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BAN THE BAN! OUR READERS RAGE AGAINST THE CENSORS

Within hours of publishing our story on the banning of French film, Romance, readers fired off a salvo of angry letters demanding that Australia 'ban the ban' - and grow up. Here are some of the first we have received. If you want to add your voice, please send an EMAIL with Romance in the Subject field - and you may want to send a copy to the censors - see left column. Please be sure to give your full name and location.

Oh for heaven's sake, of course it shouldn't be banned.
Sharyn Madigan

I am old enough to have been through this censorship of books and films thing since the 60s. Silly me I thought it was accepted (if somewhat reluctantly in some quarters) that providing someone was over 18 the decision as to what they wanted to read and see and hear was generally up to them. By all means provide guidance with ratings but leave it at that.
Barbara Heaton

Banning films and other cultural artefacts is ridiculous and naive. It is extremely frustrating to think that contemporary Australia is still a place that is filled with fear and immaturity, all of which means we are denied the opportunity to see some wonderful (and some not-so-wonderful) films.
Liam Royes
National Business Manager
ProductBank, Sydney

It is interesting that it is a film that explores female desire and sexuality that has been banned. A film in which a woman's take on her own sexual needs and exploitation of those needs is deemed too dangerous to screen. I saw the film in the US and thought it was quite amazing, the depiction of sexual witholding as a tool of emotional torture is very potent territory. What is pornographic, what do the censors feel needs to remain out of sight; in this case is it the sight of a man's hand or penis entering a woman's vagina that is too much for us or is it the idea behind the image?
Jo Kennedy

Obviously, the ban on ROMANCE is appalling. But it puts our politicians in good company - like the Pope who said Galileo was evil, like Bowdler who tried to make Shakespeare fit in with "family values" ("Family values" -- the most benign pair of words used to justify fascist, intolerant attitudes.)
As one who did see ROMANCE at its Melbourne Festival screening, I also recognise that this is also a political act. Given that ROMANCE is very much about female sexuality, its banning is another expression of male control over women.
Can you send me relevant addresses to whom I can make my abhorrence known - e.g. actual address of Censorship Board, relevant members of parliament - and with email addresses if they have them. Actually, what about also putting them on your site for everyone to use.
Thanks
Peter Hourigan

Ed: Good idea, Peter; see details at left.

Just where do these people get off? The Lolita decision was an absolute joke (I teach kids who regularly watch "worse " movies without restriction) and this one sounds even sillier (without having seen the film). How about we make this committee accountable?
Greg James

I totally disagree with their verdict to ban this or any film at all even Salo (which I haven't seen nor would I be interested at all). I did see Lolita and thought it was pretty good for type of film I don't usually watch. I think all banned films should be released with an R or something - hell, I would settle for a 21+ rating but banning & cutting films is immoral & unfair in a democratic country - or so we thought it was.
If any country would ban a film like this, maybe Germany or UK - or I would think the MPAA in America would slap an NC-17 on it, like American Psycho just copped.
I will write to these fascists.
Brendan Day

I think Romance should get an R. I have not seen the movie personally, but the act of sex should not be taboo. As stated in the article you ran, it is one of the expected arguments that sex should be viewed by adults, but that should go without saying. On that topic, it almost seems stupid that X rated movies are only available in the territories (eg Canberra). Censorship of sex (or anything really for that matter) is the product of a mentally unhealthy society - it would seem that we're adopting an almost stereotypical-American Point of view - American Psycho received an MPAA NC-17 for sex scene, but not for realistic scenes of serial killer violence!
In the past seven years, I have followed decisions made by the OFLC, and am becoming more and more disappointed. Compared to the UK, our censors are often rather lenient, but when I read a few months back that Romance had received an 18 certificate with all the graphic sex intact I though it'd have no problems getting into Australia. I was so incredibly wrong.
Which leads me to this: If a serious film such as Saving Private Ryan can have it's own tailor-made consumer advice (Graphic War Scenes), then the OFLC should make a similar exception here - possibly and R for High Level Realistic Sex Scenes or Depictions of actual Sexual Activity, though even these sound perverse. Personally, a High Level Sex Scenes would suffice!
Nick Green
PS. Time to lift bans on the following movies: Pasolini's Salo, The Hills Have Eyes, I Spit on Your Grave, plus many more.

If the time, money and concern spent on censorship drive was channeled into parental support and educational services, there wouldn't be an issue.
Rachael Turk, Sydney

So much for 'conservative New Zealand', guys. Romance, although causing a little titilation in the NZ media has been granted a general cinema release just across the "pond" from you guys. The NZ film censor argued that the film - albeit containing graphic sexual imagery concerning the rape of a young woman - did not contravene the censorship guidelines here in New Zealand. The scene in question is an integral part of this art house movie and deserves to be shown unedited.
The film will go on release here with a provisory warning pertaining to the graphic sexual themes and imagery.
It is an adult movie which deserves to be seen by everyone who makes the individual decision to expose themselves to such content. Thank heaven we have some intelligent people in the censorship office over here who can let the people decide what to watch and not what a bureaucrat wants/wants not to watch.
Good on ya guys!
Andy Best, Wellington, New Zealand

Do we really need to be protected from this film?
Christine Cheung

An old fella a while back came up with this concept - stick a whole bunch of people together in a box and they inevitably work out what's best, and what's not. This is how the Humanist "ism" came into being. Now I am residing in the late twentieth century and I still have faith in humanity.

In terms of a Committee to discuss matters of morality, please bring more on. I would like a committee to explain why we swallow ritualised destructive American violent fare, when something addressing sexuality, regeneration and growth is trying to get out there; I would like a committee to explain why an acquaintance who used to work as Deputy for the OFLC can push out two bit porn . . .

Ultimately I would like a committee to tell me where Australia is really going. Why this sudden conformist backlash? I hate to think the generation of mine has become a generation of conservative swine. Anyway, must go, the Directors Cut of Betty Blue awaits on video. Go figure.

I think if we as a populus looked at the film, we'd work it out. Might even bond us enough to figure out some identity for this nation, either way the decision were to go.
Vox Populi! Vive la rèpublic!
Oliver Strickland
Pissed.

Of course we should be free to view whatever we wish on adult movie screens, with the exception of snuff movies, bestiality and child pornography. 'Born Again' John Howard and his wowser band of Lyons Forum Ministers, and their lackeys in the OCFL . . . should be taken to the basement of the Old Melbourne Gaol . . .and forced to view Jakob the Liar thirteen times.
Brian 'Eagle Leather'

Ed: That is far too cruel and unusual punishment, Brian.

What a sad and pathetic little country Australia is becoming. We are ruled by a bunch of tyrannical sunday school teachers.
How does this abhorrent censorship gain a foothold in a free country like Australia? What happened to the idea that freedom of expression is the foundation of democracy? I expect and respect the necessity of restrictions on films etc. but not an outright ban. Who do these people think they are that they can make the decision on my behalf as an educated adult on what I can and cannot see? It is incredible and shocking and something must be done! I only hope the average Aussie is stirred from their usual apathy and complacency over this issue into some sort of action.
I hold the people behind this ban in the utmost contempt; they are an evil that must be eliminated from our society before it is too late.
Trevor Crooks, Hope Valley, South Australia

Ed: I sympathise with your sentiments - but I think it's not a matter of 'evil' as a matter of ignorance.

We should have the right to choose, to vote with our feet, which films we wish to see. The further our society gets from gratuitous censorship the better, and I think we are ready as a society to choose for ourselves, given adequate warnings of course. Perhaps it is time for a new classification system including an "R-plus" category or similar?
Tim Renowden

Who chose this commitee? I'm so sick of hearing about this committee trying to ban or banning movies that apparently are too explicit. This committee should stop trying to be our moral guardians and put a rating on the film, giving us the opportunity to decide for ourselves wether we find something offensive or not.
Barbara Gonda

To believe that a small exclusive group such as the OFLC is actually representative of our diverse society is nonsensical. Certainly there has to be classification in order to protect minors from coming into contact with certain material that they are not mature enough to understand. However to allow a small group of people to make decisions of what we can and can not see based on their (obviously narrow) opinion is like saying we as adults are not mature enough to make decisions for ourselves. If certain individuals are offended for whatever reason of graphic portrayals of sexuality or whatever, then they should know better (or should be mature enough) to know that they should not see an "R" rated film! Did the OFLC decision to ban Romance come from any sort of pressure? It is no coincidence that those individuals who constantly push for censorship over films like Romance, Lolita, Salo and Crash are from the most fundamentalist, Right, and therefore narrow part of society that thinks that "their way is the only way", especially when a lot of the time they have not even seen the film but prefer to jump on the bandwagon and grab the opportunity to push and publicise their own cause. It makes me wonder where their innate sense of superiority comes from!
Amy Doyle

The ban on Romance is indicative of the current government's inability to see the Australian adult public as little more than children, who need to be protected from themselves. They seem to want to encase us behind Disneyland-white picket fences, removed from anything that approximates real feeling, debate and argument. Funny, that's what I thought all good art and living in a democracy meant. Whoever would have thought - Australia a Fascist state? I guess, thoughm its been on the cards since Howard was elected.  
Regards,
Malcolm Hodge  

January, 2000

Email this article

See our FEATURE story on the banning of Romance.

To send comments to the Head Office of the
Office of Film and Literature Classification:
Levels 5 & 6
23-33 Mary Street
Surry Hills
Sydney NSW 2010
Telephone (02) 9289 7100
Facsimilie (02) 9289 7101
Email:oflcswitch@oflc.gov.au

Our letter to the OFLC:

In the interests of providing the OFLC additional public reaction (under its 'community standards' brief), this is to advise that the matter of not classifying the film Romance is of serious concern to members of the public as represented in our Letters to the Editor on the subject. For your information, please see our coverage of the matter at (this page). We invite comments and responses from the Officefor publication.
Cordially yours
Andrew L. Urban
Editor

THE ISSUE:
Should there be an option for the OFLC to refuse a classification, thereby effectively banning a film? Is a detailed warning such as 'Graphic Sexual Content' together with a classification like R - or even R21+ as suggested by one reader - not sufficient to warn anyone who might be offended?

Letters tally: We have so far received and published 18 letters: all of them argue against a ban.







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