Australian Censorship Story

April 27, 2008

I was interviewed a few months back by journalist Rebecca Harkins Cross. Her article is featured in the current issue of Filmink magazine (out now). Its all about the state of play in the Australian Censorship debates and related Freedom of Speech issues.

Since last year’s banning of seven films by the OFLC, I have been formulating and researching a paper on the issue of Australian Censorship. It is to be delivered at MUFF 9’s Academy, with our own debate to follow after it’s delivery. Hopefully, we can record this debate on video.

Harkins Cross’ article in Filmink starts with an interesting layman’s introduction to censorship in Australia with interviews with the likes of David Haines famous porn producer (of “Buffy Down Under”) and ex-censor. The absurdity of different government bodies at State and Federal levels creating excess bureaucracy is covered, all eventually falling under the aegis of The OFLC.

Megan Spencer is quoted as an anti censorship campaigner, though her actual credentials in this area go little beyond the spoken or written word. Margaret Pomeranz, who staged the cool (though, unsuccessful) civil disobedience screening of Larry Clark’s masterpiece Ken Park is also quoted well, condemning censorship. David Stratton is also revealed as an anti censorship campaigner from his days at the SFF, also covered in his new ‘golden showers’ titled book “I Peed on Fellini”

In the article, I talk about the attempted David Irving MUFF screening separating the true anti-censorship campaigners – from those who just want to un-censor the work of those they admire – which raises the important (and divisive) issue of unpopular speech. Harkins Cross also reports on MUFF’s civil disobedience success with a Tony Comstock illegal screening a few years back and our history in this area. She forgets to mention MUFF has had films banned almost ever single year by the fucking wowsers at the OFLC and we even had censorship/banned films as our theme at MUFF 2. Most stuff we want to play at MUFF, of a sexual nature, is classic 70’s porn. Most of it is tame, has artistic merit and funny classic kitsch value. All the while, X rated films (supposedly illegal) are for sale everywhere at all sex shops in Melbourne and Sydney. Why is the law enforced at MUFF and not in sex shops Australia wide, we asked at MUFF 8? To no answer, by the way…

Not covered in the article either is details of the banning of 70K, a documentary by and about Melbourne Graffiti artists from MUFF 8. This is the height of the Nanny State in my eyes!

Also, Harkins Cross doesn’t fully explore the internet making mute the issue of censorship debates. From any internet terminal you can download images and movies from hard core and S&M porn and just about anything else from the weird world of sexuality. The pornucopia and freedom of the internet makes the idea of censorship void and just like the sage words of former censor, turned porn producer David Haines, “… like putting a finger in the dam”.

The usual idiots at Family Associations are quoted and they can take their Christian ethics and move back to the Middle ages with the Muslims, if they like. They are all sheep fast asleep, reproducing the prole’s and world polluters of tomorrow. But some of us are awake, in the ‘now’ and seek libertine freedoms beyond mere Christian ethics. And since what one does in one’s own home or in one’s own time is one’s own business, Family Groups should stick, like Jesus said, to “going forth and multiplying”, while others face the exciting realities of the modern world, uncensored.

In some good news, the OFLC has recently been disbanded and made into a classification body, as suggested 3 years ago in the MUFF manifesto see article 31 here.

What the new bodies will mean all depends on the enforcement issue. In this supposed enlightened Rudd State surely a bit of Blair style leniency and promiscuity should be encouraged?

Do you know we can’t make porn films legally here in this country?

Tom McEvoy and Anna Brownfield should also have been interviewed about their ground breaking cinematic work for the censorship article.

All round though, Harkins Cross’ article is good, informative and timely, fore running a much needed public debate at, say, one of the larger film festivals, to bring this issue into the foreground of the film community, where it needs to be.

In an interesting development covered in the Filmink article, the Sydney Film Festival has been granted an exemption to play refused classification works from the Attorney General. That is great news. Does that apply to MIFF and MUFF in Victoria, as well, we wonder? I intend to program some appropriately interesting films at MUFF 9 to find out. Along, with what I hope will be my magisterial anti censorship document and forum. This should all go towards furthering and expanding the censorship debate in Oz, don’t you think?

If anyone knows how to attach a pdf her at WordPress, post a comment and let me know.

Just to be naughty, here are three images – that took me five minutes to download from the net – that all break the stupid censorship laws in this country. The images are of penetrative sex, spanking and bondage. If these images are not to your taste or not what you’d like to defend – maybe stay out of the censorship debate. And, keep in mind, porn is only one avenue of the complex censorship issue.

4 Responses to “Australian Censorship Story”

  1. Richard said

    do you think all censorship should be removed, including child pornography, rape and snuff?

    don’t mean to judge but are you just another person who wants to see censorship removed from what they feel is acceptable?

    cheers, rich.

  2. richard777 said

    Hi Rich,

    RE: My own view of censorship limits and ‘grey areas’.

    I think I am a fair libertarian in this regard… with some obvious limits.

    As long as what is on screen is not an actual crime, it should not be censored. I said something to this effect, along with US filmmaker and anti censorship campaigner Tony Comstock in the Filmink article.

    Things like snuff, rape, child porn etc., should be banned, as what is portrayed on screen is an actual crime.

    But, say, fake ‘rape’ porn (i.e where people are pretending to be raped) this should be legal, same with fake ‘snuff’ films like the Japanese ‘Guinea Pig’ movies, even though I find these gross and unwatchable. Same, even, for some ‘child porn’, where no child is being abused, like in the writings of Peter Sotos or the photography of David Hamilton, etc.

    Beyond David Irving (who some argue is a racist), Racist speech itself should be protected. Like that in the Turner Diaries or that of Francis Parker Yockey, etc, as it represents a political and cultural opinion.

    Also, live news footage of death scenes or executions like in the ‘Faces of Death’ series or Saddam’s execution, should be legal, too. Even though its a kind of ‘grey area’.

    Other ‘grey areas’ are: Bumfights, it should not be banned, even though it participates in inciting minor violence against the homeless on screen. More importantly it documents a psychopathology of the filmmakers that is important to be aware of. Same for graffiti artists who document their crimes, thereby understanding and communicating their outsider artistic vision. Both of these are minor ‘crimes’ and not worthy of censorship and mitigate even Comstock’s and my own initial statements about ‘legality’.

    But serious crimes made for pornographic purposes, I am comfortable with being banned.

    If that makes me a censor at this limit, that’s OK, by me.

    I believe it leaves a very wide area for artistic expression, pornography and even simple documentation of reality, even the seedier side.

    Does that answer you question?



  3. Richard said

    very well answered, thanks. rich.

  4. […] all about the state of play in the Australian Censorship debates and related Freedom of Speech issue Lines: Why won’t Boris reveal his Games plan? Independent Banish any thought thatex-Tory MP […]

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