FILM: by Richard EganNews Weekly
Appeals against degrading movies rejected
, July 31, 2004
The Classification Review Board has rejected appeals against the R18+ classification of the films Irreversible and L'anatomie de l'enfer (Anatomy of Hell).
Appeals against both films were held after South Australia's Attorney-General, Mr Michael Atkinson, requested the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Philip Ruddock, to apply for an appeal. (Under the national classification scheme, the Federal Minister must apply for an appeal if any State or Territory minister requests him to do so).
The Australian Family Association had attempted to bring an earlier appeal against Irreversible
, but this appeal was not heard after the Board declined to exercise their discretion to hear an appeal outside the 30-day limit following the original classification decision. This limit does not apply to appeals submitted by the Attorney-General. The AFA was also an appellant in its own right in the appeal against L'anatomie de l'enfer
This was the first time that new legislative provisions defining who qualified as a "person aggrieved" by a classification decision were tested. The Board considered that the AFA qualified in this case because part of the "contentious matter" of the film was the depiction of child sexual abuse and it was accepted that the AFA had a specific interest in this issue. This narrow interpretation of the provisions may make it difficult for community groups to be accepted as "persons aggrieved" in relation to other appeals.
The Board's decisions, made on June 30 and July 7 respectively, to allow these films to be publicly exhibited, with an R18+ classification, represents a new low in film classification in Australia. Irreversible
features a nine-minute scene of a woman being anally raped. L'anatomie de l'enfer
features a scene implying the sexual abuse of a pre-pubescent girl which includes a shot of the lower half of the girl's naked body with the focus on her genitals. This scene is immediately followed by one of several actual sex scenes in the film.
The approval by the Classification Review Board of these two films, each of which contains several actual sex scenes, also continues and expands the so-called 'limited discretion' to allow actual sex in a film classified R18+ that the Board first created in its January 2000 decision on the film, Romance
There used to be a bright white line between X films, which may not be publicly exhibited and can only be sold in the ACT and the Northern Territory, in which actual sex is shown, but no violence or sexual violence is permitted, and R18+ films in which no actual sex was permitted.
decision ignored a specific rule in the pre-2003 guidelines that stated that "nudity in a sexual context must not involve obvious genital contact". This rule was abolished in the 2003 guidelines, paving the way for the routine approval of movies with actual sex with a R18+ classification. Since the 2003 guidelines came into effect at least four movies with actual sex scenes have been passed for public exhibition.
This drop in standards is also observable in the G classification. Movies classified G under the new Guidelines include references to visiting a brothel for sex (Love's Brother
), to sexual touching (Ned
) and to whores (The Cat in the Hat
, which, like Mark Latham discussing conservative columnist for The Australian
, Janet Albrechtsen, thinks the gangsta rap term "skanky ho" is cool).
Concerned community groups must now await the outcome of the operational review into the 2003 guidelines to see if this review honestly reports the lowering of standards under the new Guidelines. Regardless of the findings of the Review, both political parties need to be pressed for a commitment to restore integrity to the classification process.