!). The ban also stated the film contained violence including fighting scenes using weapons and hands.  

Another reason given was the vigilante act of the comic book legend known as “Man Without Fear” who is a lawyer by day and “killer” by night.  It also stated the film focused on the mafia world and portrayed a character who is a hired killer.  

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung said each film, videotape, VCD or DVD for public viewing had to get approval from the ministry before screening. He said the films were usually banned if they went against the board’s guidelines for containing excessive violence and sexual material or elements which can create chaos in the community . (A little stronger than mere harm). Most of the time, censorship is adequate if only some portions of the film require censorship, but if too much censorship is required, making the film meaningless, it is best banned.


12th February   Yaboo France

It is ludicrous to suppose that French law applies in the States. Everybody knows that only US law applies to all other countries. And if you don't like it they will send the boys round.


A French criminal court on Tuesday acquitted the former CEO of Yahoo of condoning war crimes by selling Nazi memorabilia. The court found that Timothy Koogle and Yahoo did not condone or praise Nazism and that they had not shed favorable light on the policies of Adolf Hitler by selling objects from the Third Reich.

Koogle, who left his post at Yahoo in 2001, had in theory faced up to five years in jail and a fine of $49,000 (45,700 euros) in a trial triggered by a complaint filed by three France-based Jewish and anti-Semitism groups in October 2001.

It is illegal under French law to exhibit or sell objects with racist overtones, and Yahoo's French site offered no Nazi auctions. But French surfers could still purchase the relics from the main Yahoo site based in the United States.

In November 2000, France ordered Yahoo to block French people from accessing the sites, but a U.S. federal judge ruled a year later that the Sunnyvale, California based company was not bound to tailor its non-French sites to French laws.

Yahoo has since banned the sale of most Nazi memorabilia, such as concentration camp uniforms and Nazi daggers. Current auctions feature only Third Reich stamps, transport tokens and coins. (No worries, collectors may now buy Al Quaeda manacles and interrogation devices straight from the Yahoo server at Guantanamo Bay )


30th January   Fat Restored

From the Toronto Star

Fat Girl, a film banned last year by the Ontario Film Review Board because of a lengthy sex scene between a 15-year-old girl and an adult man, was approved for release yesterday in a decision meant to signal the board's newly progressive policies.

We're trying to really look at our guidelines and decide if they really reflect society today, said Bill Moody, the board's chairman. This board is not a static board. We're changing and evolving every day, and looking at our policies, because people out there are changing every day.

Moody, who took the job at the end of November, said Fat Girl has been approved on the basis of new guidelines instituted at the board's Jan. 17 meeting: The panel considered the film in its entirety, and concluded the scenes in question are artistic and integral to the plot. None of the scenes were found to be prurient or exploitive

The decision ends a standoff between the board and the film's co-distributors, Cowboy Pictures in New York and Lions Gate Films in Canada. The distributors appealed the decision but the board reversed the ban yesterday before it could be challenged in court. Noah Cowan of Cowboy Films said: We have no idea what their internal discussions were, but they came back to us and said, `Please re-submit the film. Ultimately I think what happened was that the censor board, and ultimately the Attorney General's Office, realized that this was a case they didn't want to fight and that they'd made a mistake.

While the character in the film was 15, the actress who played her, Roxane Mesquida, was 18 at the time the film was made. However, in Ontario, policy guidelines stated that scenes in which characters under 18 appear nude or partially nude in a sexually suggestive context were unacceptable, and the board banned the film.

Fat Girl, by French director Catherine Breillat, was released in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec without challenge.


29th January   Censors with Jack Boots

From Bato of DVDINSIDE

On Jan 21st 2003, Oliver Krekel, Manager and Owner of the German Video/DVD-Label "Astro",  was sentenced to a 8 month imprisonment on probation and a fine of 2000 €. His offence: He published several classic Horror films like Evil Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Last House on the Left on video and dvd.  Krekel had also to promise, that he will never publish any films in the future, which are not  proofed and if necessary censored by the German State Board of Censors.

About 200 Horror-movies have been forbidden for many years in Germany. The trade and  production of these films is absolutely forbidden. The judgement against Krekel is a slap in the face from many German Horror-fans, who feel generally persecuted following up their hobby. This german law goes against the laws of the EU and because of this, many fans of such films  as those named above, are planning to prosecute Germany at the European Court of Law.


16th January
A Country with 200 Million Law Breakers

From CNN

The Georgia Supreme Court has struck down a 170-year-old law that made it a crime for unmarried people to have sex. The ruling Monday came in the case of a 16-year-old boy discovered having sex with his girlfriend in the bedroom of her home. The young woman's mother made the discovery. Under Georgia law, the age of consent is 16.

Following his conviction, Jesse McClure, now 17, was ordered to pay a fine and write an essay explaining why he should not have had sex. He wrote that it wasn't the court's business. Invading personal privacy just isn't right.

Chief Justice Norman Fletcher wrote: Our opinion simply affirms that ... the government may not reach into the bedroom of a private residence and criminalize the private, non commercial, consensual sexual acts of two persons legally capable of consenting to those acts,

Fornication laws remain on the books in about 10 states and the District of Columbia. Courts have struck down such statutes in Florida, Virginia and New Jersey. In 1998, the state Supreme Court overturned an anti-sodomy law, ruling it violated the Georgia Constitution's guarantee of a right to privacy.


8th January
Australian Censorship Sell Out


To protest against Australia's film censorship regime, Tony Pitman (Freedom International) organised to sell banned videos outside the offices of the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

There was not a huge crowd. The event was planned thinking the OFLC was still in Elizabeth St, which would have been rather busy on a Monday lunchtime, but the Surry Hills backstreet which hosts the OFLC's new headquarters was rather quiet.

Still, people from several radio stations turned up; they took turns interviewing Tony before the actual sale commenced.

Then he opened his tray of videos for sale and started handing out flyers to the few passers by. These included workers coming in and out of the building, among whom there must have been a fair few OFLC employees, but none of them said anything.

The seven videos being sold were Salo , I Spit on Your Grave , Hustler White , Baise-Moi , and Pink Flamingos - all Refused Classification and hence banned in Australia - and two X-rated videos - illegal to sell or screen except in the Australian Capital Territory (but sold openly in adult shops across Sydney). All of them found buyers - I'd wanted a copy of Salo , but he was asking $50 for that and I didn't have enough money on me, so I ended up buying one of the X-rated videos for $5 instead.

In the absence of television cameras, Tony opted out of calling the police and being arrested. Given he was facing a potential fine of $7000, that seemed sensible to me.

This was obviously not a major event, but there should be a few stories on radio about it, which will help to raise awareness of the issue. I also gave one interview about Net censorship, using the ridiculous application of film classification guidelines to all Internet content as the starting point.

The reason this is an issue that attracts so little attention is that censorship law is so poorly enforced - adult shops just pay protection money to the police



8th January
Fair Trial for Fair Use

From The Guardian

Hollywood's biggest film studios were defeated yesterday in their effort to punish a Norwegian teenage computer hacker for DVD piracy.

The case has made a cult figure of Jon Lech Johansen, who is now 19. Johansen - dubbed "DVD Jon" by the international hacker community - created a computer program in his bedroom which cracked all the codes protecting DVD films from illegal copying.

The codes also prevent DVDs being watched on many personal computers, which was why Johansen set out to break them. He infuriated US film studios by posting his program, called DeCSS, on the internet.

His bedroom was then raided by Norway's white-collar crime unit, his computer was confiscated and he was charged with unauthorised data tampering. Johansen maintained that he had merely devised a way of watching his favourite films on his own computer.

But Hollywood disagreed. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which represents such leading studios as Walt Disney, Universal and Warner Brothers, lodged a complaint, as did the US DVD Copy Control Association.

Yesterday the Oslo city court ruled in Johansen's favour, clearing him of all the charges. In a unanimous ruling it said that nobody could be punished for breaking into his own property - he had legally bought the DVDs whose codes he subsequently cracked. Nor was there any evidence that he or anyone else had used his program to produce or watch pirated copies of films.

I'm happy but not surprised, a beaming Johansen said after his acquittal. This is about consumers' rights. All over the world copyright holders are trying to limit consumers' rights. We cannot have that. Today it's been clarified that consumers have certain rights that the film industry can't take away from us."

In Washington Phuong Yokitis, a spokeswoman for the MPAA, said the group had decided not to issue a statement and would have no comment. Film studios had hoped that the case would send a signal to hackers that the complex codes protecting DVDs against illegal copying must not be tampered with. They had wanted an example made of Mr Johansen. The prosecuters sought a 90-day suspended sentence, the permanent confiscation of his computer, and the payment of costs.

They were refused on all counts.

This is a very solid ruling, said Halvor Manshaus, Johansen's lawyer. It is saying that when you have bought a film legally, you have access to its content. It is irrelevant how you get that access. You have bought the movie, after all.

The prosecutors have two weeks to appeal .

Programs such as Mr Johansen's have multiplied since he was charged, and are easily obtained on the internet. The case has turned him into an international celebrity with hackers, especially in the US, where a battle is raging over a 1998 copyright law which bans software such as DeCSS.

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