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Film Censorship in Australia

By bovineaquarium in Culture
Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 10:47:38 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

Censorship has been an ongoing issue in Australian film. For years, those from the film community have bemoaned the so-called 'traditional and conservative' values of the censorship board for banning films such as "Romance" and "Baise Moi". It also seems that in recent years, those opposing the decisions of the censorship board have been growing in number and voice.  On the 3rd of July 2003, the issue came to a head when the latest banned film, "Ken Park", was unsuccessfully shown by film community advocates when the police confiscated the DVD and apprehended organisers, provoking outcry in the film community as well as anti-censorship proponents.

IN Australia, the decision about whether or not movies are allowed to be screened falls in the hands of a designated committee from the classification review board with advice from the "Office of Film and Literature Classification". The committee is chosen from a board of 20 members, who are drawn from all over Australia, and who represent a diverse range of backgrounds, experience and qualifications. The board is also responsible for giving films, computer games and printed publications a consumer rating which advises of the appropriate audience - in some cases, being legally binding.

The board makes its decision based on a number of factors including:
    "a)    the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;
     b)    the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the publication, film or computer game;
     c)    the general character of the publication, film or computer game, including whether it is of                   medical, legal or scientific character; and
     d)    the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to               be published."

Last month, the movie "Ken Park", directed by provocative New York native Larry Clark, was refused classification, and thus was deemed 'unscreenable' in Australia because of its depictions of teenage sex, incest and auto-erotic asphyxiation. The film is also reported to have explicit scenes of masturbation, a love affair between a teenager and his girlfriend's mother, youth drug scenes, alcohol abuse and use of prostitutes by the parents in the film. Whilst the actors playing the teenagers look young, the director has stated that they are all over 18 years of age.

Naturally, this provoked an outcry from the Australian film community who were horrified with the decision - a film community who believes that this is yet another bad decision in a long list throughout the years. The most vocal parties formed a 'rebel' group, who called itself "Free Cinema" - a group of well known protagonists including a film writer, a television host and a radio film critic. They are guided by their leader, Margaret Pomeranz the president of the Australia Film Critic Circle and co-host of the "The Movie Show" - a national half-hour film review program known for the lively and entertaining differences in opinion between Pomeranz and her co-host, David Stratton.

Ken Park has been seen at film festivals around the world including Europe, America and New Zealand. It has also been sold commercially to 30 countries, including Singapore. It has been described as having "artistic merit" and about the "exploration of the lives of children" by those advocating its screening. In the end, it was a three-person committee from the Office of Film and Literature Classification that decided it should not be screened on the basis that "it offended against Australia's morality, decency and propriety". Additionally, for the record, the vote was 2-1 in favour of not screening the movie.

On the night of Tuesday the 1st of July, a private screening was held in a warehouse in Melbourne. The audience of forty was invited by private email and the copy of the movie was downloaded from the Internet. One of the unnamed organisers, in response to the source of the movie replied "that was the way we had to import it because it's illegal to import it into this country and it could have been confiscated at customs."

Yesterday, the 3rd of July, "Free Cinema" decided to push the boundaries as well, but this time, doing so out in the open. It publicised that the film would be screened at a Town Hall and several of the organisers were interviewed. Australian law dictates that penalties of up to an $11,000 fine or a possible jail term of up to a year were applicable, and police were aware of the screening. When asked whether she was prepared to go to jail, Pomeranz prepared her path to martyrdom. "Prepared? I mean, this is sort of like such a strange question. Yeah, I suppose so, I'm putting something on the line here, and if that involves being arrested for this, yeah I'm prepared to do it."

The first police officer arrived even before many of the protesting film critics had arrived. At around 5pm, he walked into the town hall and asked volunteers, proudly displaying "Free Cinema" arm bands, what was going on. The volunteers who in the midst of setting up rows of chairs and organising milk for cups of tea, replied "We are showing a film."

An hour later, the police officer returned to find the cinema screen displaying "Ken Park banned!" as well as images of the film's young adult stars in provocative positions. Again the police officer asked what was happening. The volunteers coyly replied "Not quite sure what's going on."

The town hall started filling up quickly. By the time the movie was advertised to start, 500 people had packed out the town hall. 100 more people were queueing outside, disappointed they were unable to get in. Pomeranz asked the crowd to raise their hands if they were willing to share responsibility of exhibiting the film. Hundreds of hands went up. She then pressed play on the DVD player containing the copy the organisers had obtained.

Six policeman confronted Pomeranz. One asked her to stop the screening as the opening credits rolled. She said she could not as it was against her principles. The officer in charge pressed the eject button and was immediately greeted with a chorus of boos. Pomeranz pleaded to show the entire film before she was taken away but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Pomeranz and other organisers from "Free Cinema" were ushered next door to the Police Station. In hindsight, perhaps the organisers could have picked a better location but fortunately for Pomeranz and her proponents, no arrests were made. The film community is lamenting what they see as conservatist censorship laws.

Stratton, Pomeranz's television co-host, whilst often passionately disagreeing with Pomeranz on a film review, agrees with her in this war. "It's sad that we in this country today have got to a stage where adults can't choose whether or not to see a film like this, and also that we are misled about the contents of it" Stratton stated on radio, continuing on to say "I think adults in a democracy like Australia should have the right to choose what they want to see, and we used to have that until very recent times."

Censorship is obviously an issue which requires balance. It reflects upon the nature and attitudes of the general community. It is when this "sand line" is unable to adapt to the changing nature of community that public outcries arise and films are 'controversially' banned. But how much censorship should there be in society today? Is censorship the responsibility of government to protect us or is it the grip choking our freedom? Is censorship withholding our privelege to make educated decisions about what we see or is it the blanket of morality protecting society from the danger of sliding moral standards? Different politics answer differently. Different people answer differently. Different religions answer differently but in the end, Government has its say - at least in Australia.

Today, the 4th of July, a time when our American brothers and sisters celebrate their independence and freedom, Australia will be examining its own freedom and censorship. Whilst "Ken Park" is making headlines today, so is another controversial film made by a British historian. The film is called "The Search for Truth in History" and comes from David Irving who contends that the Nazi holocaust did not happen. Jewish groups in Australia are lobbying for the film to be banned, and anti-freedom groups are coming back just as the anti-censorship groups did for "Ken Park".

Censorship has its role in society, and today that role is being questioned.


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Film Censorship in Australia | 73 comments (37 topical, 36 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1 informative (1.00 / 5) (#4)
by DominantParadigm on Thu Jul 03, 2003 at 10:17:40 PM EST

Caller:So you're advocating bombing innocent children? Howard Stern:Yes, of course!

eDonkey2000 link to Ken Park (4.44 / 9) (#8)
by stormie on Thu Jul 03, 2003 at 10:53:28 PM EST

ed2k://|file|Ken_Park_(2002).Epic.[ShareArea.tk].LeW.avi|714821632|533E5EA09A8A5 EC2B5F8EDE6D0F32FE9|

..for any Australians wanting to strike back against The Man.

Coincidentally enough, (3.33 / 3) (#11)
by Hide The Hamster on Thu Jul 03, 2003 at 11:48:24 PM EST

an independent Australian film focusing on the strife of students at a top-flight culinary institute in Paris was censored to a scant 14 by those bastards!

Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

For the cause of the greater issue at hand... (3.33 / 6) (#12)
by Deus Horribilus on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 12:01:29 AM EST

I'll overlook the fact that you lifted most of this from the newspaper article I read this morning.

+1FP -> I am sick of the conservative (Christian) bogan junta that runs this country. If they don't like the film, they don't have to watch it, it's that simple. I am an adult, and I am capable of making my own decisions as to what I view. In any case, the porn you can download over the net or buy from Canberra's sex district is likely to be far more explicit in nature.

If Ms Pomeranz gets jailed, I will be buying a "Free Margaret" t-shirt for sure.

"Beliefs are never concrete, they change direction like autumn leaves in a windstorm..."

Re: Ken Park (4.66 / 6) (#13)
by Kasreyn on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 12:13:10 AM EST

Ummm... uh...

depictions of teenage sex, incest and auto-erotic asphyxiation. The film is also reported to have explicit scenes of masturbation, a love affair between a teenager and his girlfriend's mother,

Are we talking "adult actors pretending to be children fucking", (ie., merely distasteful), or "actual children fucking on film", (ie., kiddie porn)? A clarification of what you mean by "depictions" would really help explain the reasons behind this.

Now, if they had banned a film poking fun at the Aussie government, or a film decrying censorship, we would have a clear-cut case. But from the way you describe this movie, there may have been crimes committed just to MAKE the damned thing (again, kiddie porn). In which case, I would think banning it would have the justification of denying its makers any profit.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Well... (4.83 / 6) (#19)
by Michael Moore on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 01:29:30 AM EST

I know the female lead (who does the sex scenes) is played by a 22-23 year old, it's probably safe to assume the rest were legal too. I hear it's coming out on US DVD, so I doubt it's actually classed as child pornography. By the way, it's by the director of Kids and Bully (another movie with [slightly less] graphic deptions of teenagers having sex).

"My life was more improved by a single use of [ecstasy] than someone's life is made worse by becoming a heroin addict." -- aphrael
[ Parent ]
And what, praytell, (4.20 / 5) (#31)
by Kasreyn on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 03:53:26 AM EST

is the filmmaker claiming as the literary value of this work? o_O

Now don't get me wrong on this, I'm not in favor of censorship. If I could afford it I'd be a card-carrying member of the ACLU right now. But so far everything I've heard makes this movie sound like a XXX-rating worthy porno.

Is it really so outrageous that Australia, known for its prudishness, would ban it? I mean, we're not talking "Germany bans Schindler's List". We're talking "Australia bans hardcore porn". Difference!


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
I haven't seen it... (4.85 / 7) (#32)
by Michael Moore on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 04:05:42 AM EST

But if you've seen Kids or Bully, I think you'd have a pretty good idea of what he's trying to do. His films can be a little over-the-top, but essentially he's trying to show people the side of today's youth that society wants to ignore. Teenagers experiment with sex, drugs, etc. We all know this, but it's something that society basically tries to hide. This guy makes movies about it, and for the sake of realism, they tend to be pretty graphic. Nothing really brings home the fact that teenagers have sex like actually seeing it for yourself, so in that sense it brings a strong sense of reality to the film.

That said, I'm no great fan of his movies, but I think I can appreciate them for what they are.

"My life was more improved by a single use of [ecstasy] than someone's life is made worse by becoming a heroin addict." -- aphrael
[ Parent ]

From the article.. (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by Repton on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 11:28:39 PM EST

Whilst the actors playing the teenagers look young, the director has stated that they are all over 18 years of age.


They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle..
[ Parent ]

What we did over here (4.78 / 14) (#14)
by Pac on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 12:58:20 AM EST

In the eighties in Brazil there was no official movie censorship in place anymore. The Orwellianly named Ministry of Justice had had a Censorship branch for more than twenty years, during the military government. They would censor not only movies but also books and even newspapers. When democracy was restored, censorship was one of the first things to disapear completely.

But then again you never really get rid of all censorship laws. When Godard made the movie "Je Vous Salut Marie" ("Hail Mary") the Catholic Church went bersek all over the world. Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world and the Brazilian Catholic Church has always wielded a large amount of power. They managed to convince the Catholic and conservative President to censor the movie personally, using some ancient law.

As it happened just a few years after the end of the dictatorship, all resistance movements were still somewhat organised. The movie was shown all over the country in universities, cineclubs, political party offices etc. I must have seem it five or six times, two or three of them as the projectionist (and once as video machine operator). The movie was far from being even close to Godard's best moments, but it was a political success. The censorship act was publicly mocked all over the country. Never again a Brazilian government took the chance to officially try to censor a movie, fearing the public would laugh at them yet again.

From this experience, I think showing the movie all over the country, at the same time, in every city where it could be done, would be more effective. Make it a national, neverending movie event for some weeks. After the first few hundred arrests the government would probably be forced to reconsider...

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

Community standards (4.66 / 9) (#17)
by Pseudonym on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 01:23:08 AM EST

The #1 thing which is missing in Australian censorship law is, IMO, a resonable notion of "community standards".

Ken Park is, clearly, a film which some will find offensive and others will not. The question, I believe, is not whether it will be offensive to watch, but rather, is its mere existence offensive? Clearly that's true of some films. Films where a crime was committed (e.g. depiction of actual child abuse) is clearly a difficult question to answer. Even in this case, we allow the news and documentary films to show footage of other kinds of actual crimes being committed because we deem this to be in the public interest. Still, I am prepared to concede that this is an area where we must tread carefully.

In the case of Ken Park, however, there is no suggestion of this. Rather, the OFLC is charged with applying what they believe (with some reason; they do perform surveys etc) to be "community standards". However, I think this misses the point. Ken Park is a special-interest film, and is only intended for a narrow audience, so it seems intuitively wrong to test whether it lives up to the "standards" of the general community. All countries over a certain size (e.g. that of Sealand) are composed of a number of physically and logically overlapping virtual communities. It should be the communities which are the "audience" whose standards are applied.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
How about Australians decide for themselves (3.00 / 2) (#42)
by cam on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 11:18:22 AM EST

The question, I believe, is not whether it will be offensive to watch, but rather, is its mere existence offensive?

Australians are smart people and definately smarter than the Australian government. How about Australians decide for themselves what is appropriate or not.

Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

They do... (3.50 / 2) (#49)
by Pseudonym on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 10:53:40 PM EST

...in theory. That's what representative government is supposed to be for.

I agree with you that the average Australian is certainly smarter than the Australian government. I'm not convinced that Australians are. After all, we keep the two party system propped up, and when we don't, we vote for people like Pauline Hanson.

I'd love to be proven wrong on this, though.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Truisms (4.33 / 3) (#46)
by epepke on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 06:19:52 PM EST

Yeah, that's the thing missing from censorship law, and while we're at it...

The only thing missing from government is a reasonable way to balance people's rights when they conflict. The only thing missing from economics is a way to ensure reasonable distribution of wealth while still rewarding people for their efforts. The only thing missing from democracy is a way to prevent the tyranny of the majority. And so on.

Censorship is a really appealing idea for most people. Everyone can come up with a work that is so abhorrent taht they cannot imagine that there could be any possible reason to allow it to continue to exist. Trouble is that people are different. Any definition of "community" is going to run into trouble.

What community do I belong to? Do I belong to the heterosexual community? Do I belong to the queer-positive community? Do I belong to the white community? Do I belong to the German community because my ancestry is germanic, or am I Hispanic because I can speak Spanish? Do I belong to the atheist community? Or do I belong to the community of obnoxious bastards who think the dangers of censorship clearly outweigh any personal appeal it may have?

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
lucky me! (2.33 / 3) (#36)
by dimaq on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 05:28:19 AM EST

I can watch all the gory aussie films here in .fi :)

however I guess it's too bad they banned baise moi in oz. I think everyone (insert age guard here) should watch it, because it's a very strong movie with a *good* message.

romance is crap btw. and well generally movies are like entertainment, not education...

Didnt sleep to well.... (3.00 / 2) (#41)
by Gornauth on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 07:24:14 AM EST

...after seeing Baise-Moi.

Why should everybody above a certain age go see it?

I think i would prefer showing Pink Floyd's/Another Brick in the Wall to a large audience instead of Baise-Moi.

[ Parent ]

The message (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by Relinquished on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 03:06:10 PM EST

I think everyone (insert age guard here) should watch it, because it's a very strong movie with a *good* message.

And might that message be "Choose your restaurants carefully. You may never know when two homicidal women will come barging in with guns ablazing, and force you to drop your pants, then order you to crawl around and squeal like a pig, and finally kill you in the second most humiliating way known to man"?

(That was all I got out of the movie, considering the fact that the version I saw didn't have any English caption.)

If you rearrange the letters in "anagram for signature" you get "famous at rearranging".

[ Parent ]
instead... (none / 0) (#71)
by dimaq on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 08:04:11 AM EST

instead you should have paid more attention to what caused them to do that.

[ Parent ]
Hard to feel bad as an American (2.66 / 3) (#38)
by obsidian head on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 06:18:30 AM EST

For those of us Americans who sometimes wish to criticize our national boneheadedness... it is still light-years advanced past many other countries.

What is the reason for this?  Is it because Australians are ashamed of their roots as a criminal dumping-ground?  Is there still some lawlessness to worry about?

Don't blame the "criminal past" (4.83 / 6) (#44)
by goonie on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 12:49:27 PM EST

Firstly, can I just say if I hear another person ascribing arbitrary Australian national characteristics as part of our convict past I think I'll scream. Whilst it would be inaccurate to say that it has had no effect on us, its effects are greatly overstated. The vast majority of immigrants to Australia were free settlers seeking a better life, just like the United States - and a substantial fraction are of non Anglo-Celtic origin and were either born overseas or are born of immigrant parents.

The reasons for this present fuss are many. Some date back 100 years or more to the constitution drawn up at Federation, others various factors including Australian (through our British heritage) traditions of the nanny state that persisted through about the 1960's, polical wheeling and dealing necessitated by the finely-balanced state of the Federal Senate, and an Antipodean version of the culture wars that have raged with particular ferocity since the election of a conservative federal government in 1996.

Deriving from the British tradition, the Australian constitution contains no Bill of Rights or its equivalent, and in general Australian governments, state and federal, are far less fettered in their powers. The main restrictions are what they can negotiate through their legislatures, what they judge to be acceptable to the electorate, and what falls under their respective purviews under our federal constitution (which in itself is a rather misleading document to the uninitiated reader - amongst other things it ascribes virtually dictatorial powers to a Governor-General who is in practice a powerless figurehead 99.9% of the time). This is a slight oversimplification - governments are quite restricted in what they can do to interfere with the democratic process, but the essential point is that governments are much freer to make laws like this here than in the States.

The second point is that Australia largely inherited from Britain a nannying attitude to keeping racy material from the common folk. Police raids on plays containing such shocking content as the word "fuck" and university students smuggling in copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover were common through the 1960's. With the election of the Whitlam Labor government in 1972 most of this idiocy disappeared. Books have been left alone since, and the ridiculously restrictive film censorship regime was replaced with a "classification board" that 99.9% of the time acted like the MPAA rating system, and bans the kiddie and barnyard pr0n completely.

However, after a long period where relatively few actual censorship controversies came up (as against classification controversies, of which there were quite a number), John Howard took a Liberal Party with a disturbingly high number of Christian fundies in it to victory in 1996. On a couple of occasions, they have attempted to change the rules on the "X" (pr0n) classification, but the left-leaning parties in the Senate (Greens/Democrats/Labor) have combined to knock back the changes on several occasions. However, on a variety of different bills (seemingly unrelated to censorship) the Senate balance has come down so that the single vote of a nutty Tasmanian Catholic crusader (elected mainly through the votes of his extended family) called Brian Harridine has been important. Harridine is regarded as the master of the quid pro quo, and it seems highly likely that his pieces of silver were influence on the appoinment of the members of the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

A few years ago, the Prime Minister started muttering about the OFLC being dominated by "Film industry types" - which may be read as "bloody socialist, atheist, beret-wearing, Labor-voting libertines who are leading this country to ruin", and promised to rectify this by appointing "people more representative of the community". Whilst Romance made it through with an R rating, both Baise-Moi and Ken Park have been refused classification (banned, in other words).

The current protests could get very interesting, as the beret-wearers (and, for the purposes of this discussion, I count myself as one of them) are getting extremely tired of the current government for a variety of reasons, and would like to win this one not only over the principle that governments shouldn't be interfering in what adults watch but because they're nursing a pretty big grudge. The various state governments, particularly the New South Wales state government, also want to knock these laws off. The various state police forces, who are tasked with enforcing the laws for various complex reasons despite the classification system being largely a federal one, clearly think they've got much better things to do than run around after yuppies watching films.

Oh, and one final point. Australia is not perfect. Our government does some shitty things - this is one example, the fact that we detain asylum-seekers indefinitely in pseudo-jails another more serious one. But so does the US. You're not "light-years ahead". There are swings and roundabouts.

[ Parent ]

Actually... (3.66 / 3) (#47)
by epepke on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 06:25:58 PM EST

Firstly, can I just say if I hear another person ascribing arbitrary Australian national characteristics as part of our convict past I think I'll scream. Whilst it would be inaccurate to say that it has had no effect on us, its effects are greatly overstated. The vast majority of immigrants to Australia were free settlers seeking a better life, just like the United States - and a substantial fraction are of non Anglo-Celtic origin and were either born overseas or are born of immigrant parents.

It's worth pointing out that America has a convict past, too. As Bill Bryson points out in Made in America, there was a period of 100 years' duration where nearly all of the English immigrants to the U.S. were sent there for being criminals. Frankly, I don't think you should be embarassed about the convict past at all; it's one of the reasons that I feel an affinity for Australians.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
I have seen it (3.60 / 5) (#43)
by chimera on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 12:04:53 PM EST

and it was okay. Could have been a major film had not some shortcuts and easy solutions (le homo) been applied.
Liked 'Kids' better.

As for censorship, I'm all for it. I want censorship on extreme violence and Tom Green tripe. The latter should be banned altogether. Living in Scandinavia means that sex-censorship and depressive-censorship cannot apply. However, I only want censorship on distributed (aka non-festival) films. I am liberal enough to think that mature festivalviewers can handle even the likes of Tom Green. But it is so very hard.
Coincidentally 'Ken Park' opens today (4/7) in .se

Coincidentally sex is only an issue in anglican (english-based) societies. This is why every sub-18 kid will get his or hers sexual education by way of Ken Park xvids and kiddieporn snatched up at the local geekfest. No wonder anal is in.

and not very coincidentally nsw aussies banned cycleracing the other week.

all things stemmes from having a repressive retard terrorist in the White Horse, which runs the shit anyways in all anglican countries except Canada, the country that is more Scandinavian than Scandinavia. All your rights are belong to Canada.

Conspiracy theory... (4.00 / 3) (#48)
by goonie on Fri Jul 04, 2003 at 08:27:04 PM EST

#include <tongue-in-cheek.h>

I've figured out what this is really all about. It's got nothing to do with the Howard government wanting to keep this film away from Australian eyes. It's all about increasing Telstra's share price so they can sell it! I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me.

The superdominant Australian telco, Telstra, is 51% government owned. The government would like to sell the rest, but with telcos (even hyper-profitable monopolists like Telstra) having shitty share prices at the moment it simply doesn't make economic sense to right now. So anything that pushes up share prices would be a good thing.

Over a very low cap, Telstra has per-megabyte charges on their broadband internet services. We're talking here somewhere between 9 and 15 Australian cents (0.06 - 0.10 USD) per megabyte for any over-quota downloads. I have heard (not that I would know) that the rip of Ken Park is about 682 megabytes. At 0.15 cents per megabyte, that's about 70 USD per download in Telstra's pocket...

As good a theory as any (none / 0) (#61)
by mino on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:52:29 PM EST

I have heard (not that I would know) that the rip of Ken Park is about 682 megabytes.

I heard that too. Oh damn, my fingers slipped.

(Side note: how many Aussies would have even bothered to download it or order the DVD if it hadn't been banned? I know I wouldn't have. Meh, happens every time...)

[ Parent ]
Does the United States have the most respect... (4.25 / 4) (#50)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 01:39:02 AM EST

...for Free Speech in the First Amendment style?

Seriously, this is something I have noted - whatever reasons you have to bitch about the USA, it seems to me that this country has the most free speech.

Here's the egregious offenses against free speech I see in this country:

-Perhaps an overzealous prosecution of threats (terrorism, threats on the president.)
-Drug laws where I have heard it is illegal to describe the manufacture of certain drugs. I have not heard of anyone being charged on these, however.
-The insanely wrongheaded law requiring internet filters in libraries and schools and the subsequent Supreme Court decision upholding the libraries part.
-We have a president who doesn't seem to care much for free speech but he hasn't been able to do much against it except try to keep protestors out of his sight.
-Some technology/copyright/encryption related things such as the DeCSS mess.

I see the filters as the worst of these. Compare to governments generally held to be superior in progressivism / liberalism to the U.S.: Various European countries where various Nazi things are verboten. German video game censorship laws. I remember hearing some noise about the EU going after someone for writing a book critical of EU policy. There's a part in the UN Declaration of Human Rights that says all your rights (never mind just Free Speech) are void if you use them against the UN. Now, I read about this Australian thing. It all seems pretty creepy to me.


"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

intelligent films (4.00 / 4) (#51)
by idea poet on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 12:15:03 PM EST

Censorship. A foul smelling word in any language. And as somebody with an unhealthy interest in film, I'd have to say that I side with those who are opposed to it.

I do believe though that the most mind-blowing and thought provoking cinema I've seen, has been those that invoke my imagination, not spell it out on screen. Films like Baise Moi or Kids do nothing for me. It's too explicit. It's like looking at a dead body for too long. Or living in a violent society. After a while the effect wears off.

So filmmakers who want to shock and awe should censor themselves and produce cinema that leaves it to the viewer to figure it out.

Rate, don't confiscate (3.60 / 5) (#52)
by Opium on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 12:48:49 PM EST

If you want to maintain 'community standards' -- provide ratings. Adults should be free to ignore them, enforce them for teens/children if you must. For certain-- private viewings should not be disallowed! I think, by the way, that the reason this can happen is that the young adult population in Australia just do not give a damn politically. Austalians -- wake up -- The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, it doesn't help buying it a 'brewsky'.

"Ars Gratia Artis"... When will Metallica T-Shirts have this quote?
Apathy (none / 0) (#56)
by benitohoover on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 04:04:36 AM EST

I don't think its that Australia's young preople are politically apathetic, its just that we're one of the most conservative generations, politically, Australia has ever seen.

[ Parent ]
"People always get the kind. . . (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by alizard on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 05:12:21 PM EST

of local government they deserve"

I'm not sure if this is a grimmer comment on the American people or the Australian at this point, the Aussie government seems to be selectively importing the worst government ideas the US has ever produced.

Censorship, Internet censorship, gun bans, etc.

AFAIK, AU uses "public financing" of political campaigns. American politicians at least have the excuse of being bought. What excuse can AU politicians make?

"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico

Welcome to Self-righteous, White Australia (3.25 / 4) (#54)
by straw on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 05:18:27 PM EST

Not surprising at all. Small minded and somewhat provincial Australians, the majority of those I had the very (limited) pleasure of meeting while visiting there a while a go, are not only some 2-3 decades behind the rest of the western world, they also seem to be unable to "catch up" with  contemporqary conservative anglo-saxson self-righteousness.

You don't need to accept incest, if a movie discusses it. You don't have to try asphyxiation if  you don't find it fun. But the idea of having a group of adults limiting other peoples/adults access on the background of what it proper is somewhat old fashioned.

Most anglo-saxson countries tend to think that avoiding an open discussion on things which are taboo will make them disappear or at least will prevent access to them. Don't discuss contraception and teenagers want have sex. Don't let people smoke a joint and drugs will go a way. so on so forth. Boring, backward and somewhat not very surprising.

I hope you're not talking about all australians. (none / 0) (#67)
by hbiki on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 05:57:09 AM EST

I hope you're not talking about all Australians because if you are then you are being as small minded and somewhat provincial as those you are decrying.

I take all knowledge to be my province.
- Francis Bacon
[ Parent ]
films (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by Tiyka Nawal Zanasy on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 01:27:54 AM EST

A good film is one that makes you think. It shouldn't matter what kind of sex, voilence etc. the film has in it. I don't see the problem with warning us, but i don't think films should be banned because of it. I feel that most films accepted by film and liture deminish woman and make them look like sex objects. But they think poeple can't handle a film on what life is like. The things that happen in films might not be right but how can we discuss them if they are not brought up in the first place.

What is wrong with Censorship? (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by hbiki on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 06:17:29 AM EST

I'm curious.

There are a number of assertions in this debate saying that censorship is "a foul word in any language" but I have yet to see an ARGUMENT against censorship - yet alone a cohesive, systematic argument.

Personally, I don't think censorship is a bad thing. I think the question is where we draw the line between what should and shouldn't be censored. And we need to be coherent and intelligent about it.

(Incidentally, I've read quite a lot of first amendment jurisprudence so I'm obviously influenced by that)

Ask yourself the following:

Do you believe that government should not make laws against ANY speech?

If so, does this include commercial speech? Does that include commercial speech which is deceitful? If it doesn't, then you've already contradicted yourself. Making illegal deceitful commercial speech is censorship - it is the removal/punishment of speech which is considered to be damaging.

Does it include hate speech? (Ironically, most vocal liberals who are against censorship probably anti hate speech laws - which is amusing to me because I reckon I could make a quite convincing argument that Larry Clark's work is highly mysogynistic and potentially a form of hate speech).

Does it include seditious or treacherous speech? Should I legally be able to publish extensive and accurate details on how to blow up the whitehouse or to overthrow the government?

Does it include paedophilia? Does it include sexual acts involving consenting adults when it masquerades as child sex?

If you answered 'no' to any of the above then you support censorship on some level.

"But I don't believe in censorship of art!" you cry. To which I ask 'when does speech become art? where do you draw that line? can paedophila ever become art? why not?'

I'm opposed to the censorship of Ken Park in particular - I mightn't like Larry Clarke much - but I don't think Ken Park is any more damaging morally than the Matrix - which reduces violence to computer game consequences (killing innocent people is OK if they're part of the system and HEY they don't bleed). Yes, I realise that means I could argue that the Matrix and its sequels could be censorsed. And I agree. There ARE reasons for people to want to censor the Matrix and there ARE reasons for people NOT wanting those films censored. Part of living in a liberal and federal democracy is the idea that you can nut out these issues... that civil society plays a very active part in forming the WAY OF LIFE of a particular state. And that hey, some people might find something you have no problem with so offensive that they want to stop others from saying it - which is the EXACT justification for anti hate speech laws (ie you mightn't have a problem being a racist but I do and I am going to STOP you from saying that).

I take all knowledge to be my province.
- Francis Bacon

Intellectual property issue (3.33 / 3) (#69)
by Keith Harper on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 06:20:13 AM EST

At what point during this controversy did it become acceptable to plagiarise the Sydney Morning Herald? No doubt "television host" David Marr would find a good deal of grist for his Media Watch mill in your article. For instance:

The first officer had arrived even before the protesting film critics. A few minutes after 5pm, he asked volunteers bearing Free Cinema arm bands, who were setting up rows of chairs and organising milk for hundreds of cups of tea, what was going on.

"We are showing a film," was the reply.

Kirsty Needham, Sydney Morning Herald

The first police officer arrived even before many of the protesting film critics had arrived. At around 5pm, he walked into the town hall and asked volunteers, proudly displaying "Free Cinema" arm bands, what was going on. The volunteers who in the midst of setting up rows of chairs and organising milk for cups of tea, replied "We are showing a film."

kuro5hin.org article

Honestly! If you can't be bothered to write your own article, why didn't you just MLP this? You haven't even bothered to attribute your source. This is the sort of journalistic misappropriation that would make Campbell Reid blush!

Newspaper story link (4.50 / 2) (#70)
by funwithstuff on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 06:42:32 AM EST

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,6698582%255E16953, 00.html

This is a long-running problem in Australia, thanks largely to the morons still in office. The classification board has been overruled by government ministers in the past, to ban a film that had been passed and was in release (Baise Moi).

Maybe something will come to a head because of this, but likely it'll just be used as another crutch to scare the public (oooh, naughty films, naughty videogames) and increase support for the government. Dammit.

An intriguing side-note... (none / 0) (#72)
by inquisitor on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 05:51:14 PM EST

"Ken Park" was going to be released in the UK, by MetroTartan Distribution. There is no BBFC certificate listed, because it didn't get that far; it was going to get a festival screening, but then Larry Clark messed it up all on his own. As such, it is currently without a distributor.

Whether it would have been cut or not for general release is unknown; but then, we allowed through "Romance", "Baise Moi", "Irreversible", "A Ma Soeur" et al, so who knows?

Holding my hand. (none / 0) (#73)
by Cackmobile on Thu Jul 10, 2003 at 12:07:34 PM EST

Seroiusly what rite do these people have to tell me what i can and can't watch. I am an adult, if i don't like it i'll walk out. I believe that everything should be legal that doesn't hurt anybody but the consenting adultss that are particpating. Also re: David Irving. Sure he's a knob and some how he is trying to deny something that quite clearly happened, but we live in a world (supposedly) with freedom of speech. I may not like it buts its there opinion.

Film Censorship in Australia | 73 comments (37 topical, 36 editorial, 0 hidden)
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