Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Movie Censorship at Home: Canada

Last week, when I wrote that entry about movie censorship around the world, I just happened to browse the IMDB and notice that my country has at one time banned quite a few movies, though it seems that most of those bans are no longer in force. I have to admit that it is always interesting to look through the titles of movies that are or were once banned in your country.

The list throughout those pre-1992 years is a nice menagerie of movies: Day of the Dead, The Tin Drum, Pink Flamingos, Bad Taste, Caligula, and a lot of grindhouse/direct to video movies that really don't bear mentioning.

But in recent years, our country has gotten a bit more liberal about some things. For instance, I have a hard time imagining a movie like Kill Bill being shown on national network television uncut in the United States, even after 10PM. In fact, looking at some of the banned movies on that list, part of me thinks that perhaps it may have been banned provincially if it was released a few decades earlier. Then again, even when I was a kid, I remember watching European movies like My Life as a Dog, Manon des sources and Tampopo on the CBC uncut, so who knows what might have happened.

But before I begin, I should explain something. You see, Canada doesn't have an industry wide rating board like the MPAA, but rather. we have individual provincial rating boards, and sometimes they don't see eye to eye on what is and is not acceptable but generally speaking, there are some things that will get a movie banned in at least one area of Canada, if not the whole country in this day and age.

For instance, in a pornographic movie, if the sexual acts depicted demean the female participant(s), there is overt violence or the work truly turns them into sexual objects, then there is a chance it will not be allowed into Canada. Since 1998, these movies represent a majority of banned movies here in Canada, largely based on the Butler case which was predicated on community standards not protecting society from obscenity, but rather that in some cases, the most extreme pornographic movies posed a threat to women as members of society.

Then there is 2000's Fred: The Movie, which is a documentary film that is an examination of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. But in a weird twist, the filmmaker ended up joining the Church while he was filming the movie, and so the focus of the movie shifted away from its original theme and became something completely different. Because of the rather inflammatory things that Reverend Phelps is known for saying, the movie is banned in Canada based on our hate crime laws.

There was also some controversy over a movie called À ma soeur!/Fat Girl, which featured simulated sex scenes between minors. Here is the funny part. It was banned in Ontario for 3 years, rated R in Alberta and yet if you lived in Nova Scotia, you could go see the movie when you were 14. In 2003, the head of the Ontario rating board changed, and with that change came some changes to the code and the movie was released in this province.

And then there is Karla, which is the story of Karla Homolka, accessory to rape and murder for Paul Bernardo. The movie, starring Laura Prepon is apparently banned in the specific cities where the crimes took place and the victims were from. I can't confirm that mind you.

Now, with all that being said, it is also interesting to note that in a lot of cases, movies receiving lower ratings in Canada than they do in the United States... the funniest of which has to be the discrepancy for This Film is Not Yet Rated, the stinging rebuke of the MPAA's secrecy and the seeming double standard the rating body has when it comes to independent and studio films. The MPAA rating: NC-17(rating surrendered). The Canadian Rating: 14.

I think this whole entry boils down to me being able to look at some of the challenges movies face overseas with a clearer eye now that I've laid out the censorship challenges that are right here in my own backyard.


Anonymous said...

In Singapore, movie censorship is a little more relaxed than it was in the 80s and 90s. This is after they introduced the rating categories of MA18, RA21, etc. Before that, movies were either shredded to bits through the censoring processed or banned outright for overly violent or sexual content.

They've even relaxed their hold on cable tv, which at one time were not allowed to broadcast programmes like Sex In The City and The Sopranos. (We still don't get South Park here.)

Of movies, the one that really irritates me has got to do with Kill Bill. Kill Bill vol 1 and vol 2 were both screened in theaters with RA21 rating. However Vol 1 is banned on dvd release and Vol 2 is not. So essentially, you can get Kill Bill vol 2 on dvd here but not vol 1. Just..dumb. :D

Still I forsee things will continue to open up here (though probably in a 2-steps-forward-1-step-back manner).

- Liz

MC said...

I read that South Park is on a lot of countries' banned lists.

It's Me... Maven said...

Is now a good time to say I have the unrated version of Caligula in my DVD collection? And I hope to add Pink Flamingoes to it, too?