Banned - the film on teenage life too hot for Australia


Banned - the film on teenage life too hot for Australia, by Gary Maddox:
31st May 2003 (Credit: Sydney Morning Herald)


A week out from opening night, the Sydney Film Festival has been caught up in a censorship row after the banning of a controversial American film.

The film, Ken Park, includes scenes of explicit sex, suicide and auto-erotic asphyxiation. It has been refused classification by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September, some observers described Ken Park as too hard-core for cinema release. But it has since screened at numerous festivals.

Co-directed by the controversial American film-maker and photographer Larry Clark, best known for Kids and Another Day in Paradise, the film is about four teenagers struggling with uncertain futures in suburban California. The film's co-director is Ed Lachman, who was the Oscar-nominated cinematographer on Far From Heaven.

For the first time since the sexually explicit French film Baise-Moi last year, the Office of Film and Literature Classification has refused classification for a film. After a 6-1 decision, the board said Ken Park dealt with sexual matters "in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults". The film contained scenes of actual sexual activity involving actors playing minors.

"The R18+ classification permits material that is high in impact," the board said. "The intensity, cumulative effect, tone and treatment of the scenes of actual sexual activity exceeded this impact test."

The film is understood to have been submitted for classification by a distributor wanting to release it on video. The festival has appealed and hopes for a decision before the film's scheduled screenings on June 17 and 18.

The festival's president, Cathy Robinson, was upset and angry at the decision.

"The critical issue is about the role of a film festival," she said.

Any festival-goer seeing Ken Park, which she described as a significant film dealing with social issues affecting young adults, had to be over 18.

Ms Robinson said it was ironic that the 50th festival was seeing a return to the censorship controversies that dogged the festival in the past. In 1969, there was a storm when the Swedish film I Love, You Love was banned for showing a pregnant woman having sex.

"We've reached our 50th event and we're still dealing with the same kind of issues as festivals past," she said.

The director of the festival, Gayle Lake, described Ken Park as a groundbreaking film that should not be banned.

"Yes, the film is controversial. Yes, it will divide audiences. But it should be seen and it should be debated."

Links:

Sydney Morning Herald (supplier of Media Man Australia headline feeds)

Movie Makers and Movie Stars, by Greg Tingle

Media Man Australia: Entertainment News

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