March 2007

MPAA suspends Captivity

Following the furore over the advertising campaign for Roland Joffé’s Captivity, the MPAA has taken the unprecedented step of suspending (via) the ratings process for the film. They are also demanding that the films distributor, After dark, clear all further promotional materials as well locations and venues of any advertising.

MPAA has never before required a film company to clear locations and venues of ad buys, and the 30-day suspension of the ratings process casts doubt over whether Captivity will receive a rating before its planned May 18 release.

The earliest the MPAA will even allow After Dark to resubmit the film is the first week in May, after which it would be put into a queue. After Dark can release the film unrated, but if they do so its prospect of being shown in cinemas is effectively removed.

Co-distributor of the film, Lions Gate - who werent involved with the marketing campaign seem to feel that their priority lies with staying on the right side of the MPAA. According to a Lions Gate spokesman: If the violations by After Dark were as flagrant as alleged, then the MPAAs response is appropriate. However, we believe that the MPAA will rate the film itself on its own merits.

Somehow, I wouldnt bet on it.

Screen Parzania for harmony and democracy

I mentioned earlier that Rahul Dholakias Parzania had been unofficially banned in Gujarat.

Delhi-based NGO, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) have recently carried out an SMS/E-mail contest calling for the film to be screened in the state. The contest - which ran for 15 days - received a total 437 responses from across the state, of which only two were in support of the ban.

Shabnam Hasmi from ANHAD said, Gujarat is showing signs of growing dictatorship, which is taking away citizens basic rights of expression. A contest winner, Nayan Patel, a Jan Vikas activist, said, It is not just an issue of freedom of speech but there is much more at stake and we need to fight it out before it gets too late. He said Parzania is a movie which will make sensitive people realise their guilt.

He said, Who are they to decide what I should watch or not? Gujarat is a part of democratic India and it is the Censor Board that decides. He said it was sad that the Modi establishment did not make a single statement publicly on providing security cover to those who wanted to watch the movie.

Another winner, Sanita Xalxo, a second-year LLB student at Gujarat University, said, When films related to riots and other communal issues can be screened in Mumbai then why not Gujarat.”

Based on a true story, Parzania is the story of a Parsi family caught helplessly in the communal crossfire of the 2002 Gujarat riots, and a young voice trying to make sense of all the insanity.

Much ado about advertising

Its not just the advertising of horror films that is gaining attention in the US at the moment. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a number of suicide prevention groups are objecting to After Dark Films proposed campaign for the comedy Wristcutters: A Love Story, which is set in a part of purgatory reserved for people who have committed suicide.

After Dark Films co-owner Courtney Solomon said late Friday that while the films promotion may feature images of people jumping off a bridge, electrocuting and hanging themselves, they would be displayed as traffic-style stop or yield signs with a barring-style circle and line over the illustrations, along with hearts to reference the films romantic story line. He said the campaign may change before its mid-July rollout because of the outcry.

According to Solomon, the message of the film is that love is better than suicide and may even help prevent suicide. Our job is to get people into the theater in a way thats accessible to them. There are many different ways to skin a cat. God forbid someone was considering committing suicide. This film may change their opinion.

The film was one of three films nominated for a 2006 Humanitas Sundance feature screenwriting award, for which writer/director Goran Dukic received a plaque noting his extraordinary contribution [to] entertainment that also enriches, probes the meaning of life and motivates love within the human family.

Stirring up a nest of censors

Back in January, the Catholic Church in Lithuania sued MTV Lietuva for transmitting Popetown, complaining that it somehow violated the rights of the faithful.

Now, Lithuanias 13 member Radio and Television Commission has imposed a fine (via) of 3000 litas (€870) on Marius Veselis, the director of MTV Networks Baltic for airing the programme.

A spokeswoman for MTV Lietuva said Mr Veselis would appeal.

The commission made its decision after the Inspector of Journalists Ethics, Romas Gudaitis, said Popetown should be banned because it portrayed the clergy as destructive and incited religious discrimination.

MTV has described Mr Gudaitiss stand as an attempt to limit freedom of expression and thought, and rejected suggestions that Popetown insulted Catholics. And, in a statement issued last month, Mr Veselis said that the reaction to Popetown had unmasked Lithuania as a sort of half-medieval, half-communist, sick culture.

Horrified by advertising

According to The New York Times (via), the US government is gearing up for yet another review of the marketing of violent entertainment to the young.

Seven years ago the film industry narrowly avoided federal regulation of its advertising practices, as politicians, in the wake of the Columbine High School killings, called executives before a Congressional committee but eventually agreed to let Hollywood police itself.

Now, with the arrival of films such as Saw and Hostel and a flourishing web culture, a new study will examine the selling practices of the film industry.

If the new study were to find that the industry has violated or has outgrown its voluntary standards, it might kick the issue back into the political arena ahead of a presidential election.

There is no suggestion in the article that under-age children are actually managing to see any of the films mentioned, just a lot of vague concerns being expressed that teenagers might be hearing about such films. It will be interesting to see if the Federal Trade Commission, which is behind the report, will attempt to answer the question if why it is so bad that children are aware that there are films that they are not able to see.

International attention shields filmmakers

The Chinese producer and director of Lost in Beijing, which was screened uncensored at the Berlin international film festival, appear to have avoided punishment from the countrys authorities (via).

The fate of director Li Yu and his producer Fang Li had drawn attention after director Lou Ye and producer Nai An were banned from making films for the next five years after submitting Summer Palace to the Cannes Film Festival without government approval.

Lost in Beijing went through a protracted censorship process in the run-up to the Berlinale which saw five edits to the film being demanded before it was finally approved. Ending up on the cutting room floor were a side character, scenes involving dirty streets, prostitutes, gambling, the Chinese national flag, as well as Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. However, Fang ended up screening the uncensored version because hed run out of time to finish post-production and subtitling of the censored cut.

Fang said in a telephone interview Tuesday both he and director Li havent been punished by Chinas Film Bureau. He speculated it was because the Chinese government doesnt want to draw attention to the case.

If they punish me everyones going to hear about this. The press is going cover this. It just makes them look bad, he said.

Lost in Beijing is a look at modern-day life in Chinas capital centred on a ménage-a-quatre involving a young woman, her boss, her husband and her boss’s wife.

Charlie Hebdo acquitted

Cover from Charlie Hebdo Cartoon Special Im a bit late with this one but a Paris Court has acquitted (via) satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo of charges brought by the Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) after the magazine printed the Muhammed cartoons as part of a a cartoon row special.

Applause broke out in the courtroom at the announcement of the verdict, which ruled that three cartoons published by the weekly Charlie Hebdo in February 2006 were not insulting to Muslims.

The case was seen as an important test for freedom of expression on France and many - including a group of 50 intellectuals and the candidates in next month’s French presidential election - lined up to support the magazine.

Philippe Val, the editor of Charlie Hebdo welcomed the ruling and said it would open a much-needed debate among Muslims in France.“If you believe as we do that Islam is perfectly compatible with French democracy, such a debate is a blessing,” he said.

The last word on Periyar

We therefore see no reason to interfere with the decision of the Censor Board.

- The Madras High Court declining to entertain a plea by the Hindu Makkal Katchi, to remove certain parts of a song in the film Periyar which is based on the life of social reformer E V Ramasamy and was given a U rating by the countrys film censor board.

Twenty years later

After being banned in Inverness for almost 20 years, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ is finally going to be shown in the city as part of a short Visions Of Christ season being staged during Easter.

Inverness District Council banned on the film - which had been given an 18 Certificate by the BBFC - provoking a heated debate in the area. On one hand were the usual objectors who hadnt seen the film and didnt want anyone else to be able to. On the other side of the debate were those that pointed out that the the ban amounted to censorship and an infringement of artistic licence. Despite an 800 signature petition, councillors agreed to invoke an outright ban on the film which they had not seen for themselves.

The decision to include the film in the season follows a request from a projectionist from avid cinema goer Gale Chrisman who was a leading campaigner against the ban. Consequently, The Last Temptation of Christ is set to be shown for one night as part a short series including the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Monty Pythons Life Of Brian.

Highland Council confirmed that the ban had lapsed but said it would look into the matter again if complaints were received against the film that was released on DVD in 2000 with a 15 certificate.

The Last Temptation of Christ is due to be shown at Eden Court Cinema by the Floral Hall on 6th April.

The AAFF Funding Controversy

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the State of Michigan on behalf of the Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF), citing violation of First Amendment rights.

At issue is the states attempt to punish the festival for screening films that were deemed objectionable, by withholding arts grants.

The troubles began last year after The Mackinac Center, a conservative think tank, published an essay opposing the use of tax dollars in arts funding, and specifically citing several films from the festival. After the report was circulated a few of the legislators started claiming that by supporting the festival, the state government was funding “pornography.” Some political grandstanding followed and the festival saw their funding being cut.

According to the statement from the festival organisers:

Michigan has restrictive, and often vague guidelines for artists who would like to receive state-funding for their projects. One of these guidelines states that the government will only fund projects that contain “no depictions of sex acts.” Legislators who do not support the festival believe that the AAFF violated this guideline.

What makes this ordeal an issue at all is that no definitive parameters exist on what exactly “no depictions of sex acts” means. Another problem is that the word, “pornography” has no legal definition. Every filmmaker, performer and artist whose work was used against the AAFF and the arts is deeply upset that their work has been misinterpreted in this context.

The festivals board of directors have now decided to forego state funding in order to maintain artistic integrity for its exhibiting filmmakers.