In 2000, the Review Board overturned the ban on Catherine Breillat's ROMANCE and awarded it an R18+ rating. This decision allowed actual sex to be seen in R-rated features, providing they were 'art-house' films.
This was seen by Australian adult film distributors to be a clear sign of hypocrisy, which they soon challenged in 2000 with the submission of an R18+ version of DREAMQUEST. This failed and in 2006, they challenged again with VIVA EROTICA.
When this too was rejected, the Eros Association attempted to expose the Classification Board's double standards in relation to sex and violence by submitting SADDAM HUSSEIN'S EXECUTION VIDEO.
Censorship Ratings Scheme Hangs on Saddam
The Eros Association
Media Release 7.1.07
The Eros Association is considering a move to classify the controversial three minute film showing the hanging of Saddam Hussein, in an effort to expose the hypocrisy and immorality of Australia’s National Classification Code and the state Classification Enforcement Acts.
Under the current system, the film depicting the hanging of the former Iraqi dictator, (freely available on the internet), would receive an R rating if submitted for classification and would then be available to adults in all states of Australia, through family outlets like suburban video libraries and petrol stations.
In stark contrast to this scenario, a film which showed no violence or non-consent of any kind but only actual scenes of adult sexuality was refused an R rating in a controversial decision by the Classification Review Board (CRB) last month. The CRB’s decisions and rationale for classifying the film, Viva Erotica, have just been released (http://www.oflc.gov.au/special.html?n=262&p=66) and it has stated that the film ‘would cause offence to a reasonable adult’ and therefore must carry the most restrictive X rating at a federal level and a ban in every state. The film’s distributor, Adultshop.com. - a listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange – has vowed to take the issue into the Federal Court (http://censorship.adultshop.com/Default.aspx).
Eros CEO, Fiona Patten said that the 1995 UK film called Executions which showed a series of real-life, state-sponsored executions, almost identical to the Saddam film, had been given an R Rating by the Classification Board which had set a precedent for these types of films. “The CRB is basically saying to the Australian public that the film of Saddam’s execution cannot be said to ‘cause offence to a reasonable adult’ while Viva Erotica can. This determination is so far from the reality of what Australian public opinion is on these issues, that the federal Attorney General needs to urgently intervene and conduct an enquiry”, she said.
While not wanting to ban documentaries on any subject, Ms Patten said that films depicting real murders or executions and real or overly-intense simulated acts of violence, should be the most restricted films under the current censorship scheme. Currently this is not the case because films which show nonviolent and actual sex acts between consenting adults are the most restricted and can draw fines and jail sentences for sale in all states.
“State Attorney’s General need to be aware of the fact that they are supporting state regulation which could allow the Saddam film to be sold from convenience stores while at the same time sending an adult shop owner to jail for selling Viva Erotica through an adults-only premises”, she said. “This is not a popular or a logical approach to censorship in Australia and defies every opinion poll ever carried out on the issue.”
She also cautioned Federal Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, about where she will draw the line on mobile phone content later this month. “At present the Minister is indicating that she will allow adults to download the hanging of Saddam Hussein and the film Executions on a mobile phone with a PIN but not allow other adults to download Viva Erotica with the same PIN. If she allows this regime to go ahead she will be telling the Australian public to effectively ‘make war not love’ and will reinforce the notion within Australian youth that violence is somehow more acceptable or less offensive than consenting sexuality”.
Ms Patten said the issue was not about legalising pornography but was about governments setting moral agendas that were truthful and representative. “We all engage in sex acts throughout our adult lives”, she said. “But very few of us will be involved in killing or seriously assaulting someone. Our censorship ratings should follow these sort of precepts and in fact should mirror the criminal codes rather than the outmoded moral codes of religious groups or the dictates of political extremists”.
She called on the State and Commonwealth Attorney’s General to change the Classification Code to reflect killing and violence as the most restricted depictions with non violent erotica and sex being less restricted.
Hanging is worse than porn: lobby
theage.com.au, January 8, 2007
Freely available on the internet, the Saddam film, which depicts hooded men hanging the former Iraqi dictator, likely would be rated R 18+ if sold commercially here, said Robbie Swan, Eros' chief executive officer.
He said the Classification Review Board viewed "consenting sexuality" more harmful than depictions of real-life murders and executions.
"In Victoria, you can go to jail for selling sexually explicit and consensual films, but you can sell a film that shows someone being murdered in a convenience store," he said.
It was illegal to sell X-rated films in Victoria, but not to possess or buy them from Canberra, where sale was legal. Mr Swan said he did not think the film of Saddam's hanging should be censored, but called for "a more even-handed approach" to violence and sex.
......Mr Swan said the classification system was out of touch with prevailing attitudes towards sex. In the past, Victorians probably thought depiction of explicit sex was worse than murder.
But young people now were more free-thinking.
In February 2007, mobile phone footage of Saddam Hussein's execution was banned by the Classification Board.
This was a ridiculous decision, and was done to avoid charges that the Australian Classification system favours violence over sex. This is beyond doubt when films such as the SAW series and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS can be awarded MA15+ ratings and are available all over the country.
In comparison, VIVA EROTICA contains hardcore sex, no violence, but is rated X18+. This means that it is unavailable for rent in all the States, and can only be purchased from the ACT or NT.
Film of Saddam’s Hanging Banned: Newsroom Directors Face Prosecution.
The Eros Association
Media Release 26.2.07
In a four to three decision, the Classification Board has banned the grainy five minute mobile phone footage of Saddam Hussein’s execution. The Eros association submitted the film for classification with the expectation of an MA+15 or R18+ rating based on thousands of previous classifications for depictions of executions, both real and simulated.
Eros CEO Fiona Patten said that the decision was clearly made on political grounds and that the Classification Board had ‘seen Eros coming’. “We submitted the film with the unashamedly political agenda of using the MA or R rating it would get to draw attention to the fact that violence is treated more easily than sex in the censorship game”, she said. “I think they saw our recent campaign in this area and decided to head it off by giving the film an RC (Refused Classification) rating.”
However the decision now raises major inconsistencies in the classification of high level violence and means that every newsroom director in the country who has authorised a broadcast of the footage or who has electronically acquired or stored a copy of the film, is liable to severe penalties including two years jail. “I would imagine that there would be dozens of copies of this banned film in the Parliamentary Press Gallery only 100 metres from the Attorney General’s office”, she said. “This constitutes a serious offence under the federal Classification Act. “
The film, entitled The Hanging, was subject to three minority opinions out of the seven who judged it. One thought it should have received an R18+ classification; one an MA15+ rating and one though an unrestricted M rating was appropriate. Ms Patten said that this showed the Board was far from unified on the decision and supported her contention that the film was only banned for political reasons. “While I personally and philosophically believe that this film should have been banned, generally films which show a similar level of violence are submitted by a commercial agency are not”, she said. “In order for this decision to be seen as credible by the wider community, the OFLC should ‘call in’ hundreds of films for re classification which have been classified in the past with levels of violence that are 20 and 30 times higher than this one”.
Ms Patten said that up to half a dozen films like Executions, which shows a series of real life executions, had been given R ratings in the past and made The Hanging look tame by comparison. She said that there were hundreds of ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ films with extremely high levels of violence available from family video libraries and on line entertainment outlets hosted from Australia, because they had been given R18+ ratings or even MA15+ ratings in the past.