The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

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kidc85
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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#226 Post by kidc85 » Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:49 pm

The BBFC rated it a U.
BBFC wrote:Note: The following text may contain spoilers

PAINT DRYING is a film showing paint drying on a wall.

It contains no material likely to offend or harm.

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colinr0380
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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#227 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Jan 26, 2016 7:25 pm

I suppose it is nice to have that confirmation that the filmmakers used non-toxic paint!

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#228 Post by McCrutchy » Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:35 am

I'm enjoying how people are piling on the BBFC for being "censors", and thinking this was a good idea. Sorry, but I'm with the BBFC on this one. The real issue here is how film classification is applied in the UK, not the BBFC itself.

Now, I fully understand Lyne's complaint, and I think that there needs to be an overhaul of the way BBFC classification is mandatory for even the smallest screening in the UK, largely because the costs are grossly unfair to smaller films and their distributors. This is where I wish the UK would copy the States, and simply offer BBFC certifications as guidelines that local councils and theaters could enforce. So that way, smaller independent films could be shown in limited release and even released on video without BBFC classification, and only the titles from major distributors would have BBFC classifications.

However, the reality is for commercial film distribution, every country wants to have a film classification board, and with few exceptions, the BBFC are probably the best in the English-speaking world. Worldwide, I've always tended to admire the laissez-faire approach of the French and the Nordic countries (I still can't get a bead on the German FSK), but if we tried that on in the English-speaking world, parents (and complaint-enthusiasts) would go ballistic. I do still think we need to alter how UK law mandates dealing with animal cruelty in films, to stop the useless mandatory editing of older and foreign films that were stupid enough to hurt animals, but otherwise, the rest of the blame for film censorship in the UK lies at the feet of the major distributors, who are trying to make money by achieving lower certificates. I'll agree that it's not a perfect system, but when you consider how much more influence the MPAA ends up asserting over films worldwide, or how many films the OFLC/ACB has banned or cut in Australia, then it's hard to fault the BBFC, when they themselves are pretty fair and balanced in what they do.

Having said that, I would have loved for Lyne to have punctuated the atmosphere with random musings, all of which was U material, but then slipped a random "c**t" in there really quick just to see if the BBFC really were watching all 607 minutes of it.
Last edited by McCrutchy on Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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MichaelB
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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#229 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:43 am

The basic problem is that Lyne's picked the wrong target. Obviously the BBFC has to charge fees for their time - it's always been funded exclusively by the film industry, and how else are they going to pay their staff and overheads?

The central issue isn't the fact that the BBFC does this, it's the fact that the 1984 Video Recordings Act compels all video distributors to pay for BBFC classification. If this was made optional, as is the case in many, many other countries, the problem would vanish - but the BBFC doesn't have the power to do this.

Personally, I'd have no problem at all with a system that gave everything a mandatory 18 certificate for nothing and but offered the option of paying BBFC fees if distributors want a milder classification - after all, most of the stuff I produce isn't aimed at kids or teenagers so it wouldn't make the slightest difference to me, except by freeing up several hundred pounds to be spent on additional disc content.

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#230 Post by McCrutchy » Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:50 am

MichaelB wrote:Personally, I'd have no problem at all with a system that gave everything a mandatory 18 certificate for nothing and but offered the option of paying BBFC fees if distributors want a milder classification - after all, most of the stuff I produce isn't aimed at kids or teenagers so it wouldn't make the slightest difference to me, except by freeing up several hundred pounds to be spent on additional disc content.
And that's my understanding of how it works in most or all of the Nordic countries. You can skip the classification, but then you have to print a mandatory highest classification on the box (which I believe is '15' in all of the countries). Obviously, that's even better, because how many under 15s are going to end up buying films anyway, but the same rationale could easily be applied for most under 18s, particularly nowadays.

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#231 Post by furbicide » Wed Jan 27, 2016 7:38 am

MichaelB wrote:Personally, I'd have no problem at all with a system that gave everything a mandatory 18 certificate for nothing and but offered the option of paying BBFC fees if distributors want a milder classification - after all, most of the stuff I produce isn't aimed at kids or teenagers so it wouldn't make the slightest difference to me, except by freeing up several hundred pounds to be spent on additional disc content.
That's a great suggestion, Michael, and more or less the status quo for film festivals and cinematheques (at least, here in Australia). There are still a few hoops to jump through – I think the Classification Board still asks to be provided with brief synopses for a small fee in some cases, and there's always the possibility that a film can be challenged – but it saves on a lot of cost, time and effort for all parties. I don't see any reason why such a policy shouldn't apply to the DVD market (say, for DVDs being sold outside the big retail chains).

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#232 Post by JamesF » Wed Jan 27, 2016 7:45 am

Nucleus Films launched a petition for an 18-certificate-if-unrated law a couple of years ago, but it didn't get much traction unfortunately.

The government and BBFC will always argue that this would open the way for illegal material to be released, e.g. animal cruelty, but any distributor with common sense doesn't want their work recalled and would have pre-cut or accounted for this in the first place.

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#233 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:05 am

If it's illegal, it's illegal, and is a matter for the criminal law - and distributors generally don't like opening themselves up to prosecution, so if there's a risk of that they're most likely to be tempted to get BBFC approval. But some things are so open and shut that their input really isn't necessary.

For instance, with the longer cut of Walerian Borowczyk's A Private Collection, there was no question that four shots unambiguously breached Section 63 of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act - and even if Arrow hadn't been aware of which specific law was being breached, it must surely be clear that this material might be legally problematic (and not just in the UK) and so they'd probably be tempted to seek legal advice - most likely from the BBFC. I've spoilered the description for NSFW reasons, but we're talking about
SpoilerShow
a dog fucking a woman, clearly for real, culminating in an equally genuine canine cumshot.
Also, anyone in this business should know about the laws governing animal cruelty and underage sexual activity - and if they don't, they really should find themselves another profession.

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#234 Post by zedz » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:50 pm

MichaelB wrote:Personally, I'd have no problem at all with a system that gave everything a mandatory 18 certificate for nothing and but offered the option of paying BBFC fees if distributors want a milder classification - after all, most of the stuff I produce isn't aimed at kids or teenagers so it wouldn't make the slightest difference to me, except by freeing up several hundred pounds to be spent on additional disc content.
That's an elegant solution, but legally I think the issue with that would be that certain content is banned altogether in the UK, even for 18 certificates (e.g. certain instances of animal cruelty), so '18' is not in fact the worst case scenario and couldn't really act as a default 'everything else' classification. Not that I agree with that, but I'm sure that would be the immediate counter-argument, and the value the BBFC would claim they were adding for their fee.

EDIT: I see that this was all already covered while I was writing my post! But I'm sure the supplementary argument would be that the 'prosecute later' solution means that the horse has already bolted (and been tripped, and put out of its misery), so the notion of protecting the public - the raison d'etre of the legislation - would be moot.

An alternative argument is that, if you accept that censorship is necessary, then it is the ultimate example of a public good and it should be publicly funded. The polite fiction that it's a service provided to the film industry is transparently bogus, but it remains politically untenable to suggest that the government should bear the cost of government censorship. (In the case of mainstream studios relitigating and recutting to achieve more favourable certificates, I have no problem with hitting them with the associated costs.)

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#235 Post by furbicide » Fri Feb 26, 2016 8:59 pm

MichaelB wrote:If it's illegal, it's illegal, and is a matter for the criminal law - and distributors generally don't like opening themselves up to prosecution, so if there's a risk of that they're most likely to be tempted to get BBFC approval. But some things are so open and shut that their input really isn't necessary.

For instance, with the longer cut of Walerian Borowczyk's A Private Collection, there was no question that four shots unambiguously breached Section 63 of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act - and even if Arrow hadn't been aware of which specific law was being breached, it must surely be clear that this material might be legally problematic (and not just in the UK) and so they'd probably be tempted to seek legal advice - most likely from the BBFC. I've spoilered the description for NSFW reasons, but we're talking about
SpoilerShow
a dog fucking a woman, clearly for real, culminating in an equally genuine canine cumshot.
Also, anyone in this business should know about the laws governing animal cruelty and underage sexual activity - and if they don't, they really should find themselves another profession.
On this note, what was the discussion regarding some of the photographs shown in the earlier part of the short film? Was there any concern that they could have constituted underage pornography, or does the BBFC generally take a more laissez-faire attitude to 'vintage' images (in which case, I find it strange that the dog scene would be considered any different; perhaps because it's a moving image?).

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The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#236 Post by MichaelB » Sat Feb 27, 2016 5:55 am

furbicide wrote:On this note, what was the discussion regarding some of the photographs shown in the earlier part of the short film? Was there any concern that they could have constituted underage pornography, or does the BBFC generally take a more laissez-faire attitude to 'vintage' images (in which case, I find it strange that the dog scene would be considered any different; perhaps because it's a moving image?).
The dog scene is open-and-shut illegal under Section 63 of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act - even possession of that footage is a criminal offence, which is why Arrow censored the master as well as the BDs/DVDs. The only conceivable defence would be if we could prove that it was an animatronic dog or that the copulation was somehow faked, but since this is clearly not the case we'd have been wasting our time and Arrow's money. (Another tangential issue is that even without the legal issue there's no way that that footage would have got an 18, and for obvious commercial reasons we couldn't go any stronger - an R18 would have crippled the project financially.)

If any of the photos had been of people who were obviously underage and actually performing an activity legally qualifying as "indecent" then they'd have run into difficulties as well, but I can't think of any image in the film that meets those tests. Context famously doesn't provide a legal defence as far as the 1978 Protection of Children Act is concerned, but this cuts both ways, because a non-sexualised shot of a child is fine even if it's included in a film like A Private Collection.

Obviously, it's impossible to prove the ages of anyone in the photos, in which case the legal test is whether the famous "reasonable person" would believe them to be underage - and I genuinely can't think of any image in the film that would be problematic like this.

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#237 Post by furbicide » Sat Feb 27, 2016 7:08 pm

The two images I'm referring to feature a couple of (apparently pubescent) girls in what might be described as a sexualised pose. I suppose one might be able to argue that the images aren't pornographic per se because they don't depict sexual acts – and I have no idea whether the board takes into account age of material, the film's audience, artistic merit etc. – but my assumption was that, even if they were compliant with the letter of the law, these images would at least have caused a bit of debate over their potentially exploitative nature.

Put it this way: could a modern-day Borowczyk have been prosecuted for having such photographs in his possession? In some jurisdictions, he undoubtedly could be.

This is all kind of academic given that the BBFC passed both versions of the short film presented to them, of course. I was just curious about their reasoning and where they draw the line on such things.

(As an aside, I don't quite understand why our society is so weird about bestiality. It's gross, and in many cases cruel, but is the footage in question really worse than, say, the dog getting slaughtered, beheaded and eaten in Jean Rouch's Les Maitres Fous (or, for that matter, any footage of animal slaughter?). I think I can guess which scene the dog would have preferred to appear in! The idea that we can segment our treatment of animals neatly into 'humane killing' and 'cruelty' doesn't seem consistent. This classification code is full of such arbitrary distinctions, of course, but I think the BBFC could afford to be a little more flexible in their thinking. Cutting masterpieces like Marketa Lazarova in this day and age seems kind of unforgivable.)

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Re: The BBFC vs. UK Independent Labels

#238 Post by MichaelB » Sat Feb 27, 2016 7:24 pm

furbicide wrote:The two images I'm referring to feature a couple of (apparently pubescent) girls in what might be described as a sexualised pose. I suppose one might be able to argue that the images aren't pornographic per se because they don't depict sexual acts – and I have no idea whether the board takes into account age of material, the film's audience, artistic merit etc. – but my assumption was that, even if they were compliant with the letter of the law, these images would at least have caused a bit of debate over their potentially exploitative nature.
I think the crucial word here (which I've taken the liberty of highlighting in your post) is "might". Not "could accurately". And legally, that's a vital distinction, because the 1978 Protection of Children Act is only concerned with recordings of actual sexual activity involving one or more underage children. If this is unambiguously the case, even possession of this material is illegal - but if it isn't, and it clearly isn't here because the film got past the BBFC (and believe me, they were ultra-cautious about this particular film!), that's fine.
Put it this way: could a modern-day Borowczyk have been prosecuted for having such photographs in his possession? In some jurisdictions, he undoubtedly could be.
I suspect the law would err on the side of "no", for the reasons given above. Not least because once you enter into the realm of things that might be interpreted as sexualised, then you run into all sorts of complicated issues involving entirely innocent pictures of naked children of a kind that you'll find in any family photo album. Which is why in order to be rendered illegal, the photograph must be an unambiguous recording of a crime being committed.
(As an aside, I don't quite understand why our society is so weird about bestiality. It's gross, and in many cases cruel, but is the footage in question really worse than, say, the dog getting slaughtered, beheaded and eaten in Jean Rouch's Les Maitres Fous (or, for that matter, any footage of animal slaughter?). I think I can guess which scene the dog would have preferred to appear in!
Indeed, but that's the law as it currently stands. In 2008, following the killing of Jane Longhurst by a man who was obsessed with violent pornography and the resulting something-must-be-done moral panic, "extreme pornography" became a legally recognised term, and bestiality was one of the things explicitly proscribed. (So was necrophilia, but the genuine article, so the Nekromantik films both got through the BBFC intact).
The idea that we can segment our treatment of animals neatly into 'humane killing' and 'cruelty' doesn't seem consistent. This classification code is full of such arbitrary distinctions, of course, but I think the BBFC could afford to be a little more flexible in their thinking. Cutting masterpieces like Marketa Lazarova in this day and age seems kind of unforgivable.)
This distinction came about in order to achieve as liberal an interpretation of the 1937 Animals Act as possible. Because the Act is entirely concerned with cruelty, defined as the visible infliction of pain or the "cruel goading of an animal to fury", it doesn't mention killing, and so the BBFC has decided that quick kills are therefore perfectly legal (although this hasn't actually been tested in court...). But the scene with the snake in Marketa Lazarová undoubtedly does infringe the Animals Act (since the snake is clearly in pain), so the BBFC had no choice but to cut it.

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