A 74m print of ANATOMY OF HELL was passed with an R18+ (Strong Themes, Sexual Activity, High Level Sex Scenes) rating on May 5, 2004. Potential Films intended to release the film on July 22nd. However, the Australian Family Association (AFA) and South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson made an appeal to have the rating reviewed.
Potential Films issued the following press release on June 23rd 2004.
APPLICATION FOR A REVIEW OF CLASSIFICATION OF ANATOMIE DE L’ENFER (ANATOMY OF HELL)
Following the OFLC’s granting of an ‘R’ classification to the above film on May 5, 2004, the Australian Family Association has applied for a review of that decision. The hearing is due to take place on Wednesday July 7. The film will open on Thursday July 1 at Lumiere Cinema in Melbourne and Chauvel and Valhalla Cinemas in Sydney.
ANATOMIE DE L’ENFER (ANATOMY OF HELL) is the latest film from French film director Catherine Breillat, whose 2000 film ROMANCE was granted an ‘R’ rating by the then review board after initially being denied classification by the OFLC.
ANATOMIE DE L’ENFER, which premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year, tells of a woman who pays a gay man to look at her over four nights.
The local distributor of the film, Mark Spratt of Potential Films issued the following statement: "We are yet to be advised on what grounds this objection to a legal and well-reasoned OFLC “R” classification has been made. We strongly oppose the Australian Family Association’s attempts to appropriate the role of censor for themselves and believe they should not be given standing to have their complaints heard by the Classification Review Board.
It is the democratic right of adults in this country to see and hear what they please within certain guidelines and restrictions. “Anatomie de L’Enfer” does not contravene these guidelines and is in line with many other films in recent years passed for adult audiences. We object to any narrowly-focussed group acting to prevent adults exercising these rights.”
The following media release was issued by the OFLC on June 24th.
Application for review of the film Anatomie de L’enfer received
Application has been made to the Classification Review Board to review the Classification Board’s decision for the French film Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell), directed by Catherine Breillat.
Anatomie de L’enfer was classified R with the consumer advice, “Strong themes, Sexual activity, High level sex scenes”, by the Classification Board on 5 May 2004.
The Review Board will meet on 7 July 2004 to consider the application.
The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website when a review has been finalised.
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body that meets in camera to make a fresh decision on classification matters previously determined by the Classification Board.
Due to the threat of the film being banned its release was brought forward from July 22nd to July 1st. It opened in Sydney at the Valhalla and Chauvel cinemas, and Melbourne at the Lumiere. The media advertising played up the threat of a ban.
The Sydney Morning Herald, June 25, 2004:
HURRY! ONE WEEK ONLY!
The most controversial film of the year could be BANNED on 7 JULY.
SEE IT WHILE YOU CAN!
The Sydney Morning Herald, July 3, 2004:
ART or PORN?
SYDNEY ADULTS BE THE JUDGE - WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
From one of European cinemas most acclaimed and confronting filmmakers (CATHERENE BREILLAT - ROMANCE, 'A MA SOEUR') comes the year's most controversial film, a searing investigation into misogyny
HURRY 5 DAYS ONLY
WE EXPECT THE FILM TO BE BANNED ON WEDNESDAY JULY 7!
The Sydney Morning Herald, July 7, 2004:
HURRY FINAL SCREENINGS
WE EXPECT THE FILM TO BE BANNED TODAY!
The Sydney Morning Herald, July 16, 2004:
The Chauvel Cinemas, Valhalla Cinemas and Potential Films would like to thank various members of the media and Watch on Censorship, for supporting us to defeat the South Australian Attorney General and religious extremists in their attempt to ban Catherine Breillat's Anatomy of Hell.
Adults should be able to see whatever they like without interference by self appointed moral guardians.
New.com, June 23, 2004
Richard Egan from the Australian Family Association was quoted commenting
on how they found out about the film. Note that they have not seen it.
"We've been asked to monitor the website by the Classification Review Board (CRB) after our application against Irreversible failed,"
"It noted community groups had an obligation to monitor the database so they were aware of such films."
Film challenged, sight unseen.
Herald-Sun, June 23, 2004
Mark Spratt from Potential Films was quoted as saying:
"It's a very serious arthouse film. It's not at all exploitative or titillating, not as sensational as Irreversible."
For their eyes only.
theaustralian.news.com.au, June 26, 2004
Mark Spratt from Potential Films was quoted as describing the AFA action
"an irrelevant piece of mischief by an organisation that has an agenda of interfering with adults' rights to see and read what they want".
While Alex Mescovic from Sydney's Chauvel cinema tells it like it is:
"We're sick of the Christian Taliban who appear to be dictating censorship policies in this country,"
Margaret Pomeranz also makes a worthwhile point that every time Michael
Atkinson helps the AFA...
"...members of the review board have to be called in from all over Australia at the expense of taxpayers because of what adults want to see in this country."
Festival boycott urged over film rating row.
theaustralian.news.com.au , July 1, 2004
The owner of Sydney's Chauvel Cinema Alex Mescovic, called for
film distributors to boycott the coming Adelaide Film Festival. This is to
protest against the action of Michael Atkinson who he describes as:
"a mouthpiece for fringe radical groups" who "has the power to call for a review whenever he wants".
Finally breaking his silence Michael Atkinson has responded:
"These people hate the classification system. They hate having any system that restricts what they can do according to the law
... the overwhelming majority of Australians, and South Australians, don't want open slather for cinema."
Allow art the freedom to push creative boundaries.
Adelaide Advertiser, July 6, 2004
Tom Richardson's opinion piece includes the following about the Labor Government of which Michael Atkinson belongs.
The policy platform is largely reactive. The Government has been quick to patch up gaping cracks in the state's administrative infrastructure whenever they become obvious, but it has also demonstrated foresight and conviction with its strategic plan, a set of objectives that has effectively nailed its colours to the mast for the next decade.
Adelaide has come a long way as a cultural metropolis and has much more to offer. And that is why the ugly spectre of censorship should not be allowed to permeate our State Government. Like Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, I have not yet viewed the controversial French film Irreversible.
Neither have I seen Ken Park or Baise-Moi, neither of which managed to evade suppression. But for a government, and a Labor Government at that, to impose its moral authority to restrict the public's right to choose what it views is prohibition of the worst kind.
Not that the film's creators or distributors should care. This kind of hysterical knee-jerk conservatism will only serve to incite interest and, ultimately, investment in an obscure foreign picture that otherwise would have come and gone in the blink of an eye.
Call for French film to be banned.
ABC Lateline, July 6, 2004
The reporter Stephen McDonell had this to say about Michael Atkinson.
The SA Attorney-General was not available for an on-camera interview
tonight and he wouldn't give us the letter from a constituent that sparked
his initial interest in this film.
He did however make a written statement for Lateline.
"I am asking the Classification Review Board to have a closer look and make sure they want this kind of thing screening in Australian cinemas. I am not the expert and I do not wish to view these films myself. I simply want the independent umpire to have a closer look."
Censors consider banning film, 'Anatomy of Hell'
ABC The World Today, July 7, 2004
Damien Tudehope is from the Australian Family Association.
DAMIEN TUDEHOPE: There is certainly a large amount of very graphic, sexual content, which debases and demeans women. But there is also child abuse content, where a child is used in a sex scene, which we say is also fundamentally outside the guidelines which require the board to refuse the classification
Sandra Hall is a film reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, who has mixed feelings about Breillat's work, but believes she's a good filmmaker with a point to make.
LIZ FOSCHIA: But what about the Australian Family Association's claims about the use of a child in a sex scene?
SANDRA HALL: Well the child is not touched. It's a picture of a naked child. We assume that a dummy was used in that shot. I mean you've got to remember that the film was passed by the censorship board and they do go into that kind of thing fairly thoroughly. I can't imagine they would have passed it if they thought that the child was, you know, being sexually used in the film.
Damien Tudehope understands that in seeking to have the film's classification reviewed he may be giving it more publicity that it deserves.
DAMIEN TUDEHOPE: But the reality is that there are guidelines in place, which should be accepted by the board and which should be enforced by the board.
On July 7, the Review Board met and confirmed the R18+ rating. Only the consumer advice was changed from 'Strong Themes, Sexual Activity, High Level Sex Scenes' to 'Actual sex, High Level Sex Scenes, High Level Themes'.
Classification Review Board
Review determines R classification for Anatomie de L’enfer
July 7, 2004
A four-member panel of the Classification Review Board met today and determined, in a 3 to 1 decision, that the French film Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell), directed by Catherine Breillat, should be classified R18+.
The Classification Review Board supported the R18+ classification with the consumer advice, “Actual sex, High level sex scenes, High level themes”.
R18+ is a restricted classification. It means the film is legally restricted to adults aged 18 years and over.
Some material classified R18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.
The Classification Review Board convened today in response to applications, from both the Australian Family Association and the Attorney-General on behalf of the Attorney-General of South Australia, to review the R18+ classification of Anatomie de L’enfer, made by the Classification Board on 5 May 2004.
The Classification Review Board received written and heard oral submissions from the Australian Family Association and the original applicant, Potential Films. Correspondence from the South Australian Attorney-General was submitted for consideration by the Classification Review Board.
“There is high level content in this film, but the Classification Review Board considered that these depictions appear briefly and are justified by context”, Convenor, Maureen Shelley said. “On this basis Anatomie de L’enfer does not exceed the guidelines for the R18+ classification”.
In reviewing the classification, the Classification Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. It meets in camera to make a fresh classification decision when applications to review classification matters previously determined by the Classification Board are made. It’s reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.
Classification Review Board
7 July 2004
23-33 MARY STREET
SURRY HILLS, NSW
MEMBERS: Ms Maureen Shelley (Convenor)
Dr Robin Harvey
Ms Dawn Grassick
Mr Robert Shilkin
The Australian Family Association (AFA)
Represented by Mr Damien Tudehope, Solicitor
The Attorney-General Not represented
PARTIES: Potential Films (Original Applicant)
Represented by Ms Raena Lea-Shannon, Michael Frankel &
Co. Solicitors; Mr Mark Spratt, Director, Potential Films; Mr Julian Wood, Former Classifier, Expert Witness
To consider whether the AFA’s application for review of the decision was made within the time period prescribed by the Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995.
To consider whether the AFA has standing to apply for review of the decision.
To simultaneously consider the AFA and the Attorney- General’s applications for review.
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the film Anatomie De L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) (the film) R18+ with the consumer advice ‘Strong themes, sexual activity, highlevel sex scenes’.
DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION
The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) classified the film R18+ with the consumer advice ‘Actual sex, high-level sex scenes, high-level themes’.
2. Legislative provisions
The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 of the Act provides that films are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines (the Guidelines).
Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 3 of the Table under the heading ‘Films’ provides that films (except RC films, X films) that are unsuitable for a minor to see, are to be classified ‘R’. The Code also states various principles for classifications, including that ‘adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want’ and that ‘minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them’.
Section 11 of the Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a film include the:
(a) standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and
(b) literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the film; and
(c) general character of the film, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and
(d) persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.
Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines, determined under s.12 of the Act:
• The importance of context
• Assessing impact
• Six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.
a) Viewing the film
The Review Board viewed the film and then accepted submissions from the AFA, the Attorney-General and Potential Films regarding whether the AFA’s application was made in time and whether the AFA had standing as a person aggrieved under the Act.
b). AFA application made within time
In the first instance the Review Board determined that the AFA’s application was either made in time under section 43(3)(a) or, in the alternative, the Review Board exercised its discretion to hear the matter under section 43(3)(b) should it be otherwise determined that the application was made out of time.
The classification certificate for the film was issued on 5 May 2004 and posted on the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) website on the same day. On 4 June 2004 the AFA lodged an application for review and applied for a waiver of fees.
It has been the practice of the Review Board to accept that the date an applicant has received notice of the classification decision is the date of the posting of the decision to the OFLC website – i.e. the date it becomes public information.
Further, it has been the practice of the Review Board that in the event of a fee waiver being granted then the date of the receipt of the application for fee waiver will be the date used in establishing the date that an application has been made.
Under section 91(2) of the Act the Director may take 28 days to notify an applicant for waiver of fees of the outcome of their application. If the date that the fee waiver was granted and advised to the applicant were used, then ostensibly an applicant for review who also requested a fee waiver may only have two days in which to lodge an application. This would appear contrary to the sensible operation of the scheme of review under the Act.
On 22 June 2004 the Director advised the AFA that the application for fee waiver had been granted.
c). AFA has standing as person aggrieved
In the second instance the Review Board determined, in the majority, that the AFA had standing as a “person aggrieved by the decision” in respect of this film. The Review Board noted the submissions of the AFA and Potential Films on the standing of the AFA as a “person aggrieved”. The Review Board sought legal advice from the Australian Government Solicitor on the issue of the AFA’s standing as a “person aggrieved”.
The Review Board determined, in the majority, that the AFA had standing for the following reasons.
For the AFA to be a "person aggrieved" by the Classification Board's decision, it would need to fall within subsection 42(3)(b) of the Classification ((Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act, which expands the definition of "person aggrieved
" from the common law meaning of that term, by providing than an organisation shall be a person aggrieved if its "objects or purposes include, and whose activities relate to, the contentious aspects of (the) theme or subject matter" of the film.
It is stated in paragraph 3.1 (b) of the AFA constitution that it is one objective of the AFA to “analyse laws and policies for their effect on the family and to formulate and promote corrective measures as necessary to uphold and protect the rights and responsibilities of families” It is noted that the AFA’s activities include publication of material on pornography, violence, censorship and the media and the making of submissions to the Senate on portrayal of violence in the media and in relation to the Guidelines and to the Review Board.
Further, the Review Board, in the majority, accepted the submission of the AFA that “offensive depictions involving a child” have or may have a detrimental effect on the family. The Review Board accepted the AFA’s argument that it seeks to promote “corrective measures” in relation to the Classification Board’s treatment of the contentious aspects of the film and that in doing so it would be acting within the scope of the objective set out above.
The majority accepted the AFA’s submission that its objectives included dealing with issues such as the contentious aspects of the film and that its activities relate to the contentious aspects of the film.
The majority of the Review Board determined that the depiction of a naked child in a sexualised setting is a contentious aspect of the subject matter of the film. Based on the inclusion of this scene the Review Board in the majority determined that s.42(3)(b) of the Act applies to the AFA in this instance.
Minority view – AFA has standing
A minority was satisfied that the AFA had standing in relation to the above aspect of the film and further that s.42(3)(b) of the Act also applied with respect to the contentious aspect of explicit sexual activity as depicted in the film.
It was the AFA’s submission that sexual activity that dehumanises and debases another human being impacts on ways that marriages work and families operate.
Further, it was the AFA’s submission that sexual activity was a “sacred” component in family life and explicit depictions of sexual activity, with particular emphasis on such depictions that debase others, have or may have an adverse impact on marriages and the way that marital relationships operate.
It was the minority view that the explicit sexual depictions in the film could be considered demeaning and accordingly, are a contentious aspect of the film to which the AFA’s objectives and activities relate.
Minority view – AFA does not have standing
A different minority was not satisfied the AFA was a “person aggrieved” by the Classification Board’s decision to classify the film R18+.
In the Minister's second reading speech for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975. The relevant provision of that Act, subsection 27(2), uses almost identical terminology to subsection 42(3) of the Classification ((Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act:
"an organisation ... shall be taken to have interests that are affected by a decision if the decision relates to a matter included in the object or purposes of the organisation or association"
In determining whether the AFA’s objects or purposes include the contentious aspects of the theme or subject matter of the film, the minority obtained guidance from case law that has interpreted subsection 27(2) of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act, in particular
“It is not sufficient that the objects or purposes of (the association) permit the association to concern itself with the decisions under review; rather, it is required that the decisions under review concern themselves with a matter that is an object or purpose of the association.”
The AFA's objects or purposes of "analys(ing) laws and policies" and "promot(ing) corrective measures" may permit it to concern itself with the Classification Board's decisions. However, as set out in Re Control Investments, this of itself does not mean that the AFA's objects or purposes include the contentious aspects of the theme or subject matter of the film, as required by subsection 42(3) of the Act.
A general interest in classification matters and the operation and effect of Australia’s classification system on Australian families is not sufficient of itself to attract the operation of subsection 42(3). If it were sufficient, there would be no need for the specific requirement in subsection 42(3) that the objects relate to the “contentious aspects of the themes or subject matter of the film”. The minority formed the view that, while the film may contain some scenes that may be offensive to some sections of the adult community, there is nothing in the contentious aspects of the theme or subject matter of the film itself that relates to, or depicts, or comments on, aspects of families or family relationships.
d). Advice to parties
After an adjournment to consider the matter the Review Board made its determination. It advised the parties that it unanimously determined that the application had been made in time and, in the majority, that the AFA had standing as a person aggrieved in respect of this decision and the reasons for these determinations.
e). Submissions on substantive application for review
Having determined that the Review Board had received valid written applications for review from the AFA and the Attorney-General, four members received oral submission from Mr Tudehope representing the AFA, which was confirmed and added to by written submission; written submission from the Attorney-General; and oral submission from Ms Raena Lea-Shannon on behalf of Potential Films. Mr Julian Wood and Mr Mark Spratt also made oral submissions on behalf of Potential Films.
Written submissions were also received from Potential Films.
f). Meeting in camera
The Review Board then met in camera to consider the substantive matter.
4. Evidence and other material taken into account
In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:
(i) The Australian Family Association’s application for review;
(ii) The Australian Family Association’s written and oral submissions;
(iii) Attorney-Generals application for review;
(iv) The Attorney-General’s written submissions;
(v) Potential Films’ written and oral submissions;
(vi) the relevant provisions in the Act;
(vii) the relevant provisions in the Code, as amended in accordance with s.6 of the Act; and
(viii) the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2003.
The film is a French language film with English subtitles that explores the relationship between a gay man (anonymously called “the guy” in the film) and an apparently heterosexual woman whom he prevents from committing suicide in the bathroom of a night club. The woman (anonymously called “the girl” in the film) challenges the guy about his and all men’s ultimate hatred of and for women and offers to pay him to watch her during an investigation of her femaleness and sexuality – “watch her through where she can’t be watched”. During four nights he visits to watch her perform and participate with her in intimate and sexual acts.
6 Findings on material questions of fact
The Review Board found that the film contains aspects or scenes particularly worthy of mention under various classifiable elements:
(a) Themes – there are high-level themes relating to exploring subjects of sexual preference including homosexuality, sado-masochism, and of female sexual identity including menstruation and men’s responses to menstruating women. For the most part, these are justified by context. The theme of suicide has a strong impact and is justified by context. The theme of the exploration of menstruation has a high impact particularly at 56 minutes when the girl inserts the “bloodied” tampon in a glass of water, swirls it and then drinks from the glass and offers the remains to the guy who also drinks from the glass. The contents of the glass have the appearance of guava juice or similar drink and the scene lacks authenticity. As such, its impact is lower than if it had been realistically depicted.
(b) Violence – there is an attempt at suicide at approximately 4 minutes. The girl slashes her wrists across the horizontal whilst in the toilet. Blood is shown coming from the wound and the scene is realistic. The guy finds her and stops her and takes her to a pharmacist to have first aid. At approximately 5 minutes the guy “sees” the girl slash her throat with a razor blade – this is a “fantasy” scene and it quickly becomes apparent that this is something he is imagining. There are other scenes of violence in the film that have a moderate to strong impact. Overall, the violence is justified by context.
(c) Sex – at approximately 1.25 minutes a scene of explicit fellatio from a teenage male to a man (actual sex) is depicted – the scene is fleeting.
At 8 minutes the guy’s erect penis is shown and the girl implicitly fellates him. At approximately 9 minutes the girl moves her head away from the guy’s groin area with some viscous-appearing fluid (implicitly semen) dripping from her mouth.
At approximately 23 minutes the girl stimulates her vaginal area with her hand (actual sex) – the scene is neither prolonged nor detailed.
At 26 minutes a “flash back” scene of children playing is depicted. A young girl – approximately 8 to 10 years of age – is shown removing her underpants and then lying down under a bush. A medium shot of what appears to be the naked girl is shown. A group of boys watch her and laugh. One boy removes the glasses of another and implicitly inserts the arm of the glasses into the girl’s vagina. The boy then looks at a mucous-like fluid on the arm of the glasses. The impact of the scene is high.
In the minority view, this scene is an offensive depiction of a person who is or looks like a child under 16 years particularly when given its juxtaposition to the adult scene that follows and repeats some of the actions involved in the flash back.
In the majority view this scene is of high impact but interpreted the actions of the children as exploratory play and the intention of the filmmaker as not attempting to titillate viewers, but to provide a context for future scenes. The impact was also moderated by the fleeting nature of the explicit scene and the somewhat positive interactions between the children.
At 30 minutes a man’s hand is explicitly inserted into a vagina (actual sex). He removes his hand with a mucous-like substance on it and rubs the substance into his hair. The scene is not prolonged.
At 36 minutes the guy explicitly draws on the girl’s anal and genital area with red lipstick and then on her mouth. The scene is quite detailed. At 37 minutes the guy is seen with an erect penis and then implicitly has sex with the girl.
At 50 minutes the guy implicitly inserts the handle of a garden implement into the girl’s vaginal/anal area. The girl is depicted with the implement, supporting its own weight, extruding at a right angle to her body for more than a metre – like a pitchforked tail. The impact of the scene would have been higher had it been at all believable. Instead of being a scene of sexual violence it is ludicrous. This is emphasised by the lack of reaction from the girl. During this event she appears to sleep and only wakes to turn and lightly gasp when she sees the implement protruding from her body. The scene is unrealistic.
At 60 minutes the girls expels a stone dildo from her vagina (actual sex) and “blood” gushes forth onto the bed. The guy implicitly reinserts the dildo into the girl and moves it back and forth. The expelling of the stone dildo by the girl is clinically portrayed and has the impression more of a medical procedure or acrobatic trick rather than that of a sex scene. The impact of the scene is high due to the detail of vaginal area depicted, the dildo being explicitly expelled and the “blood” gushing on to the sheets. In the context of the exploration of femaleness the scene is in context and whilst somewhat gratuitous has more the impact of a high-level theme rather than as a sex scene.
The guy is shown at 64 minutes with an erect penis, which he manually stimulates (actual sex) before implicitly having intercourse with the girl. The scene is brief.
At 65 minutes the guy implicitly withdraws his penis from the girl. The penis is covered in what appears to be blood. The “blood” spurts out onto the bed.
At 66 minutes he fondles his “bloody” and still erect penis (actual sex). The girl stands and watches with what appears to be blood on the inside of her thighs.
(d) Language – there is minimal use of coarse language. At 6 minutes the guy slaps the girl and calls her a “dumb bitch”. Most of the coarse language occurs at 67 to 68 minutes (“she was a bitch, a slut like any other”, “she was the queen of sluts”, “I reamed her pussy so hard no one will want her again”, and “hump them like goats”) in a conversation between the guy and his friend in a bar. The context of the use of the language and the imagery associated with it increased the impact of the language to strong.
(e) Drug use – men smoking marijuana at 2 minutes. This scene is justified by context.
(f) Nudity – the film is an exploration about female sexuality and men’s response to it. As such it contains extensive nudity with full male and female nudity including genital detail. The nudity is shown in context and is justified by the theme of the film.
The Review Board found in the majority that the overall impact of the material was ‘high’. The majority believed there was not sufficient strength in the behaviour of the protagonists to cause a higher level of impact for any individual scene or cumulatively. Scenes were dealt with, for the most part, in a realistic manner. Some scenes had a lower impact because of their lack of credibility. The majority concluded that each scene was justified by the context in which it was presented and the overall theme of the film.
The film depicts scenes of actual sex but these are for the most part fleeting and not detailed and it was the decision of the majority that these scenes were justified by the context.
7 Reasons for the decision
The Review Board based its majority decision to classify the film ‘R18+’ with the consumer advice ‘Actual sex, high-level sex scenes, high-level themes’ on the content of the film as set out in 6 above.
The Applicant submitted, ‘‘the film is an intellectual work, artfully filmed, acted and presented, and one that requires a mature perspective correctly covered by the R18+ rating. The film’s strategy is deliberately confrontational”. The Review Board accepted that the film was a serious attempt at a complex subject and that it had some artistic intent. Having regard to the matters required to be considered in the Act, the Code and the Guidelines, the majority felt that the film was most appropriately assigned an R18+ classification. The Review Board believed in the majority that the various controversial scenes were depicted in context and could be accommodated inthe R18+ classification.
Mark Spratt from Potential Films issued the following press release on July 8, 2004.
Potential Films is pleased to announce that the release of Catherine Breillat’s film ANATOMIE DE L’ENFER [ANATOMY OF HELL] will continue around Australia.
This follows a review of the original R classification granted by the Office of Film and Literature Classification applied for by both the Attorney-General [on behalf of the South Australian Attorney-General] and the Australian Family Association.
The Classification Review Board met on Wednesday July 7th and considered submissions from the Australian Family Association and Potential Films.
Potential Films contended that ANATOMIE DE L’ENFER while containing strong visual and thematic material does not exceed the R guidelines and can well be accommodated within the R classifications and the principles of the National Classification Act that allows that adults should be free to see and hear what they choose and that the R classification may contain material offensive to a minority of the community.
Potential Films also emphatically rejects the Australian Family Association’s claims that the film depicts an act of child sexual abuse and that other depictions of sexual activity in the film are gratuitous and exploitative.
While Potential Films questions the ‘standing’ given to the Australian Family Association as ‘persons aggrieved’ in this review process, we congratulate the Classification Review Board’s considered appreciation of the film to allow that it’s ‘high level content’ is ‘justified by context’.
Following the decision of the Review Board the Sydney and Melbourne screenings were able to continue, before the prints were moved around the country. A small Art house film undoubtedly enjoyed a much larger audience courtesy of the AFA and Mr Michael Atkinson.
The DVD was released on December 22, 2004 by Madman Entertainment / The AV Channel.
Thanks to Michael for sending in this correspondence he had with the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. Considering the politeness of his letter, he received a bad tempered reply from Mr. Atkinson.
27th July 2004
With the utmost respect for yourself and your position I feel I must express my distress and disappointment with your recent position on censorship reviews, namely those of Anatomy of Hell and Irreversible.
I believe most Australians are able to make their own minds up, with appropriate ratings guidance from the OFLC. For example, I saw Irreversible and have no complaints, as I was aware due to its rating and warnings of the content within the film. Similarly I did not see Anatomy of Hell (as should be MY choice to see or not see a film), because from what I had read of the film it did not interest me. But let me stress I feel should any Australian decide they wish to see Anatomy of Hell, that ought be their choice.
As you are making these requests I’m sure that you have seen both of the films in question and that you would agree that in the case of Irreversible there is nothing within it that promotes or glorifies violence, sexual or otherwise, and I can not see how any individual could come of any other conclusion. The violence is no more glorified than it is in The Passion of the Christ, and neither of these films could be seen to promote it in any way.
I have no doubt that you have concerns for the Australian public should they choose to see these films. Please let me say as an individual whom has chosen to see one of them that censorship of this kind in any society sets a dangerous precedent and only serves to promote the film itself. Please voice your concerns as is your right, but I beg you do not stand in the way of intelligent Australians, as I’m sure you would agree we all are, right to make up their own mind.
20 September 2004
Thank you for your facsimile transmission of 27 July, 2004. You are concerned at any attempt to prevent consenting adults from seeing whatever films they wish, and, in particular, Irreversible and Anatomy of Hell. You do not think I should have asked the Review Board to review them.
I am sure you know that the classification of publications, films and computer games in Australia is achieved by a national co-operative system embracing the Commonwealth and all States and Territories. Under the Commonwealth Classification (Publications Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, any participating Minister can require the Classification Review Board to review any film, by means of a request to the Commonwealth Attorney-General. This feature is an integral part of our national system. States and Territories agree to adopt the decisions of the Commonwealth classification bodies on the understanding that they can, if they wish, have particular decisions reviewed.
I see nothing wrong in my exercising the statutory authority given to all Ministers by the Commonwealth Act. I am a censorship Minister. That is, I am responsible to the people of South Australia for the operation of the censorship system in a way that, as far as possible, accords with public standards of morality, decency and propriety (to borrow a phrase from the Commonwealth Act), as embodied in the law and the guidelines. This may, from time to time, require me to request that the Review Board examine a contentious film. That is, after all, its job.
My request, or that of any other Minister, merely sets in train a process. It does not alter the classification of the film. That remains a matter for the relevant Commonwealth body, the Review Board. In each of the reviews, one member of the Review Board decided that the film should, if the guidelines were correctly applied, be refused classification.
It is true that the person who requests a review of the film need not have seen it. This is because that person is not called upon to classify the film. All that such a person needs to decide is whether the matter merits the attention of the Review Board. In considering whether it does, I read reviews of the film from around the world. I also take account of any material supplied to me by the person requesting a review. I may also look at the classification the film has received elsewhere. This material is usually sufficient for me to judge whether to ask the Review Board to see the film. In this case, I have not seen either of the films you mention. The O.F.L.C. classifies about 5,500 items every year and it is not a priority for me to watch dirty films, read dirty books and play violent computer games each day of my working life. If I had seen Irreversible or Anatomy of Hell before asking for a review, your attack would have shifted 180 degrees to "He watches the same dirty films he won't let us watch."
You are evidently against the banning of any film at all. You are entitled to this view, but it does not accord with our present law. Our censorship laws require that some films, including those that depict extreme violence, be banned. I believe those laws, adopted as they have been around Australia, reflect the standards held by most Australians. Some think that such material should be banned because it desensitises us to violence and so is immoral. Others think it models violence that may be later acted out and thus is dangerous. Others simply do not want a society in which the public exhibition of such material is accepted, any more than they want the streets to be full of litter. Accordingly, laws fixing limits have been made through a democratic process. Until the democratic process changes them, it is my duty to see that they are upheld.
New South Wales participates in the national system. If you think this system should be changed, you may wish to take this up with the New South Wales Attorney-General, the Hon. Bob Debus M.P.
The following statement was made by Jack Snelling (ALP) in the South Australian House of Assembly on February 17, 2005. The former Deputy Head of the Classification Board he refers to is David Haines.
Mr SNELLING (Playford): Late last year, along with the member for Florey and the federal member for Makin, Trish Draper, I attended the Christmas break-up of the Valley View Neighbourhood Watch. None of us had been invited to speak and, given the nature of the event, I thought that fair enough. However, that did not stop Ms Draper, who promptly invited herself to speak on the then imminent release of the French art-house film, Anatomy of Hell, of which she was rather critical. I am not of the opinion that adults should be able to watch whatever they want, and I think that the government has a role in censoring films that offend public decency. However, what flowed from Ms Draper was an extraordinary attack on the state government and the Attorney-General, in particular, for not using his powers to ban the film in South Australia.
I think that there are good reasons for the state's not striking out and taking a `going it alone' approach to censorship, the main reason being that, because of DVDs and videos, these films can be moved across state borders very easily. One has only to look at the number of X-rated or non-violent erotica films that constantly come across into our state from Canberra. What I find remarkable is that, while criticising the state government, Ms Draper, who is a member of the federal government (which has the prime responsibility for classification and censorship), seems to have done nothing to approach the federal government on these issues. I wonder what she has done to lobby the federal Attorney-General about the personnel who comprise the federal Classification Board probably not much.
Recently, I was amazed to learn that a former deputy head of the Classification Board has taken up a position as a lobbyist for the Eros Foundation, which is one of the main promoters of pornography. It is remarkable that, upon retirement, someone who has held a position as an independent umpire takes up a position as such a lobbyist. However, my main grievance is Ms Draper's getting up at community functions, at which she was not invited to speak, and making political attacks on the state government on matters for which the federal government has prime responsibility.
Trish Draper replied to Jack Snelling in Federal Parliament in March 2005.
Date: 07 March, 2005
Speaker: Draper, Trish, MP (Makin, LP, Government)
Main Committee: No
Database: House Hansard
Context: Statements by Members
Mrs DRAPER (Makin) (1.57 p.m.) —On Thursday, 17 February 2005, the member for Playford in South Australia, Mr Jack Snelling, rose in the state parliament to speak about the Christmas break-up of the Valleyview Neighbourhood Watch that he, I and the member for Florey, Frances Bedford, had attended. He said that none of us had been invited to speak. However, that did not stop me. I promptly invited myself to speak about the imminent release of the French arthouse film Anatomy of Hell with which I disagree. He said that he was not of the opinion that adults should be able to watch whatever they want, and he thought that the government had a role in censoring films that offend public decency.
However, he went on to say that I made an extraordinary attack on the state government and on the Attorney-General in particular for not using his powers to ban the film. He was saying that I was behaving in a political manner at a neighbourhood watch meeting, which is not true. I asked if I could address the meeting about something that is of great importance and concern to my constituents in my electorate. Jack Snelling does not understand that South Australia have maintained their own state based classification board and the South Australian Attorney-General can at any time refer a matter to the review board. (Time expired)
Date: 09 March, 2005
Speaker: Draper, Trish, MP (Makin, LP, Government)
Main Committee: No
Database: House Hansard
Mrs DRAPER (Makin) (7.35 p.m.) —I have mentioned in the House on a previous occasion this week that I was subject to a most unfortunate and misdirected attack on 17 February 2005 in the South Australian House of Assembly by the member for Playford, Mr Jack Snelling MP. The attack centred on film classification and my willingness to speak at a public meeting of a local Neighbourhood Watch group regarding the inaction of the South Australian Attorney-General over the release of the French art-house film Anatomy of Hell—a film I and many of the people of Makin believe is an affront to public decency. Mr Snelling stated in the South Australian parliament:
Mrs Draper ... seems to have done nothing to approach the federal government on these issues.
The issues he was referring to were film classification and censorship. If there is one topic I have continuously acted upon since entering parliament it is the classification of films that portray sexually violent scenes against women, scenes of gratuitous violence or explicit acts and, to a further extent, those involving the depiction of children in such acts.
The people of my electorate have an expectation that their local member of parliament, when able, will act on these issues in their interest. I have done this throughout my political career and was a well-known campaigner on film classification even before I became a member of this place. This, however, cannot be said of the Labor members of the South Australian state parliament, in particular Mr Jack Snelling, member for Playford, and Ms Frances Bedford, member for Florey. Whilst these politicians often tout themselves as caring for our community, they do nothing of the sort. Frances Bedford, the member for Florey, and the member for Wright, Jennifer Rankine, both voted on more than one occasion in the state parliament to support the establishment of local legalised brothels in our community and the legalisation of prostitution.
I have literally lost count of the number of times I, acting on behalf of the people of Makin, have brought these issues of film classification and inappropriate films being released for general public consumption before the parliament and raised them with the appropriate ministers. Yet Mr Snelling has the gall to question what I have done in relation to film classification. In fact I have been in contact with the Attorney-General throughout this week regarding the inappropriate classification of films. Mr Snelling was aggrieved that I directed an attack toward the South Australian government on this issue, but I would like to point out that the buck stops with them at this point in time. The South Australian government have the final call on the censorship issues within the state, yet they have done nothing. Who do the South Australian government protect by their inaction? Not, I believe, the well-meaning people of the electorate of Makin who knock on my door complaining about these films and their perverse take on what is acceptable in today's society.
South Australia has its own classification council, which can receive complaints about a film's classification and review its classification in South Australia, which is why I spoke up at the local Neighbourhood Watch meeting. This council can change the classification of a film within South Australia and even stop its release. However Mr Snelling and his government colleagues refuse to recognise this and do not take any action on behalf of concerned citizens within South Australia. Neither Mr Snelling nor Frances Bedford nor Jennifer Rankine nor any of their state colleagues will ever stop me from addressing in every forum I have available the very real concern of a great number of my constituents regarding the inappropriate classification of films.
In the past I have always been—and I will continue to be in the future—the voice of concerned constituents in my electorate and of those people across Australia who are concerned about films and matters that affront public decency in such a manner. In fact this very week, in conjunction with the Attorney-General, I have set up a briefing for coalition members and senators regarding the operation of the classification board. The director and the convenor of the classification board will present, to answer the very real concerns I and my colleagues have about this matter. That is far more than can be said of the member for Playford, Jack Snelling, and the member for Florey, Frances Bedford, in the South Australian government.
In May 2005, Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby planned to show edited highlights of ANATOMY OF HELL in NSW Parliament House. This was during debate of the 'CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) ENFORCEMENT AMENDMENT (X18+ FILMS) BILL' that would have seen X18+ legalised in NSW. The hope was to confuse people into believing that the R18+ rated ANATOMY OF HELL, was an example of what could be found in the X18+ category. The screening did not take place after the legality of showing only extracts of the film was called into question.
The speakers involved were:
The Hon. Peter James BREEN, MLC
Current Member of the Legislative Council
The Hon. John HATZISTERGOS, MLC
Current Member of the Legislative Council
Minister for Justice
Minister for Fair Trading
Minister Assisting the Minister for Commerce
Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship
Member of Australian Labor Party
The Hon. Dr Arthur CHESTERFIELD-EVANS, MLC
Current Member of the Legislative Council
Member of Australian Democrats
Ms Lee RHIANNON, MLC
Current Member of the Legislative Council
Member of The Greens
Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Keith Mackenzie MOYES, MLC
Current Member of the Legislative Council
Member of Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
Reverend the Hon. (Fred) Frederick John NILE, MLC
Current Member of the Legislative Council
Temporary Chair of Committees
Member of Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
NSW Legislative Council Hansard (Proof)
PARLIAMENT HOUSE PORNOGRAPHIC MATERIAL EXHIBITION
The Hon. PETER BREEN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Justice, and Minister for Fair Trading, representing the Attorney General. Is the Minister aware of a request by the Office of Film and Literature Classification seeking a ruling on a proposal by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes to hold a public exhibition of pornographic material in the Parliament's Waratah Room today at 1.00 p.m.? Is the Minister also aware that Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile informed this House on Tuesday of this week that he would be publicly exhibiting in the Parliament "hard-core pornographic material"? Is the Minister further aware that the honourable reverends propose holding their public exhibition of pornographic material contrary to the provisions of sections 6 and 7 of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995? I refer to the honourable reverends' proposal to publicly exhibit extracts of R18+ material for educational purposes when there is no such exemption in the relevant legislation and the penalty for exhibiting an extract from R18+ material is $11,000? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the honourable reverends do not proceed with their illegal public porn display?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: To a large extent the question of the honourable member seeks opinions. As I have said on a number of occasions, I am very well qualified to give opinions on a range of matters, but I will decline in these circumstances.
Proof, NSW Legislative Council Hansard, 26 May 2005, Pages
23 - (article 11)
NSW Legislative Council Hansard (Proof)
CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) ENFORCEMENT AMENDMENT (X 18+ FILMS) BILL
Debate resumed from 24 May 2005.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile held an information session at which he was to show an R-rated film to demonstrate the evils thereof. I was unable to attend so I asked one of my staff to attend in my place. The staff member reported that there were four people in attendance, but there was a problem and the film was not shown. Apparently a private briefing was offered to the two members of Parliament who were present, but the other two people in attendance simply sat there and wondered what was to happen next, then left.
They were none the wiser after attending the briefing. But the point of the screening was that if this was an R-rated video, then an X-rated video was worse.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: The screening did not proceed.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: The screening did not proceed, but it is a worry that the R-rated video was seen as less serious than an X-rated video in the material provided by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and spoken about by Jim Wallace, Executive Chairman of the Australian Christian Lobby.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: The religious right argue that all pornographic films and films depicting adults having consensual sex should be banned. But let us look at their actions. Last month Reverend Moyes and Reverend Nile were to jointly host a film event for the Australian Christian Lobby but, as we know, the film night did not eventuate. But we still have to wonder about this extraordinary event which was to be hosted by people who express great concern about the availability of pornographic films.
Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes: I did not host it.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: But I have seen the invitation with his photograph and name on it. Mr Breen is holding up the invitation. I regret that Hansard does not have a visual record so the invitation could be seen. It is on the record that Reverend Moyes was to host the event. For whatever reason— technical or perhaps cold feet at the last moment—the event did not go ahead. But why would they even contemplate holding such an event? What was the purpose of it? What did they expect to achieve? It is extraordinary.
When I saw the invitation it reminded me of stories I heard when I used to come to Parliament in the 1980s to gain support from upper House members for various campaigns I was working on. On one occasion I was told that members would regularly receive pornography packs from Reverend Nile and that his argument for distributing them was that he wanted to remind members of the types of pornography available in New South Wales. I did not know Reverend Nile at the time and did not agree with what he was espousing, but I remember being quite shocked. I could not understand why this man, who clearly states he is against pornography, the rights of gay and lesbian people and a whole lot of things, would show pornography to other people.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: Point of order: Standing Order 91 (3) states:
… all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on either House, members or officers will be considered disorderly.
I have never distributed a pornographic pack. I do not know what a pornographic pack is. I ask the member to withdraw the remark.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: To the point of order: I was repeating information that I had been given. Reverend Nile says he did not distribute pornography. I note that he emphasised "pornographic pack", so that may leave it open that he has distributed pornography in some form. I did use the term "pornography pack". I will withdraw that comment if it was inaccurate.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Christine Robertson): Order! I consider the comment as having been withdrawn.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: I accept. Don't believe all the hearsay you hear.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I acknowledge the interjection by Reverend Nile. I thought of that story—which I was told some 20 years ago, in 1983—because he was hosting an event at which he wanted to show pornographic films. I find it extraordinary and I am still trying to understand it.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: The Australian Christian Lobby was screening extracts.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: The Australian Christian Lobby was screening it but he chose to host it. We all make decisions about events we associate with, and clearly those events reflect on our work as members of Parliament and the work of our parties.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: It was recently held at Federal Parliament for all the members.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Reverend Nile tells us that a similar event was held at Federal Parliament, which adds to the point I have made.
The Hon. Peter Breen: That would have been illegal too.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Mr Breen reminds us that screening such films at Federal Parliament would be illegal. What are all these members of Parliament doing being involved in illegal events? If the Greens did it we would not hear the end of it. By not supporting the bill, members will enable a seriously corrupt industry to flourish unchecked. That is what members will allow when they vote against this bill. X-rated material is being sold in New South Wales. Ever year approximately three million illegal videos are sold under Premier Bob Carr.
If by some miracle Mr Brogden won the next election the situation would continue under him. The situation will not change under this present regime. There has been a proliferation of violent, vulgar and explicit material which is now being widely sold throughout New South Wales at unrestricted locations, such as service stations, stores, and weekend markets, where children can browse this material. That is going on at the moment and nothing that has been said in this House during this debate in any way begins to change that situation.
The Hon. PETER BREEN: Ms Lee Rhiannon spoke about the screening of a film in the Parliament by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes. I acknowledge the comment by Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes that he was not responsible for having sponsored the screening of that film. Nonetheless, a photograph of him appeared on the invitation, together with a photograph of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile. I acknowledge also, however, that administrative matters sometime mean that such things can slip under the radar.
The presentation was made by Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby. The reality is that the screening of such a film, Anatomy of Hell , in a public place, without approval from the sensor, is legal. However, the whole film must be depicted. The censorship classification applies to the whole film, from beginning to end. If you want to broadcast or show an excerpt from the film, you must obtain a separate classification because obviously that excerpt may be taken out of context. When I explained that to Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, and I asked a question about it, Mr Wallace accused me of being deceitful and dishonest. But I would like to assure him that I was simply pointing out the law. If there is any deceit and dishonesty in this debate, in my view it belongs with the Australian Christian Lobby.
Although the film Anatomy of Hell is R-rated, it contains some of the most appalling sexualised violence one could ever imagine. Mr Wallace attempted to distribute a document headed " Australian Christian Lobby" that provided an explanation of the film Anatomy of Hell . The document had a cross on it and a representation that looked a little like that of the Federal Parliament. It read:
At 27 minutes a pre-pubescent girl removes her pants and lies in bushes. A medium-distance shot of her naked from the torso down is shown. It cuts to a young boy who implicitly places the arm of a pair of spectacles in her vagina …
At 33 minutes a man draws with lipstick around the anus and vagina of a sleeping woman. He then proceeds to have sex with her.
In my view, that kind of film is much more appalling than an X-rated film because it depicts violence. The document continued:
At 46 minutes the man places the handle of a pitchfork in the vagina of a woman and balances it so that the implement remains suspended in the air.
Such a film is legal; it is allowed under the R-rated 18+ classification.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: It shouldn't be.
The Hon. PETER BREEN: I agree, it should not be. But I say to Jim Wallace, and anybody else who says that X-rated videos are appalling, that they are damaging to women, that they are dangerous to the community, that they represent a threat to children, and so on: there is no violence in X-rated videos; it is specifically excluded from such material. If we ignore the fact that X-rated videos include footage of genitals, everything else about X-rated videos is far less damaging than anything one might see in the film Anatomy of Hell .
Proof, NSW Legislative Council Hansard, 7 June 2005, Pages 4 - (article 14)
NSW X-rated video campaign abandoned
NineMSN, May 26, 2005
A representative for the Christian Democrats explains the reasons for the
clips from ANATOMY OF HELL not being shown.
"Due to a lack of interest from sitting members and lack of audio-visual equipment, we decided not to go ahead with the seminar or the screening of the film,"
Australian Christian Lobby executive chairman Jim Wallace.
....said the film screening would be "as little as we can put on, I think maybe about three minutes".
"I think it's most appropriate that members of parliament see what the laws that they're administering are putting out into society,"
Standards have degenerated ... (to the point) that if it's that bad in R18+, what are we going to get in X-rated?"
"It's not being put on for fun, it's not entertainment,"
"People can get the video from shops, and I guess if any member says `Look, I'd like to see that in context' then he can go and get the video."
"....the screening would have been illegal because the scenes were taken out of context."
"It's scandalous material to be showing it in public, (it's) contrary to the law (and) is a great offence and the penalty is $11,000,"
The following article by Fiona Patten is from the Eros Journal. It provides some more detail about Fred Nile's attempt to screen parts of ANATOMY OF HELL.
Anatomy of Hell: Fred Nile’s Decency Squad
Last month, NSW’s priestly politician hosted a blue movie luncheon in
the parliamentary theatrette.
He promised to show obscene, hard-core, ‘pornographic’ material as a way of showing MPs why they should not vote for NSW Independent Peter Breen’s very sensible Bill to legalise and regulate the sale of X 18+ rated material in NSW.
In the mid 1980’s, Fred Nile ran a similar campaign in an effort to get then Premier, Neville Wran, to ban the new X classification for films that the Commonwealth had just introduced. He showed R rated violent material interspersed with Refused Classification and X rated material – and pretended that it was all X. Wran fell for the con and banned X.
So knowing how Fred operates and given the fact that he had invited Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby, I thought I better go.
I wrote to his office indicating that I would be there. I wasn’t welcome he said. The invitation did state that all were welcome but that obviously didn’t include anyone from the industry that the Bill was about.
Showing X-rated films in NSW in a public place is illegal so how was he going to avoid two years in jail by screening ‘hard core obscene pornography’. ‘Oh its only R rated’, they said after I had complained to the Attorney General’s office, the OFLC and the Usher of the Black Rod. Then the penny dropped. What Fred was actually doing was selecting sexually violent scenes from recent controversial R rated films and calling that ‘hard core pornography’.
The film they planned to show was Anatomy of Hell - a shocking, sexually violent film where sharp garden implements are used in sex. It would never get an X classification. Fred’s deceptive and very misleading message to Parliamentarians was, “ if this stuff is allowed in R rated films, just imagine what is allowed in X”!
Much to my delight, Peter Breen and I were the only people who ended up attending!
The NSW government said they wouldn’t support the Bill because it would be out of line with the other states and unless they all held hands together to get a better regulated system in place they would be too scared of what Archbishop Pell and the Australian Family Association might say. The Opposition’s speaker, David Clarke, seemed strangely more interested in religious freedom of speech than the Bill at hand.
Dr Michael Flood from the Australia Institute was widely quoted by Reverend Moyes and the other ‘unhappy- clappys’ as someone who supported their view on keeping X illegal in NSW. This was duplicitous in the extreme. Flood actually supported Peter Breen’s Bill. In fact in a letter to Nile and Moyes, Dr Michael Flood stated:
a) I would support the introduction of this Bill
b) Our report (The Australia Institute) acknowledges that the existing classification system is not perfect. But improving the kinds of pornographic materials available to adults will not be helped by abandoning this system, and indeed would be hindered. We should not be adopting measures to attempt to stop adults’ access to pornography per se, but measures to regulate this access and to encourage the development of better pornography. Legalising and regulating the distribution of (classified) pornographic materials is one way in which to improve its content and thus minimise potentially negative social impacts.
Only seven MPs spoke on the Bill - three in favour and four against. Former One Nation member, David Oldfield, did not speak and voted with the government and the other supporters of an illegal industry. Lee Rhiannon from the Greens once again showed why that party has the best policies on regulating the adult industry. “The Greens congratulate Mr Peter Breen”, she said, “on the work he has done in introducing this important bill. It will legalise the sale and public exhibition of X 18+ videos. Listening to the debate today and on previous occasions, one would have to say that Mr Breen has certainly set the religious right hares running with this bill. Again, I am left wondering why the religious right revel in talking about and watching pornography. It is one of the curious things about life.”
The Rev Fred spent most of his speech, pulling his own trumpet. His one memorable contribution to the debate was a call for a new ‘vice squad’. While concerned that the previous squad was corrupt and racked with ‘vice’ he suggested that a ‘decency squad’ be set up.
A ‘decency squad’ is as laughable as it is subversive. ‘Decency squads’ operate in Iran, Afghanistan and China today where they determine how people will think through enforcing strict dress and behaviour codes. It was a chilling reminder of just how far morals groups in Australia are prepared to go to get the moral agenda that they think is right for all of us.
by: Fiona Patten - June 2005
Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004-2005
The Classification Board is highly experienced and professional in applying the decision-making tools provided under the national classification scheme and takes its responsibility to classify material for the benefit of consumers extremely seriously. As well as other principles, the Classification Board is required to apply the principle that adults should be able to hear, see and view what they want. It is acknowledged that there is a broad spectrum of views in the community and I am confident that they are all taken into account in decision-making.
The Classification Board is established to make decisions at arms length from Governments and it is essential that the independence of the Classification Board should not be compromised in any way.
While Australians are very supportive of the national classification scheme, the diverse nature of our society means that some classification decisions will not always satisfy all people. Each reporting period there are a small number of products that create controversy.
During the reporting period there continued to be a low number of complaints. Specifically, 9,294 classification decisions were made during the reporting period and only 126 individual titles of films, computer games and publications were complained about.
Some of the titles that generated more letters and media commentary included the R18+ classified films Irreversible, Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) and 9 Songs. It is inevitable that some films classified R18+ will be offensive to some sections of the adult community; however, there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that children are not exposed to these films. Few complaints were received by consumers who viewed these films, although a significant number were received from those who apparently had not.
Another film that attracted attention was Birth (MA15+). Media and other reports surrounding this film often contained misleading information on the actual content of the film triggering a significant level of complaints. No complaints were received from consumers who had viewed the film.
Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004-2005
Classification Review Board
The year’s controversies have centred on the computer game Manhunt (mainly in Western Australia), Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) and 9 Songs (mainly in South Australia). Actual sex is depicted in Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) (fleetingly) and in 9 Songs (more extensively).
Whilst the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games state that the general rule is ‘simulation, yes – the real thing, no’ this is not always a simple matter to determine when faced with a filmic depiction. Generally, the Classification Review Board only determines that ‘actual sex’ is depicted when it sees actual penetration (of some kind), actual manipulation of genitalia or actual climax. This is generally simpler to determine in scenes involving men rather than those that centre on women.
Consequently, what many people would describe as ‘actual sex’ would not be classified as such by the Classification Review Board. This is apparent in 9 Songs where it has been stated in the media that half of the film is taken up with actual sex (about 30 minutes), whereas the Classification Review Board noted about five minutes of ‘actual sex’.
9 Songs had been classified X18+ by the Classification Board and this was reduced to R18+ by the Classification Review Board, in a 3-2 majority decision. This decision caused concern amongst some sectors of the Australian community, who saw the X18+ classification as a means, according to media reports, of ‘banning the film to the general public’. The Classification Review Board accepted the applicant’s submission that the film could not be classified X18+ because of what the Classification Review Board determined were some scenes of bondage. Some concern was expressed that the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board reached different conclusions in relation to the same material. However, the potential for different decisions would have been acknowledged by the Parliament when establishing a review mechanism for classification matters.
Some groups have argued that there should be no actual sex at all permitted in R18+ films. However, under the classification guidelines discretion is given to the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board in this regard. The Classification Review Board considers all the relevant factors in its decision-making very carefully before classifying a film that contains actual sex.
Depictions of children and paedophilia
A number of titles have been referred to the Classification Review Board that address the issue of paedophilia or depict children in a way to which some adults take exception (Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell), Palindromes, Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage)).
Films that have the issue of paedophilia or underage sex as a central theme, such as Palindromes and Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage), are challenging to classify. Yet there must be some way that society can examine and discuss issues of paedophilia and under-age sex via the medium of film. Also, the film Palindromes has abortion as a central theme. The depiction of a child, who appears to be 10 to 12-yearsold, reciting in a prayer the stages of underdevelopment, types of deformity or disability that aborted foetuses have, is a disturbing scene. However, the Classification Review Board unanimously concluded that this did not constitute an ‘offensive’ depiction of a child under the age of 18. Again, society needs to have some freedom to discuss and debate issues such as abortion through the medium of film.
In the film Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell), some sectors of the community were concerned by a simulated depiction of a child having the arm of a pair of spectacles inserted into her vagina and a group of boys laughing over the liquid that was apparent after removal. The Australian Family Association argued that this was child sex abuse and the film should have been refused classification. However, the Classification Review Board – taking into account that the scene was a simulated one in which the ‘child’ was a prosthetic dummy and the insertion of the object took place off camera – in a majority decision concluded that the scene wasn’t an ‘offensive’ depiction.
The Classification Review Board determined in the case of Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) and Palindromes that the depictions – whilst some adults may take exception to some scenes – were acceptable. However, in the case of Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage) the Classification Review Board unanimously determined that the combination of sexual references and torture of children was such that the film should be refused classification. Of the three titles, it is my view as Convenor that Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage) had the most artistic merit and the highest production values. However, artistic merit alone is insufficient to ensure classification if the classifiable elements are such that the matter should be refused classification.
The annual reports of the OFLC documented the complaints received regarding ANATOMY OF HELL.
Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004-2005
Films – public exhibition – complaints
The films Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) (R18+) and Irreversible (R18+) received six and four complaints respectively, the complainants contending that the films should be RC.
Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004-2005
Classification Review Board
The OFLC also received six complaints about Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) (R18+) and 11 complaints about Irreversible (R18+), most of which addressed the decisions of both the Classification Board and Classification Review Board.
Classification Board & Classification Review Board
ANNUAL REPORT 2005–2006
The OFLC processed 210 items of ministerial correspondence, including letters, emails and facsimiles, referred by the Attorney-General in the reporting period. This compares with 197 items of ministerial correspondence during 2004.05. The main issues raised in the correspondence were:
the R 18+ classifications of the film Anatomie de L'enfer (Anatomy of Hell) (15 items)
Classification Review Board Complaints
Numerous complaints were received about the R 18+ classifications for the films Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell), Palindromes and Mysterious Skin, most of which addressed the decisions of both the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board.