December 4th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The rise of Condoleezza Rice

EDITORIAL: Corporate power ... and the public interest

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Talent gap widens between major parties

CENSORSHIP: Nicole Kidman in controversial movie

ECONOMICS: Productivity report driven by ideology

FINANCE: Day of reckoning for Australia's debt binge?

RURAL AFFAIRS: The National Party's Telstra sale dilemma

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION PART 1: Iran backs down on uranium enrichment

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION PART 2: US doubtful about Tehran's intentions

VIET TAN: New reform party launched for Vietnam

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Uncharted territory / The Zamindars / Labor's performance / The Light on the Hill

SEX EDUCATION: Telling teens the truth - 'cool' virginity, abstinence and faithful marriage

US ELECTIONS: Christians eat lions in 2004 election

China's stand-off with Taiwan (letter)

Labor needs heart transplant (letter)

Saddam's secret weapons (letter)

BOOKS: MONASH: The outsider who won a war, by Roland Perry

THE CRISIS OF ISLAM: Holy War and Unholy Terror, by Bernard Lewis

BOOKS: Non-Alignment and Peace versus Military Alignment and War

Books promotion page

Nicole Kidman in controversial movie

by Richard Egan

News Weekly, December 4, 2004
Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman shares a bath with a 10-year-old boy, kissing him and talking about their future sex life, in a controversial new film, Birth, which has been attacked by the Australian Family Association.

But the AFA has been blocked in its efforts to appeal against the film's MA15+ classification.

Des Clark, director of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, refused to grant the AFA a waiver of the $3,470 fee required to appeal against the classification decision.

He defended his decision, arguing that "the Australian Family Association, and the public represented by this group, have already received the benefit of a fee waiver this financial year on a previous occasion".

He was referring to the AFA's unsuccessful appeal against Anatomy of Hell, which featured a graphic scene of child sexual abuse, described as "playful" by the Classification Review Board.

Offensive depictions

The AFA believes that the film Birth should be given a Refused Classification (RC) rating, as it contains scenes which "depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or who looks like, a child under 16 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not)"and which involve "depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive depictions involving a person who is or who looks like a child under 16 years".

The Report of the Classification Board includes the following descriptions of scenes in the film.

Minutes 51-52: Anna and the [10-year-old] boy are ... seen in a diner where she asks him, "How will you fill my needs? Ever made love to a girl?" To which he responds, "You'd be the first".

Minutes 56-57: Anna is seen from the rear, naked in the bath. The boy undresses. Anna looks at him as he is implicitly naked, the boy then steps into the bath with her. As they stare at each other, he says "I'm looking at my wife."

Minutes 62: Sean pulls Anna towards him and kisses her on the lips.

Minutes 81-82: As the boy sits in the bath, Anna outlines her plan for them to run away together. She says, "In 11 years you turn 21, then we'll get married." She rubs her hand over his face and tells him that she loves him.

The National Classification Code requires that "Films that ... depict, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or who looks like, a child under 16 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not)" are to be rated RC (Refused Classification).

The scenes described above depict a "person who is, or who looks like a child under 16". The character - the boy Sean - is said to be 10-years-old. The actor, Cameron Bright, was born on January 26, 1993 and would therefore have been under 12 when acting in these scenes.

Reasonable adults are likely to be caused offence by a depiction of a 10-year-old boy naked in the bath with an unrelated naked woman, especially if the depiction includes kissing on the lips and discussion of marriage and sexual relations between the woman and the boy.

The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2003 state that "Films ... will be refused classification if they include or contain ... depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive depictions involving a person who is or who looks like a child under 16 years."

An adult woman who kisses an unrelated 10-year-old child on the lips while they are both naked in the bath and in the context of a discussion of future sexual relations between them is committing child sexual abuse. Therefore a depiction of this should lead to the film being Refused Classification.

This depiction is exploitative of the child - an actor under the age of 12 portrayed as a 10-year-old. The woman is exploiting the child's bizarre belief that he is the re-incarnation of her deceased husband to behave in an inappropriate manner with the child - sharing a bath naked, kissing the child, talking about having sex with the child.

This depiction is offensive.

In the context of a national scandal involving widespread distribution and consumption of child pornography, it is extremely disturbing to Australian families that the Classification Board, which has the responsibility of classifying the images seized by police in the recent raids, has seen fit to approve as MA15+ a film which contains scenes of child pornography.

  • Richard Egan is WA state president of the National Civic Council.

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