Australian movies that have been cut or banned by the Film Censorship Board and Classification Board.
Genius is Lying
Directed by Ann Harding / 1982 / Australia / IMDb
In December 1982, a 21-minute print of GENIUS IS LYING was awarded an R-rating after one cut was made.
The was a school project that was submitted by the Swinburne Institute of Technology.
Film Festival problems
The controversy began when the producer pushed to have the uncut version included in the 1983 Melbourne Film Festival.
Sydney & Melbourne Film Festivals
Amendments to the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations, made in April, removed the anomalies which were inherent in the so-called Film Festival ‘agreement’ of 1975.
These amendments enable ‘approved organizations’ to exhibit films at ‘approved events’ without being subject to the registration provisions of the Regulations.
Approval of organizations and events is at the discretion of the Attorney-General, who shall have regard to:
(a) the purposes for which the organization was formed;
(b) the extent to which the event is in keeping with the purposes of the organization;
(c) the extent to which the organization carries on activities of a cultural or artistic nature;
(d) the reputation of the organization with respect to the screening of films;
(e) the conditions imposed on the organization with respect to the admission of persons to the screening of films by the organization.
Decisions of the Attorney-General either to refuse or revoke approvals may be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Approved organizations may import films for approved events upon submission of applications and synopses to the Chief Censor. Permissions to import are granted subject to permission holders observing certain conditions, which include limiting admission to screenings of the films to subscribers aged 18 years or over and exporting the films within six weeks after the conclusion of the approved event.
The amendments have the effect of conceding to film festivals named as ‘approved organizations’ the freedom from censorship restraints which they have long sought.
The Board welcomed these amendments, as they implicitly confirmed that the Board had no legal mandate to grant the concessions previously sought by the festivals.
In 1983, the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals were named as ‘approved organizations’ and ‘approved events’. They were granted a total of 356 ‘permissions to import’, 102 to Sydney and 254 to Melbourne.
There was widespread misunderstanding about the legal status of Australian-made films used in film festivals. Few seemed to realise that the exhibition of such films is essentially a matter for State Governments, which may grant exemption to any film (whether imported or Australian made) from the operation of certain provisions of the relevant State Censorship Acts.
Misunderstanding focused on the film GENIUS IS LYING. This was submitted to the Film Censorship Board by the Swinburne Institute of Technology in December 1982, with a request that it be classified for normal public exhibition. Members of the Board decided, by a majority vote, to classify the film ‘For Restricted Exhibition’, subject to one deletion. It should be emphasised that this decision was made outside the context of film festivals.
When the film’s producer later sought to have the 1983 Melbourne Film Festival include GENIUS IS LYING in its program, it was suggested that the deletion required by the Film Censorship Board for the film’s public exhibition precluded its exhibition at the festival, as the festival’s policy is to show only uncut films.
However, the film could have been shown uncut at the festival had the Melbourne Film Festival successfully sought the approval of the Government of Victoria for its exhibition.
The Chief Censor issued a press release stating the correct position, in an attempt to dispel the media-created impression that the Board had acted obstructively vis-a-vis the Melbourne Film Festival. But, perhaps inevitably, the press release received less exposure than the allegations which prompted it.– Film Censorship Board
– Report on Activities
Back after 24-years
In 2006, GENIUS IS LYING was included as part of the Victorian College of Arts Retrospective at the St Kilda Film Festival.
GENIUS IS LYING by Ann Harding would never make it to the screen today (let alone though a funding round) and more’s the pity. Overlong, coarse and technically very basic it wasn’t so much a genre hybrid but a feast and famine sort of filmmaking.
Made in 1982, the AIDS HIV scourge was yet to be recognised and in what must have been a groundbreaking piece of reportage for its time, it focused on the life and times of the gay scene of the St Kilda beats, candidly discussing the cons and pros of incest and transgender issues for its day.– screenhub.com.au
Coming of Age
Directed by Brian Jones / 1983 / Australia / IMDb
In May 1984, a 1064.09-meter (97:02) 16mm print of COMING OF AGE was censored by 2-meters (00:11) for an R-rating.
Before the cuts, the sex was described as being:
In the censored R-rated version, the sex was found to be:
Stagedoor Productions was the applicant.
In August 1984, a 98-minute tape of COMING OF AGE was passed with an R-rating for the same reasons as before.
It was released by Stage Door Video.
It was later reissued on VHS by Visual Communications Australia (VCA).
Presumably, both tapes are the censored version.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy / 1984 / Australia / IMDb
In March 1984, a 2578.42-meter (93:59) print of RAZORBACK was passed with an M-rating.
It was awarded for violence, which was said to be:
This print had been precut before submission to tone down the violence. It was this version that would go on to be released worldwide.
Greater Union Film Distributors was the applicant.
Uncut on video
Reportedly, Greater Union’s CEO, David Williams, had insisted the theatrical print be M-rated. However, when the release was not as successful as expected, Roadshow requested a more violent version that could be exploited on video with an R-rating.
When RAZORBACK was issued on tape by Roadshow Home Video, a sticker on the cover promised an ‘Un-cut R-rated version not seen in cinemas’.
The National Classification Database has no record of it ever being passed with this higher rating. However, Roadshow did have a 92-minute tape classified with an M-rating in October 1985. The violence was described as being on the same level as the initial submission.
The fact that there is no record of an R-rating may explain why the ‘Un-cut R-rated version not seen in cinemas’ sticker was blacked out on many copies.
Some replaced the content of the sticker with ‘Rated alongside JAWS and PSYCHO by Variety’.
This means there are at least three variants of the cover.
The Roadshow tape would turn out to be unique, as it is the only known uncut version available in the world. In addition, the added violent footage now appears to be lost.
Movie-Censorship has a comparison between the theatrical version and the Roadshow Home Video release.
Presumably, the 92-minute version, rated M in October 1985, was the uncut tape and was submitted only after it had already been released. However, instead of the predicted R-rating, it instead still received an M. This is what happens when a distributor attempts to second-guess the Film Censorship Board.
DVD & Blu-ray releases
In September 2006, RAZORBACK was passed again with an M (Moderate horror violence). It appears that Umbrella Entertainment released it on DVD a year before this classification.
The Blu-ray that followed had the same cover.
This version was the censored 90:39 (PAL) theatrical print. However, it did contain the uncut footage, taken from the Roadshow’s VHS, in an extra titled ‘Grisly Deleted scenes’. Running 02:24, it extends the station wagon, waterhole, Dicko and pet pack attack death sequences.
At the time, there were complaints by those who had been used to viewing the full-version on video. This prompted the DVD producer to explain the reason.
As discussed in the JAWS ON TROTTERS documentary, this version is the theatrical release version. The gorier scenes were cut before the film was released and reinserted for the local Roadshow VHS release – they were never seen in the theatrical release.
I discovered that twenty years later, the original film components of these gorier scene had been lost and they only existed on a 1 inch 4:3 master – there was no film print in existence that included them, so rather than inserting 4:3 pan and scanned footage into a 16:9 transfer (with a 2.35:1 ratio) Umbrella decided to include them on the DVD as a ‘special feature’. Every additional scene from the ‘uncut’ Roadshow VHS release is included on the DVD.
For your info, these scenes have never been seen in any version in the UK or US.– Mark Hartley, DVD Producer
In August 2018. Umbrella Entertainment rereleased RAZORBACK on Blu-ray with a new 4K master.
The ‘Grisly Deleted scenes’ extra comes with a new optional audio commentary. It also includes a copy of the full Roadshow Home Video version.
Welcome to Greensborough
Directed by Tom McEvoy / 2005 / Australia / IMDb
In 2005, WELCOME TO GREENSBOROUGH had a cast and crew screening at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Modified for MUFF
The film was scheduled to have a public premiere at the 2005 Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF). However, scrutiny from the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) resulted in reshoots.
Director, Tom McEvoy reports.
I had received a recommendation that I change from a source close to the OFLC that heard of the subject matter of the film. I was recommended to change certain scenes to avoid a clash with the OFLC ratings board otherwise; the film was going to be the subject of intense scrutiny.
All of the actors involved in any sexual situations in the film were over 18. However, we did reshoot certain scenes due to what I felt like was ‘over-kill’ of the underage sexuality factor, we toned down certain elements of dialogue.
On 9 July 2005, a 110-minute modified version of WELCOME TO GREENSBOROUGH had its first public screening at Melbourne’s Kino Dendy.
It would go on to win awards for Best Guerrilla Film and Best Editing.
The rise and revenge of Youth! The Australian answer to KIDS, GUMMO and KEN PARK. The first Australian film I know of to have been refused a classification from the OFLC (…a first film historians?). Why? Because this film is about young people, made by young people…that actually dared to have scenes of late teenagers having sex. Shock Horror…that doesn’t go on does it?
This is no Larry Clark drooling over teenagers here; this is young people reflecting their world, where in that world sixteen year old girls fuck sixteen-year-old guys. Well not anymore, director Tom McEvoy had to reshoot his love scenes with actors over 18. So the MUFF version will be ok with our masters and betters at the OFLC. The film features angst-ridden teenagers partying, getting wasted, being bored and generally wondering who sold the youth of the world down the river. Film ends in a gang bang cum rape scene…now that’s how they should have finished SOMERSAULT!– Melbourne Underground Film Festival
Readers of this site will be aware that this was not the first Australian film to be Refused Classification.
To distribute the film in Australia, it was necessary for Anewave Film Productions to obtain a rating from the Classification Board.
In late 2006, the 118-minute DVD was banned by the OFLC.
Director, Tom McEvoy reports.
I just like to say they can rot in hell. I had to pay $750 approx. for them [the OFLC] to see the film and then have it banned so it can’t be sold anywhere or used to make money in Australia.. I would like to say thanks to all involved.. thanks for making me sound like I make porn le sigh).
A film set in the suburbs of Melbourne in which a group of bored young Australians experiment with alcohol and sex.
Reasons for the decision:
When making decisions the Classification Board (the Board) follows the procedures set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act). The Board also applies the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines, while taking into account the matters set out in Section 11 of the Act.
In the Board’s view this film warrants an ‘RC’ classification in accordance with Item 1(a) of the Films Table of the National Classification Code.
“1. Films that:
(a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified;
“… will be Refused Classification.
The Guidelines also state that films which exceed the R 18+ or X 18+ classification will be refused classification. This film has a viewing impact which exceeds high and for that reason cannot be accommodated at R 18+.
The film contains scenes of explicit sexual activity throughout. Extreme close-up shots of actual sexual activity including fellatio, cunnilingus, anal and vaginal penetration are used as a linking device throughout the film.
Examples of this occur in the opening credits of the film. Other examples include but are not limited to;
at 10 minutes a close up of vaginal penetration,
at 29 minutes a close of up vaginal penetration,
at 41 minutes a close up of fellatio,
at 67 minutes a close up of fellatio and
at 82 minutes a close up of cunnilingus.
The Board considers that these depictions of actual sexual activity both within the context of the film and juxtaposed as they are with the portrayals of children, said to be aged 17 and younger and therefore under the age of 18, exceed a viewing impact of high and cannot be accommodated within the R 18+ classification.
The film also includes an implied depiction of a woman being stabbed repeatedly in her crotch with a knife. The depiction commences at approximately 97 minutes.
The Board notes that this violent depiction and the depictions of children, said to be aged 17 and younger and therefore under the age of 18, throughout the film would preclude the film from being classified X 18+. Additionally, the Guidelines state that the X 18+ classification is a specially and legally restricted category which contains only sexually explicit material. The Guidelines also state that
‘no depiction of violence, sexual violence… is allowed in the category’.
Themes and sex
The film also contains depictions of children , said to be aged 17 and therefore under the age of 18, using aggressive, coarse, sexually explicit and assaultative language, including the verbal exploration of a rape fantasy. Examples of this include but are not limited to the following:
At approximately 20 minutes, a group of young men discuss a young woman and, within the context of their conversation, explore the idea of forcing her to have sex;
“You’d have to force her, fucking rape her or get her drunk.”
“I’d say ‘fuck my cock.'”
“Fuck you up the ass, cunt.”
“Fucking suck my dick, bitch. You dare spit it out and I’ll smack your face”
At approximately 25 minutes, two male characters, said to be 17 years old, are discussing the 14 year old girl that one of them is dating:
“That 14 year old that you have been catching the bus with, that has a bald pussy”
“Isn’t that shit illegal?”
“I’m not fucking her, man”
“She likes fucking tongue and shit.”
“She showed me her tits and her moot, but that’s all”
“I’ve had a look and that’s what she wants.”
“You know when chicks are starting to grow… She’s just starting to grow and she’s getting tits now… Bullshit, bullshit man, she’s got nice, she’s got nice, now fucking great….”
“So how big’s her cunt?”
“You want to know how big her cunt is?”
The film also contains images which depict children , said to be aged 17 and 14 and therefore under the age of 18, implicitly engaging in sexual activity. These depictions include but are not limited to the following:
At 59 minutes two young people, who are said to be a seventeen year old male and his fourteen year old girlfriend, are alone in a bathroom. The male is sitting on the toilet whilst the girl implicitly fellates him. At 60 minutes the girl vomits and says it was because the male made her gag.
At approximately 85 minutes the seventeen year old character Kevin enters a house which is said to be the set of a porn film shoot. He gives the film-makers his false proof of age card, which he has already shown his other friends. Kevin is told to disrobe and then he and the other participants in the film are given explicit instructions on how to behave on the set.
At 91 minutes there are close up images of vaginal penetration said to be happening on-set and depictions of Kevin and the other men implicitly participating in the pornographic film shoot.
The Board considers that these and other uses in the film of aggressive, coarse, sexually explicit and assaultative language, the implied sexual activity and portrayal of participation in a pornographic film and the context in which they involve young people who are said to be under the age of 18 raise the viewing impact of the film to above high and the film cannot therefore be accommodated in the R 18+ classification.
This film is Refused Classification.– Classification Board report
110-minute vs. 118-minute version
The DVD that was banned by the OFLC ran eight minutes longer than the Melbourne Underground Film Festival version.
Director, Tom McEvoy reports.
…the version that screened at MUFF was a toned down version, almost a rough cut to the extremes of the finished version. Not to say the finished version is extreme in terms of world cinema standards when measured against IRREVERSIBLE (2002) and ANATOMY OF HELL (2004). KEN PARK (2002) is far more sexually graphic than WELCOME TO GREENSBOROUGH but I guess from an Australian teen film is very confronting.
I’m quite sure the scenes that caused the most issue were the sexual scenes involving the characters aged 14 in the film, mainly a blow-job/gag scene halfway through the film. There’s intense sexual profanity directed towards these characters and also an intense moment of sexual violence at the end of the film.
Background to the RC
I wrote to the OFLC to question their decision and received the following reply.
November 29, 2006
I refer to your email of 8 November 2006 regarding the classification of the film WELCOME TO GREENSBOROUGH.
The national classification scheme is a cooperative scheme involving the Commonwealth, States and Territories. The Classification Board (the Board) classifies films (including videos and DVDs), computer games and certain publications. When making decisions, the Board applies criteria in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act), the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines. Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with censorship responsibilities agree to the Code and the classification guidelines. I have provided a link to the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (the Guidelines) for your information.
The Guidelines are a tool used by the Board to assist them in applying the criteria in the Code by describing in more detail the nature of the different classification categories, and the scope and limits of the classifiable elements permitted within each category. The six classifiable elements are themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.
If you refer to the Guidelines, you will also note that each classification category begins with an ‘impact test’ that determines the threshold for the category and lists the classifiable elements accompanied by a statement limiting the content of each element. The impact threshold is described according to the following hierarchy of impact:
very mild – G
mild – PG
moderate – M
strong – MA 15+
high – R 18+
very high – RC
On 3 November the Board determined that the film WELCOME TO GREENSBOROUGH be Refused Classification (RC). In the Board’s view this film warrants an RC classification as, in accordance with the Code, it depicts, expresses or otherwise deals with ‘matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified’.
The Guidelines also state that films which exceed the R 18+ or X 18+ classification will be RC.
Specifically, the Board considers that the depictions of actual sexual activity; the use in the film of aggressive, coarse, sexually explicit and assaultive language; the implied sexual activity and portrayal of participation in a pornographic film; and the context in which they involve young people who are said to be under the age of 18; raise the viewing impact of the film to above high and therefore the film cannot be accommodated in the R 18+ classification.
The Board also notes that the film includes an implied depiction of a woman being stabbed repeatedly in her crotch with a knife. This violent depiction and the depiction of children said to be aged under 18 throughout the film precludes the film from being classified X 18+.
In your email you ask why material that would otherwise be classified X 18+ is RC due to the inclusion of sexually assaultive language.
The X 18+ classification is a special and legally restricted category which contains only sexually explicit material. That is material which contains real depictions of actual sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between consenting adults. As the only genre-specific classification – being solely concerned with depictions of actual sex – films classified X 18+ do not come within the hierarchy of impact specified in the Guidelines. In addition to assaultive language, you will note from the Guidelines that the classification also excludes:
…depictions of non-adult persons, adult persons that look like they are under 18 years, persons over the age of 18 years portrayed as minors;
…consensual depictions which purposefully demean anyone; an
…fetishes such as body piercing, application of substances such as candle wax, ‘golden showers’, bondage, spanking or fisting.
Owing to the widely differing views held in our community it is not always possible to make decisions which satisfy everyone. I assure you that the Board takes its responsibilities seriously and reflects current community standards when making decisions.
I hope this information assists you.– To: Mick
– From: Des Clark, Director, OFLC
60 Second Relief
Directed by Rupert Owen / 2006 / Australia
In 2007, 60 SECOND RELIEF was programmed to play at the 8th Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF).
September 2007– The Melbourne Underground Film Festival
Local & International Short films curated by Jason Turley
60 SECOND RELIEF
Dir: Rupert Owen / 2006 / Australia / 1 min / Experimental
A challenge to the OFLC.
7pm, Monday 24 September at Loop
The screening was abandoned after the OFLC’s Amy Wooding refused to grant film festival exemptions to it, and six other features.
For more information regarding this case, see ASHLEY AND KISHA: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT (2007) in Film Censorship Database No. 1.
The film opens with the following introduction.
2006– Opening credits
60 SECOND RELIEF
A Film by Rupert Owen
The Office for Film, Literature, and Classification states that ‘Pornography is sexually explicit media that is primarily intended to arouse the audience’ so…
What follows is one minute of sped-up footage, similar to the scene in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), of a couple having sex on a bed. It features hardcore sex, although nothing that would not be able to pass with an X18+, or even R18+ classification.
The director on censorship
September 21, 2007
My film got banned from MUFF as did Tony Comstock’s ASHLEY AND KISHA: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT, as did others. Funny how my short film played the One Minute Film Festival in Switzerland; which was not an underground festival but a fairly mainstream international one without a peep of protest from the chocolate loving Swiss.
I don’t understand the processes at work here. An underground film festival with a target market of people completely prepared for challenging or sense flexing cinema, totally aware of the potential content of the films they are going to see, possibly one hundred percent supportive of subversive or fringe cinema, get audited by a kind of mauve (Pink trying to be purple – to borrow some Whistler) militia who has consulted the mob (to borrow a Henry Miller favourite) and decided that they, and only they shall have the final say on what kind of material is suitable for us as a public to subscribe to.
Why does sex cause all the controversy? It’s sex for goodness sake. It is fucking, humping, fornicating, rooting, copulating, and it is done by billions of people worldwide every day – and that is why there are billions of people worldwide to do it – even if all you want in life is kids, then you got to screw to get them. If I want to add some sort of pseudo religious mockery over the whole process, I’d say that God invented the fuck as some sort of heavenly porn channel. I imagine the angels with their robes hitched, spread eagled on the couch shaped clouds, having a wank to some couple in Greenland going at it in the kitchen.
If I made a short film that had me say spitting on the street – why not pull that film? Surely spitting on the street is considered disgusting? Surely we don’t want our impressionable minds confronted with the slow motion ricochet of mucus bouncing off the pavement and onto the sandal of someone waiting at a bus stop. Surely this anti-social act must be considered something we only do in private in the shower with the lights off and the curtains drawn. It all goes around in circles though doesn’t it? Just look at all the periods in history when values and morals loosened, you see them wedged between periods of rigid conservatism. A younger generation comes bursting through with new ideas, fresh outlooks and approaches, and then they get old becoming stifled and conservative – then their children grow up only to try and tip the scales again … so goes this revolving door of human development.
I’ve never had a film banned by the Office of Literature, Film and Classification before. The thing is that my film was a challenge to the OFLC because their definition of pornography is material intended to arouse, looks like they got aroused in sixty seconds, good for them, it that may just kick their libidos back into business.– Rupert Owen
– snuffboxfilms.blogspot.com [dead link]
November 13, 2009– Rupert Owen
…The Australian Sex Party’s Erotic Short Film Festival at Sexpo . Believe it or not, the festival can’t show any films above an R-Rating. This is Sexpo we are talking about, not some public event where a bit of ball sack would cause a riot. I passed over several of my short works to the ASP and was forewarned that they may be restricted with what content they could show. If you are refused a classification it means that your work can’t have any ‘public’ screening, even if people are well aware and comfortable with what they are about to see. Even if people WANT to see it, they are told they are not allowed to.
– snuffboxfilms.blogspot.com [dead link]