Banned Films and Censorship

By Sara Da Silva


While I was watching WWE’s Fastlane pay-per-view, the 87th Academy Awards were being held. Through twitter, I was keeping tabs on the winners and the going-ons of the awards ceremony and I was fairly pleased with the results. However, I was very surprised to hear that The Lego Movie hadn’t been nominated for best Animated Feature Film. I mean come on people, have you seen that movie?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Big Hero 6 got the recognition it deserved, but The Lego Movie rightfully deserved a place among the nominees at least. I suppose it’s just a common occurrence that great films will always be left out and fall behind others.

This, along with discussions from my most recent US media lecture, got me thinking about which movies don’t make it onto the big screen.

Certain films can be banned by film censorship, review organizations and specific government-appointed councils due to political and moral reasons. More often than not, films needing to be censored will have scenes removed or their rating classification increased. A large proportion of movies have been banned for years until the decision was made to release it later with a higher rating. This just goes to show that what people deem as acceptable has dramatically changed over the years.

For example, Straw Dogs, a 1971 psychological thriller that stars the incredible Dustin Hoffman, stirred up some major controversy as the “centrepiece” of the film was a prolonged rape scene. The director, Sam Peckinpah, was accused of glamorizing rape by critics, and so the film was edited and released with an R rating in the US. In the UK, however, it was banned by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) under the Video Recordings Act in 1984. But, like a large proportion of films, an unedited version was released onto VHS and DVD in 2002.

In a similar fashion, Man from the Deep River, a film notoriously known for its scenes of cannibalism and torture, and the real life slaughtering of animals, was rejected for cinematic release by the BBFC in 1975. The film, renamed as Deep River Savages, made it to video release in 1983, but was swiftly banned in its entirety in 1984. However, in 2003, Deep River Savages was passed by the BBFC with a certificate of 18 and had roughly 4 minutes of animal cruelty scenes cut from it. Guess the BBFC just couldn’t make up their mind.

Mikey, a 1992 horror-thriller, tells the story of a young sociopathic 9 year old who brutally murders his foster family. The depiction of a young murderer was deemed too inappropriate for viewers, especially in the wake of the James Bulger case in 1993.

The list of banned (or previously banned) films is too extensive for me to write about. But, some of its most notable films include: Borat (that’s banned in all Arab countries, except Lebanon), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (initially banned due to its blasphemous nature) and Cannibal Holocaust (banned as accusations were made that the actors were actually killed on camera).

Of course I cannot write this article without giving a quick mention to The Interview. This movie stars James Franco and Seth Rogen who play journalists on a secret mission to assassinate the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The cyber attack on Sony Pictures, in which threats were made against any cinema that risked showing the movie, caused the studio to withdraw its theatrical release. Luckily for us, Sony made The Interview available for online rental and purchase, followed by a limited release in select cinemas. I personally loved the movie, although it may have been made sweeter by the simple fact that North Korea didn’t want me to watch it.

Movies can be banned or censored for countless different reasons, but they all have one thing in common: their taboo nature makes people want to watch them. After all, controversy is the best form of publicity.



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