Film Censorship: Matinée (2009)






Directed by Jennifer Lyon Bell / 2009 / Netherlands / IMDb

MATINÉE was due to be shown at the 10th Melbourne Underground Film Festival in August 2009.


MUFF 10 Program Notes

Melbourne Underground Film Festival Program
Session 5
7pm / Wed 26 Aug / Loop Bar

dir Jennifer Bell
Drama / NL / 34mins
Actors Mariah and Daniel have an onstage romance lacking spark. But today's matinee performance could make both their careers. Daniel wants to make big changes.



Banned from screening at MUFF 10

The screening was cancelled after the censors refused to give it a film festival exemption.


Friday 21st August 2009

Today the Melbourne Underground Film Festival received knowledge that the OFLC has placed a ban upon the screening of Jennifer Lyon Bells Matinée as part of the Mini Muff shorts session. MUFF wishes to oppose this decision on two grounds.

Firstly, the decision negates the artistic merits of the film. While graphically sexual, Matinée is a picture which embodies many of the qualities which should be sought after in high quality artistic filmmaking. The lead performances are strong and memorable, and the direction and production design work twofold, both ensuring a subtle, entirely naturalistic feel, and a highly stylized, enigmatic and atmospheric world, the likes of which is often attempted in independent cinema but rarely so deftly achieved.

Secondly, and most importantly, MUFF opposes the OFLCs decision on the grounds that it represents a hypocritical and troubling suppression of transgressive female-centric sexuality on film. The modus operandi of Blue Artichoke Films, Bells production company, is to create films which portray realistic sexual intimacy, depict empowered female characters, possess artistic merit and strong narratives, and do not fall back upon the damaging and often dangerous stereotypes of female sexuality that the Western media is accustomed to. In other words, Bell is looking to produce films about sexuality which women can enjoy, free of masculine control.

It is outrageous that the OFLC has sought fit to ban Matinée for the sole reason that it depicts actual sex. The sex depicted in the film, while real, is set within a relationship based on love and mutual desire. What we see in Matinée is two consenting adults (characters, not porn clichés, with a deep and complex established relationship) making love. That is all. Nowhere in this film do we see any violence, sexual abuse, cruelty or malice; we merely see the intimacy which occurs between loving partners every day in real life. The fact that this depiction is considered to be too disturbing for an adult audience, and yet films which depict shocking and graphic violence and/or sexual abuse (yes, simulated, but made to look and feel real) are passed by the OFLC, is unacceptable.

Lars Von Triers Antichrist was recently passed by the OFLC for the Melbourne International Film Festival. This film depicts extremely high levels of sexual violence and genital mutilation, and encourages a phallocentric vision in its audience that touches on the idea that women are inherently evil. Matinée depicts actual sex between two adults in a loving and consenting partnership, and significantly it focuses on the importance of womens pleasure in sexual intimacy, and presents a remarkably strong female lead. Passing Antichrist but banning Matinée reveals a tendency in the OFLC to suppress films which strengthen female sexuality on screen and to allow films which encourage view that female sexuality is damaged, fractured or violent.

There have been cases in the recent past wherein films depicting graphic actual sex within realistic, emotionally-toned and non-violent settings have been granted passage by the OFLC (MUFF points to Shortbus as one example), and MUFF asks only that the same considerations are granted to Bells Matinee, as not repealing their decision will brand the OFLC hypocritical, suppressive, and worryingly anti-women.



A Letter to the OFLC from the filmmaker Jennifer Lyon Bell

To the OFLC:

I'm disappointed and puzzled by your decision not to allow my film Matinée to screen at this years Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

The sexual relationship portrayed by the characters Mariah and Daniel in Matinée is not only a consensual, emotional and nuanced relationship, but their sex plays an important role in the story of the film. The story is not tacked on to the sex; rather, the story has everything to do with the way the characters continue to communicate nonverbally throughout the entire sex scene. This nonverbal sexual communication is, at least according to the feedback on the film so far, an important part of why Matinée is seen by festival programmers as different from most of the other films they've seen this year.

I'd also like to point out that certain elements of the sex in Matinée such as the inclusion of safer-sex techniques made crucial to the storyline create a more responsible depiction of sex than one frequently sees in either mainstream or art films, in which characters usually throw sexual caution to the wind under the guise of romance.

I hope this letter addresses whatever concerns you may have had about my film, but of course if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me through the Festival.

With respectful regards,

Jennifer Lyon Bell Director, Matinée Blue Artichoke Films



A Letter to the press from the filmmaker Jennifer Lyon Bell

My film was just banned, and I can’t decide if I’m laughing or needing a drink.

I just got an urgent Facebook message from the director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, Richard Wolstencroft. Apparently the Australian Film Board is allowing all the unrated films at MUFF to screen next week – except mine. Though they give no reason except for “sexual content,” and they aren’t even required to necessarily view the film before handing down the decision (since they aren’t officially classifying it), they think Matinée can’t even be seen at an underground festival.


It’s just two characters enjoying sex in a realistic way that fits with their characters’ personalities. Consensual sex, nothing weird. Why on earth would that be dangerous to watch?

What’s weird is that mainstream movies spend hours building up the characters in a story, then mangle the lovescene with brusque camera cutaways and awkward sheet-covering bedroom choreography as soon as the moment arrives. You never see James Bond have sex; after a few witty double entendres it’s fade-out then fade-up with a lit cigarette…and this is considered a perfectly acceptable depiction of sex on film.

Frankly, I’d like to know more about how James Bond does it. Is he a true sexual connoisseur, able to quickly divine each woman’s preferences and feel from her subtle reactions whether she wants her G-spot stroked or her hands deliciously pinned to the bed? Or is he an arrogant Casanova who uses some weird abrasive “patented technique” on every woman he sleeps with, smugly congratulating himself “They all love it when I do that”? I’d like the movie better as a whole because it’d tell me a lot about who he is. Plus, if he was good, it’d be really fun to watch, wouldn’t it? * The films that inspired me to mix explicit sex with story and character – Ken Park, 9 Songs, Shortbus – have all had rough roads. But I hoped that outside of America, my loving but prudish home country, everything would be easier. As it turns out, New York was no problem at all, and neither was Amsterdam (my current home). Strasbourg and Berlin festivals are happily screening it this fall. But Australia has a problem.

The MUFF team say they stand behind my film 100% and are considering all options, including a “civil disobedience screening”. They’ve already formally protested the ban and sent out national press releases supporting Matinée. I don’t want anyone to get in trouble on my behalf, so I can only hope they know what they’re doing and have let them know how grateful I am for all their efforts.

I hope that the Australian Film Commission changes its mind. Not just for me, but for all the other filmmakers who are psyched to show stories where the characters go all the way. Those are the films I’d dodge a ban to see.

Jennifer Lyon Bell
Director, “Matinée”
Blue Artichoke Films



Blue Artichoke Films Press Release

Blue Artichoke Films Press Release
Date: August 23, 2009

Australia bans explicit drama Matinée

On Thursday the OFLC (Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification) notified the Melbourne Underground Film Festival that the film “Matinée,” directed by Jennifer Lyon Bell for Blue Artichoke Films, is the only unrated film which they will not allow MUFF to screen, citing “sexual content” . In Australia, film festivals must apply for “exemptions” for unrated films.

Matinée (2009) , a dramatic film with intense sexually explicit content, was accepted the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) and scheduled for screening this coming Wednesday August 26.

MUFF is outraged by the decision and stands by the film. Today they released an open letter to the OFLC stating their belief that the decision is unfair. In their press release to the Australian media, they cite the artistic merit of the film, including its “subtle, entirely naturalistic feel….[and] highly stylized, enigmatic and atmospheric world” . With regard to the depiction of graphic sexuality, they point out that the OFLC has historically privileged violent and misogynistic representations of explicit sex over the type of unabashed female sexual pleasure shown in Matinée. MUFF contrasts Matinée’s ban with the OFLC’s acceptance of Lars von Trier’s violent sexually explicit film Antichrist . In the past, festival exemptions have also been granted to Shortbus, 9 Songs, and Destricted – where the latter two are much less story -driven than Matinée.

MUFF says they are considering their options, including holding a special “civil disobedience” screening in support of the film. A screening like this would be in line with some of their past protests; the 2006 OFLC ban of Tony Comstock’s erotic documentary Damon and Hunter: Doing It Together motivated MUFF to hold a special unofficial screening --which promptly sold out . A similar situation in 2007 occurred with Comstock’s Ashley and Kisha: Finding the Right Fit , but in that case Melbourne police were dispatched to bar filmgoers from the venue.

Matinée is the story of a reserved stage actress who decides to improvise her onstage lovescene in a bold attempt to inject creativity into the play. Their improvisation evolves into actual sex onstage in front of a li ve audience. Matinée’s themes involve trust, ambition, and creative risk.

Recently Matinée won the CineKink/NYC film festival ’s jury award for “Best Narrative Film” , and won Honorable Mention at the 2009 Feminist Porn Awards. It was also selected for the #4 spot in Cosmopolitan magazine’s “5 Best Sex Films For Women” (German edition, July 2009) and has been featured in top-ranking Dutch magazines and television programs, including a variety of feminist and women’s magazines.

Matinée was produced in Amsterdam, Netherlands by an American filmmaker, Jennifer Lyon Bell, who has been living in Amsterdam for 10 years. Matinée was released May 1 and has mainly screened in Europe. Bell ’s film can be seen this autumn at festival screenings worldwide and is currently available for sale online at The next screening will take place at the Strasbourg International Film Festival in France in early September




September 1, 2009

Blue Artichoke Films is proud to announce that our erotic drama Matinée has just won the jury prize for “Best Short Film” at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival 2009 — despite the film’s controversial ban from the festival by the Australian government!

As you probably read in our last News post: Last week, the August 26 scheduled screening of Matinée at MUFF was halted at the last minute due to notification by the OFLC (Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification) that Matinée was the only unrated film which the OFLC would not allow MUFF to screen. The OFLC cited “sexual content” as the reason. Presumably, this is because Matinée includes an erotic, explicit sex scene between the film’s two main characters, Mariah and Daniel.

Though MUFF had seriously considered defying the ban and holding a “civil disobedience” screening, the press attention surrounding the ban proved too great to be able to safely screen the film. Moments before the screening, Matinée was removed from the lineup. However, despite the fact that Matinée remains unseen by MUFF’s festivalgoers, the official jury of the festival decided that the film warranted the prize for “Best Short Film”. We’re touched and grateful.

Blue Artichoke Films is proud to add MUFF’s award to its list of honors. Recently Matinée won the CineKink/NYC film festival’s jury award for “Best Short Narrative Film”, and won Honorable Mention at the 2009 Feminist Porn Awards. It was also selected for the #4 spot in Cosmopolitan magazine’s “5 Best Sex Films For Women” (German edition, July 2009) and has been featured in top-ranking Dutch magazines and television programs, including a variety of feminist and women’s magazines.

We send out our gratitude to the Melbourne Underground Film Festival for inviting us, to director Richard Wolstencroft and the rest of the MUFF team for valiantly defending us in the press and to the OFLC, and of course…to the jury

Please help us spread the good news.



MATINÉE banned at Sexy International Film Festival

MATINÉE was also due to screen at the 2009 Sexy International Film Festival in Melbourne. Once again, it was refused by the censors.
Thursday October 29, 2009
Shorts Session 3 9:15pm

Matinee *We are very disappointed with the OFLC’s decision to ban this quality film.

Dir: Jennifer Lyon Bell/Netherlands/34 mins
Actors Mariah and Daniel have an onstage romance lacking spark. But today’s matinee performance could make both their careers.



The Classification Board on the ban

Other Decisions
Exemptions to show unclassified films
Annual Report 2008-2009

The Director also refused to exempt two films as part of the Sexy International Film Festival. One of the films was refused exemption as it was likely to be classified X 18+ and the other film was refused exemption as it was previously classified X 18+ by the Classification Board.



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