Directed by Bruce La Bruce

The movies of Bruce La Bruce that have been cut or banned in Australia.

No Skin Off My Ass

Directed by Bruce La Bruce / 1991 / Canada / IMDb

In September 2008, NO SKIN OFF MY ASS was passed with an R18+ (High level sex scenes) rating. The running time was not listed.

The applicant, Kojo Pictures, released it on DVD.

No Skin Off My Ass (1991) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Kojo Pictures

The cover stated it was ‘Previously banned in Australia where it was originally granted an X certificate’. While the website of Beyond Home Entertainment listed it as being, ‘Previously Banned – First Release in Australia Ever!’.

Both claims were promotional tools, so we can forgive them for stretching the truth. The X-rating was legal in the ACT and Northern Territory but was restricted to mail order only in all States.

The National Classification Database does not even list it as ever being X-rated. However, that does not mean it was not the case, as it is not unheard of for titles to have been missed.

If it was classified, then it was presumably submitted by Potential Films in 1996, around the same time they received an X-rating for Bruce La Bruce’s SUPER 8 1/2 – A CAUTIONARY BIO-PIC (1994).

Kojo Pictures reissued it in July 2009 as part of their FOUR FILMS BY BRUCE LA BRUCE boxset.

Hustler White (1996) & No Skin Off My Ass (1991) & Super 8½ - A Cautionary Bio-Pic (1994) & Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) - DVD cover 2
DVD – Kojo Pictures

Therefore, it appears that NO SKIN OFF MY ASS did not have any issues with the Classification Board. However, if it was indeed X-rated, then it benefited from the January 2000 decision of the Classification Review Board to allow ‘actual sex’ in the R-rating. This was in the case of Catherine Breillat’s ROMANCE (1999), which is covered in Film Censorship Database No. 1

Super 8½ – A Cautionary Bio-Pic

Directed by Bruce La Bruce / 1994 / Canada – Germany – USA / IMDb

In October 1996, a 96-minute video of SUPER 8 1/2 – A CAUTIONARY BIO-PIC received an X (Contains sexually explicit material) rating.

It is unknown if the applicant, Potential Films, released the tape.

DVD release

In November 2008, Kojo Pictures received an R18+ (High level sexual themes) rating for a 94:26 DVD.

Super 8½ - A Cautionary Bio-Pic (1994) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Kojo Pictures

They went on to release it as a standalone disc and as part of boxset titled FOUR FILMS BY BRUCE LA BRUCE.

Hustler White (1996) & No Skin Off My Ass (1991) & Super 8½ - A Cautionary Bio-Pic (1994) & Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) - DVD cover 2
DVD – Kojo Pictures

Uncut or modified?

Matt reports.
Kojo Pictures (au) – DVD – 94:26
The sex is explicit, with some brief shots of erections, but the rest seems to have been shot to mask the blowjob and penetrations scenes.

The British Board of Film Classification’s (BBFC) database lists a 100:14 videotape as being submitted in 1997. They censored a massive 10:23 of footage, before awarding it an 18-rating. The same 94:23 print was passed again in 1999.

The Kojo Pictures DVD must be a modified version, as the running time is very similar to the BBFC approved print. It is certainly shorter than the initial submission.

It is harder to gauge if the Potential Films X-rated version was also cut. At 96-minutes, it is certainly shorter than that quoted by the BBFC. However, presuming that was NTSC and Potential’s was PAL, then 100:14 (NTSC) is ≈ 96:14 (PAL).

Hustler White

Directed by Bruce La Bruce – Rick Castro / 1996 / Canada – Germany / IMDb

In January 1997, a pre-cut 79-minute 16mm print of HUSTLER WHITE was refused by the OFLC.

As a comparison, the uncut French DVD from Cheyenne Releasing ran 80:29.

July 20, 2010
HUSTLER WHITE is the only film Potential voluntarily made some small cuts for explicit sexual content in before submission for a public exhibition R rating. The reason for this was because at the time of submission there was a very strict policy against an R rated film showing ‘actual sexual activity’ and although fleeting instances of this had been passed previously, it seemed unlikely some scenes in HUSTLER WHITE would be passed. The film was still refused classification. The board claimed there was still some actual sex (masturbation) visible in one sequence. Sitting with a editor it took several viewings to spot what they were alluding to. A token cut was made and the film was passed.

– Film Festivals and Censorship

To obtain an R-classification, its distributor, Potential Films, initially identified and blacked out a few shots here and there in which erections or masturbation were clearly visible. They also made some short cuts in the amputee sex scene, fearing these would be interpreted as ‘actual sex’ – a complete no-no under the Guidelines of the Classification Act. To no avail: in January 1997 the film was refused classification due to two scenes.

One was a very shadowy masturbation scene with an erect penis. The other portrayed an elderly client asking for and receiving razor blade cuts to his torso and buttocks from the hustler: This last scene is a depiction of entirely consensual masochism which starts with the words ‘Cut my buttocks, dear boy’ (in an English accent, of course) and ends with a satisfied ‘Ah, delicious’. To anyone with a glancing knowledge of either cinema or razors, this scene is quite clearly not actuality; after each shot of a razor apparently scoring through flesh, there is a film edit before a shot of blood bubbling up. There are slightly different tones, too, suggesting different film stock, or perhaps indicating it was shot on two locations. Perhaps the filmmakers lacked the skills to re-present verisimilitude – but then, recreating reality wasn’t the point of the scene or, even, of this kind of movie. Although they agreed it only ‘appeared’ to look real, the majority of the Classification Board demanded this scene be removed. The masturbation/erection shot, on the other hand, had to go because the Board’s members thought it looked ‘actually’ real.

– The Money Shot: Cinema, Sin and Censorship
– Jane Mills

A 75-minute censored version was passed with an R (High level sex scenes, Adult themes) rating in February 1997.

In both cases, Potential Films was the applicant.

No to uncut VHS

In November 1997, HUSTLER WHITE was refused again, this time in the form of a 75-minute videotape.

July 20, 2010
To give local audiences the chance to see the intact film, we submitted the film again uncut, with the intent of getting an X rating for video distribution. This time it was refused for completely different reasons! Some discussion in the film that a hustler character had died by misadventure during some S&M escapades was judged to be ‘sexualised violence’ – something against the guidelines for the X rating (although the same material is passed in the R version to the same over 18 audience — go figure!)

– Film Festivals and Censorship

In January 1998, Siren Entertainment had a censored 74:18 VHS passed with an R (High Level Sex Scenes, Adult Themes) rating.

It was this version that Siren Video released on tape.

Hustler White (1996) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – Siren

The cover stated that it was ‘Finally released to video with bonus footage not seen in the theatrical version’. It is unclear how different it was, as the consumer advice was identical.

DVD releases

In December 2008, Kojo Pictures released HUSTLER WHITE on DVD. It is unknown which version was on the disc.

Hustler White (1996) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Kojo Pictures

As it was not submitted for reclassification, the cover listed the same 1998 R18+ (High Level Sex Scenes, Adult Themes) rating.

Kojo Pictures rereleased it in July 2009 as part of a boxset titled FOUR FILMS BY BRUCE LA BRUCE.

Hustler White (1996) & No Skin Off My Ass (1991) & Super 8½ - A Cautionary Bio-Pic (1994) & Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) - DVD cover 2
DVD – Kojo Pictures

It included NO SKIN OFF MY ASS (1991), SUPER 8½ – A CAUTIONARY BIO-PIC (1994) and OTTO; OR, UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE (2008).

L.A. Zombie

Directed by Bruce La Bruce / 2010 / USA / IMDb

In 2010, the Melbourne International Film Festival scheduled L.A. ZOMBIE to play on August 7 and 8 as part of the Night Shift program.

June 2010
The creator of OTTO; OR, UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE (MIFF 08) extends his adventures in cinema’s most unmarketable sub-genre – gay zombie porn.

Zombies don’t often come as fully-ripped as porn star François Sagat – except in Bruce La Bruce’s L.A. ZOMBIE. Our anti-hero is convinced he’s an alien zombie sent to earth, where he roams the streets of Los Angeles in search of dead bodies and gay sex – an activity that reveals his ‘special gift’ of shagging the deceased back to life.

Conceived as a more hardcore companion piece to OTTO, and featuring minimal dialogue but maximum soundtrack, L.A. ZOMBIE raises the stakes with

LaBruce’s infamous ‘schlock’ tactics – promising plenty of wound-shagging and more penises than you can shake a stick at.
Contains scenes that will offend

– Melbourne International Film Festival program

This was to be the 63-minute softcore version that played theatrically and at international festivals. The 103-minute director’s cut, which included gay hardcore footage, was later released on DVD.

The OFLC say no

In July 2010, MIFF announced that the Classification Board were not prepared to give L.A. ZOMBIE a film festival exemption, so it would have to be dropped from the program.

July 20, 2010
Following L.A. ZOMBIE being refused a classification exemption by the OFLC, screenings of the film at MIFF have been cancelled. The Saturday 7 August slot has been replaced with RUBBER, while the Sunday 8 August replacement session will be announced soon.

– L.A. ZOMBIE cancelled
– Melbourne International Film Festival

July 21, 2010
Festival director Richard Moore received a letter yesterday from the Film Classification Board director Donald McDonald, stating that L.A. ZOMBIE, the latest offering from Canadian provocateur Bruce LaBruce, could not be screened as it would in his opinion be refused classification.

The festival is not generally required to submit films for classification, but after reading a synopsis of the plot of L.A. ZOMBIE, which features wound penetration and implied sex with corpses, the Classification Board requested a DVD to watch, and then refused to issue an exemption.

McDonald’s letter says the decision to ban the film is based ‘on information submitted by MIFF, inspection of the film and the classification history of the director’.

Moore yesterday told The Age: ‘Bruce LaBruce’s blend of sex and violence can be confronting, but I would argue that within the context of the festival, it is nonsensical and patronising to not allow people to decide what they want to see.’

– Gay zombie porn gets festival flick

Great promotion

Bruce La Bruce appeared happy to have a new marketing angle for his film.

July 21, 2010
The director of gay zombie porn film LA ZOMBIE says he is delighted his movie was banned.

‘My first thought was ‘Eureka!’director Bruce LaBruce said, speaking from his home in Toronto.

‘I’ll never understand how censors don’t see that the more they try to suppress a film, the more people will want to see it. It gives me a profile I didn’t have yesterday.’

Mr LaBruce says the Australian classification board should have allowed LA ZOMBIE to screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival because of its ‘artistic merit’.

‘My film is debuting at Locarno in competition, it’s a prestigious festival. So it’s self-evident it has artistic merit and most censorship boards take that into account. I’m surprised [the Australian classification board] didn’t take it into consideration, if they knew.’

He called the classification board ‘hypocritical’ for banning his film while ‘they pass so many mainstream films that have the most extreme violence, with brutal treatment towards women, and torture and dismemberment, but because they didn’t show a penis, they can be screened with impunity.’

LaBruce admitted that his film did have explicit scenes of sex and violence, but said the version that was banned from the festival was a ‘soft core’ version, where ‘it’s obviously a fake prosthetic. It’s a bizarre-looking thing with a scorpion’s stinger, it’s clearly not a human penis.’

Film festival director Richard Moore said the festival has not yet decided if it will appeal against the ban, but LaBruce has already started a twitter and Facebook campaign urging Australians to protest the classification board’s decision. It is not yet known if the board’s decision to refuse to give LA ZOMBIE an exemption from classification (so that it could be shown at festivals) will automatically mean that it will be refused classification as an R 18+ or X18+ DVD.

The director denied he’d deliberately sought censorship when making LA ZOMBIE, which features gaping wounds, corpses, and several [faked] body fluids in close-up detail.

‘I wasn’t expecting it with this one,’ he said. ‘My film OTTO screened in Melbourne and that also had a zombie penetrating another zombie.’

– Zombie porn director ‘delighted’ by ban

His final comment regarding OTTO; OR UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE (2008) is correct. In 2008, the Classification Board had passed it with an R18+ (Actual sexual activity and Horror violence) rating.

Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Kojo Pictures

The film contains real footage of fellatio and penetration and one scene is similar to L.A. ZOMBIE. It runs from 17:10 to 17: 25 and shows the zombiefied Maximilian screwing the side of Fritz. His (fake?) erection is even shown entering the wound.

Kojo Pictures released in on DVD and as part a FOUR FILMS BY BRUCE LA BRUCE boxset.

Hustler White (1996) & No Skin Off My Ass (1991) & Super 8½ - A Cautionary Bio-Pic (1994) & Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) - DVD cover 2
DVD – Kojo Pictures

July 26, 2010
When I first heard the news about the banning of my latest movie, L.A. ZOMBIE, from the Melbourne International Film Festival – via a Google alert directing me to an article in The Sydney Morning Herald – I have to admit my first reaction was ‘Eureka!’ As a director who has often made extremely low-budget films during his career (L.A. ZOMBIE, for example, was shot in a week and cost less than $100,000), publicity is an essential part of the process. Censors don’t seem to understand the idea that the more they try to suppress a film, the more attention is drawn to it and the more people want to see it. I was delighted to see that the news about the censorship had people talking about the movie on such unlikely mainstream websites as Reuters, Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post. You can’t buy publicity like that.

I was, however, also extremely disappointed that my film would not be shown. I don’t know any filmmaker who doesn’t want his or her work to be seen as widely as possible, and it’s always a thrill to have a modestly budgeted movie attract an international audience.

Of course, it will be offensive and distasteful to some people. But cinema, and particularly the horror genre, has been dealing with difficult and disturbing imagery since the 1920s. The theme of necrophilia can be traced back to the tradition of Romanticism rooted in the late 18th century. Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire both dealt explicitly – and romantically – with the idea of the necrophile. The film may not be for everyone, but it should be up to those who wish to see it to make up their own minds about it without censorship. It’s never a good idea for the state to make up the minds of its citizens for them. It can be a very slippery slope.

– LaBruce on Censoring L.A. ZOMBIE


Following the Classification Board’s decision, Richard Wolstencroft announced that he would be organising a protest screening of the film at his Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

August 12, 2010
[Richard] Wolstencroft is hoping he can flag the issue but not the actual screening by keeping the venue secret as long as possible. Details will be released closer to the date on the festival’s Facebook page.’I’ve got Bruce

LaBruce’s support,’ he said. ‘If the police turn up and physically stop me, what can I do? But they really hate coming to this sort of thing, they’re embarrassed.’

Wolstencroft said the venue would hold about 200, but added ‘if we get 100 people along, it will be a victory’.

If the film is pulled, he said, ‘we’ll play something just as interesting. But it might be worse.’

– Gay zombie porn to screen in Melbourne

August 15, 2010
The 11th Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF XI) has announced today that it will be holding a protest screening on August 29th of Bruce LaBruce’s recently banned film L.A. ZOMBIE, as a late edition to their festival line-up.

L.A. ZOMBIE, Bruce LaBruce’s follow-up to his 2008 MIFF hit OTTO, OR UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE, continues in Otto’s queer-supernatural horror- pornographic footsteps in its portrayal of the protagonist’s presumed ability to wake the dead through his powers of sexual intercourse. The titular zombie, played by model and porn star Francois Sagat, wanders from death scene to death scene in downtown L.A., preying upon (and in turn, raising) a varied cast of newly deceased characters.

The film was banned from MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival) this year after the Classification Board deemed it unsuitable for a screening exemption, due to its graphic depictions of sexual situations, including scenes which feature the titular zombie penetrating wounds.

MUFF wishes to publicly protest this ban, both as a show of support to Bruce LaBruce (a previous guest of the festival) and his film, which MUFF deems to be artistically significant, and also as a general stand against the often conservative and regressive decisions made by the Classification Board.

MUFF wishes to preserve artistic freedom, particularly for alternative or subversive cinema such as L.A. ZOMBIE. The festival’s firm view is that adult audiences are capable of contextualising confronting cinema, and should have the right to see adult films. As this opportunity has sadly been legally retracted in L.A. ZOMBIE’S case, MUFF instead offers a protest screening of the film to be held at a venue not yet announced on August 29th.

Join the MUFF XI Facebook page for the address of the venue 24 hours before the screening.

– MUFF to screen Bruce LaBruce’s banned L.A. ZOMBIE
– Melbourne Underground Film Festival

August 20, 2010
[Richard] Wolstencroft said that L.A. ZOMBIE gaining the tagline ‘gay zombie porn’ has helped fuel controversy, allowing its critics to claim the film has ‘gone too far’. He said that the Australian Classification Board occasionally singles out films such as L.A. ZOMBIE to generate publicity, and that this may have been a political decision.

‘I think it has been picked on because of the gay factor – you don’t know how much this has got to do with the election. I think if this was a zombie film where a zombie rapes a woman I don’t think that it would have got the same level of attention.’

Wolstencroft argues that L.A. ZOMBIE isn’t much more intense than LaBruce’s last film, OTTO; OR, UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE, which screened at MIFF in 2008 largely without controversy.

‘It’s slightly more intense – the horror elements have been ramped up a bit, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the hardcore version, Bruce LaBruce tells me.’

Following film festival releases of the edited version of L.A. ZOMBIE, a hardcore version will be marketed to the gay porn industry.

‘He is one of the most important queer filmmakers’, Wolstencroft said of LaBruce.

– L.A. ZOMBIE to get Melbourne screening

Australian premiere

On 29 August 2010, the Melbourne Underground Film Festival showed L.A. ZOMBIE at the 1000 £ Bend cafe.

Crikey’s Luke Buckmaster was at the screening and was not impressed by what he saw.

August 30, 2010
The crowd gathered last night at Melbourne indie bar 1000 Pound Bend learnt the location of the screening through announcements made on Facebook in the 24 hours leading up to it. We were instructed to keep mum and were warned that, should the police arrive and crash the party, our money would not be refunded.

A diverse audience were there to flick The Man the proverbial middle finger — I spotted hipsters, middle-aged men wearing straight-laced button up shirts, neck tattoos, a lonely mullet and some journalists from The Age mulling around outside.

But despite the screening being advertised in The Age (sans location) the fuzz were nowhere to be seen. Freedom of speech, it seems, scored a victory last night. The price? Tolerating the most putrid, repugnant and pointlessly gratuitous ‘film’ I’ve ever seen.

An hour before the screening, a young bohemian woman serving drinks at the bar downstairs said the film would go ahead ‘as long as the cops don’t show up’.

Despite my liberal-minded inclinations, when I mentally rewind last night’s screening I realise in hindsight that I’d be quite happy to see the boys and gals in blue lunging towards the DVD player to prevent the public from viewing the repugnant hour and a bit of filth that greeted our stunned eyes. Sure, we were warned not to bite the forbidden gay zombie fruit. But the sheer grotesquery of a film like LA ZOMBIE inevitably knocks you for six.

The concepts of ‘story’ or ‘characters’ are well out of the film’s reach. Viewers follow a blue-skinned zombie with husk-like teeth and blood stained lips as he staggers across LA, raping men who are either dead or close to dying. LaBruce’s cameras do not shy away from graphic depictions either.

The OFLC was right to ban the film from screening in general cinemas. It’s a p-rno of the rankest and smuttiest variety, a rare cinematic experience in which audiences cheer, squeal, hoot, boo, cover their eyes and generally struggle to find suitable reactions to watching a pastiche of horrific ‘there is no god’ sequences.

Melbourne Underground Film Festival director Richard Wolstencroft, who introduced the film with the curt words ‘fuck the censors’ will invariably argue that freedom of speech scored a victory last night. Maybe it did. But it’s hard to emerge from a film like LA ZOMBIE feeling like anything other than a loser.

– Cops didn’t show, but maybe they should have: gay zombie porno sickens

August 30, 2010
Dan G was at the screening with two friends. “I don’t think any of us really knew how it was all going to go down,” he tells Same Same. “Like, would the police show up? Would we be arrested and dragged off kicking and screaming? We had no idea.

“But I really wanted to see [LA ZOMBIE] and I was willing to risk it… so were my friends.”

The crowd ‘eewed’ and cheered their way through the film’s graphic ‘refused exemption’ scenes of blood, gore and gay zombie sex that included ‘wound penetration’ and ‘simulated necrophilia’ by the main character, played by pornstar Francois Sagat.

Movie punter Rick and his partner braved both the icy elements, controversy and the possible police intervention to attend Australia’s first screening of LA ZOMBIE.

“GRRR… Francois Sagat, Bruce La Bruce, hot gay sex… it was great! Totally worth it! I really loved Otto, and his new film delivered on the hype… or at least I thought so. I can’t believe all the controversy. I’m glad I had the chance to see for myself,” Rick told Same Same after the film.

“The organizers should be congratulated for having the balls to do this. It’s good to know that events like this – genuine protests like this – can happen. It’s important to stand up to things that you feel are not right.

“At the end of the day it’s art… it’s a movie… we are all adults and should be able to decide for ourselves what is right for us. That is not a crime. That’s a big part of why I’m here too.”

LA ZOMBIE has illegal Australian premiere [dead link]

Sydney screening

In November 2010, The Red Rattler in Marrickville programmed a censorship debate to discuss the banning of L.A. ZOMBIE.

November 5, 2010
In July the Australian Film Classification board refused to classify Bruce LaBruce’s feature film L.A. ZOMBIE. While this latest work by the renowned Canadian director has since screened at prestigious independent film festivals around the world, the Board’s decision prohibits the distribution and screening of L.A. ZOMBIE within Australia. Described as “zombie splatter-gore porn,”

LaBruce’s film seems to have attracted the attention of the Classification Board for its ‘Frankenstinian’ marriage of horror and gay hardcore. It is this provocative mixture of what we might colloquially term ‘cock and schlock’ that Spectacles of Perversion addresses.

A one-off public discussion that brings together cultural commentators and leading voices in anti-censorship debates, including leading anti-censorship lawyer Raena Lea-Shannon and underground film guru Jack Sargent. Spectacles of Perversion will engage with the L.A. ZOMBIE saga, as well as the broader issue of film censorship and its relation to queer representations of sex and sexuality.

With special guest Bruce LaBruce joining the discussions via live link from Toronto, this forum asks how we entertain the possibility of representing perversion writ large when departures from normative representations of sexuality continue to attract the juridical action of regulatory bodies such as the Classification Board.

Doors Open 7.30pm, $10, $7 con
Organised by Perv, a film and video festival dedicated to screening queerotic content.

– Spectacles of Perversion
– [dead link]

Lewis reports.
The censorship debate began around 8 pm and was moderated by Jack Sargent. Also on the panel were Raena Lea-Shannon and the woman who organised of the festival (whose name escapes me). On stage next to Jack was a monitor where we could see Bruce La Bruce. I was very impressed by this aspect of the evening as there were minimal delays and the fact that he was in Toronto was not an issue.

Bruce gave his opinions of the ban, and talked about censorship in Canada and that this influenced his decision to relocate to Los Angeles to shoot HUSTLER WHITE (1996).

Raena Lea-Shannon spoke about the ban and speculated that had the Sydney Film Festival programmed L.A.ZOMBIE, then it would have probably had the okay from the State government.

The panel concluded with a Q&A. Once again, this worked well considering Bruce was over in Canada.

Following a short break, a DVD of L.A. ZOMBIE was screened. It was the 63-minute softcore version that MIFF had programmed and MUFF had shown. Fortunately, the NSW Police did not arrive to remove the disc as they did in 2003 with KEN PARK (2002). This may have been because the actual screening was kept very low key, with the event advertised only as a debate.

The audience was around 100 to 150 people, the majority of which appeared to be gay or lesbian.

Don’t defy the censor

On 11 November 2010, the Victorian Police raided Richard Wolstencroft’s house searching for the copy of L.A. ZOMBIE that he had screened at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

November 11 & 12, 2010
The Police just raided my House looking for a copy of Bruce La Bruce’s LA ZOMBIE. I do not have one. Our copy was destroyed post MUFF 11.

I was interviewed on the matter of the screening and it appears I will be appearing before a court. Free Speech – Aint it grand!

Interesting way to start the day. I will be seeking legal advice for MUFF and myself.

I have no further comments to make on the Bruce La Bruce LA ZOMBIE raid of my house this morning following legal advice.

Have spoken to my lawyers and it is cleared for me to speak to the Media about the latest controversy.

– Richard Wolstencroft @richardw777

November 11, 2010
This morning, however, three detectives from the Melbourne Criminal Investigation Unit did attend, arriving on Wolstencroft’s doorstep with a warrant to enter his premises and search for any copies of the film.

It is believed the detectives considered removing every DVD in Wolstencroft’s house, as well as computers containing two movies on which he is working. They were eventually dissuaded by his insistence that he had destroyed his only copy of the film, on DVD, after the August screening. Wolstencroft also admitted to police that the August 29 screening had gone ahead and that he was solely responsible for it.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said Wolstencroft would face court at a later date.

Despite having frequently taken a defiantly anti-censorship position in the past, Wolstencroft appeared to be quite shaken by this morning’s events.

“I’ve never been charged with so much as jay-walking,” he told Fairfax.

“I find the situation that a little festival is being pursued in this way quite distressing and depressing.”

– Zombie-porn: festival director’s home raided by police

November 11, 2010
“We are just a small, independent film festival. We love independent cinema and obviously we are really surprised that this has happened,” Wolstencroft told AAP.

“We are talking to lawyers and we will prepare a defence.”

A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed that a 41-year-old Greensborough man was interviewed over the exhibition of an unclassified film.

He is expected to appear in court at a later date on unspecified charges.

Wolstencroft said the raid raises serious questions about freedom of speech.

At past festivals, organisers had prior warnings from police and had abandoned plans to exhibit unclassified films, but there was no warning about LA ZOMBIE, he said.

“We have exhibited lesbian films, gay films, controversial political films,” he said.

(LA ZOMBIE) is people acting. Bruce LaBruce is a well regarded international filmmaker. He is a former guest of the festival. He is a friend of the festival.

“I’m not sure what the problem is here.”

“Maybe something relating to zombie porn makes a great headline.”

– Zombie porn brings cops to life

November 12, 2010
The founder and director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) says the raid was “absurd, ridiculous and perverse”, and he wants to know why it took the police so long to act.

“Why was it (the raid) delayed six weeks? Why was I not charged two days later?” he told ABC News Online.

“Why did they (police) not come to the screening and let me know they had a problem and then we could have avoided this situation altogether.

“I just think the timing of this is interesting. Two weeks before the Victorian election … I’d like to look at the politics behind it – why this has happened at this moment.”

Wolstencroft says he has not yet been charged, but is worried he will get a criminal conviction and not be able to travel to the United States.

“As a working filmmaker I travel to America. I’m talking to Hollywood producers about doing my next film – that’s a major concern,” he said.

Wolstencroft is also suspicious about why police picked his house to raid.

“This is the first time a film festival director has had his house raided. Why didn’t they raid Richard Moore from the Melbourne International Film Festival? I’m sure he’s got a copy,” he said.

“He was going to play it, he was all over the media saying he was going to play it. I heard they were handing out copies to the media at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

“The copy we did have briefly was one of those copies.

“I think they’re targeting MUFF because it’s a little independent film festival. They’re picking on the little guy.”

Wolstencroft says he expected police to show up at the public screening but, when they did not show he thought he was in the clear.

“We were waiting for them (police) to turn up; we had a stand-by film we were going to play as a replacement film,” he said.

“We tried to play a lesbian film a few years back and the police did turn up at the screening. I thought something similar would happen here if they had a problem with the screening.”

Wolstencroft, who has long been vocal about freedom of speech, says during yesterday’s raid three police officers threatened to take all of his DVDs, including films he is working on.

“I have a personal collection of DVDs. I have the entire MUFF archive here – there must be 10,000 DVDs in my house,” he said.

“They threatened to take all this and obviously it would be held up for six months. It was just ridiculous.”

He says the banning of LA ZOMBIE is a prime example of Australia’s censors going too far.

“There is no way this film should be banned. It’s a major work of art,” he said.

“I’ve seen video installations at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the National Gallery in Canberra that have been more offensive, more outrageous,” he said.

“It’s playing at major film festivals – the Locarno Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival.

“If this was playing in a gallery, there is no way the police would come anywhere near it.”

– Filmmaker questions timing of zombie porn raid

The case proceeds

January 24, 2011
Melbourne Underground Film Festival director, Richard Wolstencroft, has addressed charges laid against him by Victorian Police after he screened a banned copy of the Canadian film L.A. ZOMBIE at last year’s festival.

“It is unfortunate that the year has begun with charges being laid against me and MUFF in relation to the screening of L.A. ZOMBIE at the close of last year’s successful festival,” Wolstencroft said, defending his decision to screen the film on anti-censorship grounds.

“L.A. ZOMBIE is a film made by a well-renowned and established queer filmmaker, Bruce LaBruce, who has had his work played at a number of established film festivals all over the world.”

“Our only intention was to play this important work of cinematic art to an appreciative adult audience after its screening was cancelled by the Melbourne International Film Festival due the OFLC’s absurd decision not to grant it exemption to screen.”

“We strongly reject the decision of the OFLC in this matter, considering it totally inappropriate and out of touch with community standards. Our screening at MUFF 11 went ahead and was a great success.”

“Two months later my home was raided by police searching for a copy of L.A. ZOMBIE. Why an artistic director who runs an established film festival like MUFF should have such draconian tactics used and applied to him over a work of art in our day and age is another problem altogether. I had made sure two months earlier that I didn’t have a copy and that our only copy had been destroyed. Worldwide media attention followed, including an article in The New York Times.”

“We received letters of support from Bruce LaBruce and Camille Paglia, Jack Sargeant, and a host of other film industry luminaries, including the directors of Toronto and the Raindance Film Festival. I would like to thank all of those who offered their support.”

“Last Thursday, January 20, I was informed that I had a summons to pick up at my local police station. I did so and immediately contacted my lawyers. Attached to the summons was a diversion notice, agreeing to settle the matter without a felony on my record and with a donation to charity.”

“If the matter were to proceed to court, the charges carry a potential penalty of two years jail and a large fine.”

“Two of Melbourne’s top legal minds, Bryce Menzies and Barrister Peter Clarke, have come to my defense pro bono. I feel I would like to pursue this matter further, but have been put between the proverbial rock and hard a place.”

“I shall be discussing this matter further with friends, advisors and my legal team.”

Wolstencroft and his legal team said they would issue another press release on the matter when the time is appropriate.

– Film Festival Director Addresses Police Charges
– Melbourne Underground Film Festival

The court case

February 21, 2011
I go to court Wednesday to face the music over last years LA ZOMBIE screening. Wish me luck peeps… and let’s hope for a non hanging judge!
Come along and support Free Speech: Melb. Magistrates Court, 233 William street, Wednesday 23rd, 9.30am. Be quiet, respectful & check it out.

February 22, 2011
spent day preparing my defense with my wonderful legal team of Bryce Menzies and barrister Peter Clarke for tomorrow’s court appearance over the LA ZOMBIE screening at MUFF 11. Ready.

February 23, 2011
Diversion order held and accepted by Magistrate Luisa Bazzani. Donation to charity ordered. Case settled, no charge. I’m happy with result.
Ok that’s sorted: Mystery MUFF this Sunday, Advocate For Fagdom. See why Bruce LaBruce’s work so challenges both the straight and gay world.
Oh, and, yes, the censorship board has given us permission to play it! Yea!

– Richard Wolstencroft @richardw777

The outcome

Richard Wolstencroft settled the L.A. ZOMBIE screening case with the payment of $750 to the Royal Children’s Hospital.

February 24, 2011
Wolstencroft admitted to police that he was solely responsible for the screening. Under the classification laws, he faced a maximum penalty of two years in jail or a $28,668 fine.

At yesterday’s hearing at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court, magistrate Luisa Bazzani granted Wolstencroft, who has no criminal record, a diversionary order. No conviction has been recorded against him.

Speaking outside the court, Wolstencroft admitted he felt ”a little chastened” by the experience.

While still railing against this country’s censorship laws, he said he was unlikely to challenge them in such a direct way in the future.

”But I am giving some serious thought to holding the next MUFF in exile,” he added.

Mr Wolstencroft now has the small matter of a legal bill to settle. To that end, he is hosting a fundraising screening at Red Bennies on Chapel Street on Sunday night.

The film is THE ADVOCATE OF FAGDOM — a documentary about Bruce LaBruce, the director of L.A. ZOMBIE.

– Gay zombie porn movie saga finally settles

June 26, 2011
Received a notice of Completion of The Diversion Program in relation to the LA ZOMBIE charge. That officially settles it. Over. Kafka smafka.

– Richard Wolstencroft @richardw777

September 2011
During 2010-11, the Director finalised 506 applications for exemption to publicly exhibit unclassified films at film festivals and special film events. The Director refused an exemption for one film, L.A.ZOMBIE, within one of these applications.

Five complaints were received in relation to film festivals in the reporting period. Three complaints were about the L.A. ZOMBIE not being able to be screened in a film festival.

– Classification Board
– Annual Report, 2010 to 2011

Controversy means free publicity

Richard Wolstencroft is no stranger to programming films that attract the attention of the censor. In 2004, they forced him to drop four titles from MUFF followed by seven in 2007.

November 12, 2012
Wolstencroft says MUFF is not solely driven by a desire to create controversy, but he understands the value of it.

“I have a friend in the advertising industry who said with regards to the L.A. ZOMBIE controversy that if you were to buy that kind of coverage it would cost over 1.5 million dollars. We had front pages, articles inside newspapers and lots of other things.”

Given the publicity benefits associated with copping a knuckle slapping from the censors, it seems logical that canny organisers might try to take advantage of this — in turn creating a culture in which programmers choose risque films with the intention of getting one banned and revelling in the subsequent exposure.

Wolstencroft says this isn’t a realistic option because our censorship bodies are too unpredictable. “You can never tell what is going to be banned,” he says.

The most controversial feature he programmed on this year’s MUFF bill was DONKEY LOVE, a documentary exploring the sexual relationships between Columbian men and their donkeys. It played during the festival in August; Wolstencroft says the ACB raised the film with him but did not request a copy to review. It also screened at the Sydney Underground Film Festival a couple of weeks later.

“You get to see people in the distance doing it in wider shots. That’s fairly confronting. I’m not sure it’s entirely ethical,” says Wolstencroft.

“Within the first five minutes of DONKEY LOVE, someone has fucked a donkey and it gets worse and worse. It’s an amazing documentary (and) we got full permission from them (the Classification Board) to play it.”

– A handy tip for festival organisers: get your films banned
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