An Open Letter In Support of The Melbourne Underground Film Festival by Jack Sargeant

November 12, 2010

An Open Letter In Support of The Melbourne Underground Film Festival

Bruce LaBruce is an internationally renowned filmmaker and writer. His works
have screened across the globe: at the New York Museum of Modern Art, the
Sundance Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival,
the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and many others. Several of his
films have also screened to appreciative Australian film festival audiences. His
films are readily available to rent and buy, both internationally and nationally,
where many have been released on DVD.

Mixing black comedy, politics, genre, melodrama and porn, LaBruce’s films tell
stories of homosexual desire, of lust and love, all shot through with a low budget,
post-punk aesthetic that pays homage to both underground cinema and
Hollywood classics. He has a dedicated cult fan base and his work is central in
both indie film and contemporary GLBT cinema, a documentary study of
LaBruce’s work is due to premiere at a major European film festival in 2011.

His most recent movie, LA Zombie follows a ‘gay’ ‘zombie’ who, rather than killing
brings the dead back to life by having sex with them. The sex, much of which is
faked, is, behind the ʻshockingʼ concept, gentle and loving. Beneath the stage-
bloodied zombie movie is a tender film about the regenerative powers of sex and

Film fans across the world were surprised when LA Zombie was ʻbannedʼ during
the Melbourne International Film Festival. When the film was subsequently
screened with no police interference to an appreciative audience as part of the
Melbourne Underground Film Festival many praised the event for enabling an
audience to see the work.

It is, then, troubling that Richard Wolstencroft, the director of the Melbourne
Underground Film Festival, had his house raided on 11th November by
detectives searching for a copy of the film. The involvement of Victoria Police and
the threat of legal action simply for screening a film that has already played to
global audiences is deeply disturbing.

The image of the police and courts enforcing censorship is never pretty; when the
target is the work of an internationally famous gay filmmaker it is downright
shameful. The threat of legal action simply for screening a film is part of an
increasingly hysterical response that can only have a detrimental effect to
filmmakers and audiences in Australia.

As filmmakers, film fans, and consenting adults, we roundly condemn the
banning of this film and the possibility of legal action against the director of an
independent film festival.

Jack Sargeant
Richard Sowada
Anne Demy-Geroe
Julie Rigg
Dov Kornits
Christina Andreef
Fiona Patten
Maija Howe
Dominique Angeloro
Dan Angeloro
Jon Hewitt
Stefan Popescu
Katherine Berger
Dean Bertram
Mathieu Ravier
Daniel Palisa
Michael Adams
Dejan Ognjanovic
David Leadbetter
Matthew Clayfield
Jane Louise
Brendan Walls
Dave de Vries
Frank Howsom
Bec Sutherland
Leigh Barnes
Joel Brady
Ian Drummond
Simon Strong

Craig Baldwin
David Flint
Carl Ford
Mitch Davis
Michael Tierney

8 Responses to “An Open Letter In Support of The Melbourne Underground Film Festival by Jack Sargeant”

  1. Frank Howson said

    I have made 14 films as a producer/screenwriter and directed 4 of them. These films have won many awards here and internationally and have been sold to Miramax, Warners, Disney, Paramount as other such notible overseas distributors.

    I have known Richard Wolstencroft for nearly 20 years and actually gave him one of his directing jobs on a film of mine “The Intruder.” I know him to be a gentleman and a man who is sincerely passionate about film and our local industry. In my opinion we need more people like him in our industry if it is to survive. If his recent enthusiasm for a film has somehow transgressed a law then trust me he would only have done that because of his genuine belief in the artistic intregrity of that movie. He is not a phoney. And I would ask that this man, his talent and his important future work be taken into account when he comes to court. The industry simply can’t afford to frustrate such people out of existence. They are what keeps it vibrant, exciting, and alive.

    I cannot vouch for him enough.


    Frank Howson

  2. you may sign me in!

    Thomas Groh (film critic, Germany)

  3. Dee Shanger (Exp't'l filmmaker; Toronto/Iceland) said

    In the first place this film should never-ever have been banned – its genius filmmaking at its best!!! By way of introduction here, I’ve known Bruce LaBruce since the old FUNNEL EXPERIMENTAL FILM THEATRE days in Toronto (1977-89).

    When will they ever learn??? Before the ban a few packed cinema’s worth of folks would of seen this & loved it. Now, doubly so cuz of the ban & subsequent raiding by the police, you have a whole nation & the world screaming to watch this film. I repeat, when will they ever learn. Censorship doesn’t work & should be abolished.

    Now, I see numerous ugly presidents being set here. First and foremost, what a person does in his/her own house is there business and none of the “states” concern!!! Secondly – and probably why they raided his house in the first place – since it was banned & they privately screened it “publicly” (private, being dee operative legal word here), maybe some dorky bureaucrat thought that this was a real day to remember if anyone would go against dee wishes of the state again – who has dee longest dick syndrome folks!!! Thirdly, I think Richard Wolstencroft should never-ever of destroyed his copy of LA Zombie in front of the police, so as to stop the police from taking his computers’n’stuff – to be taken away as evidence. Yes, it would of being the harder road to take in not destroying the LAZ DVD, but you would then have had a more effective legal & precedent-setting case. Y’arrr!!! as is, sue dee fuck’arrrrs anyhow!!! All dee filmmaking world in in solidarity with MUFF here!!! O’mmmmmmmmmmmmm…..

  4. Bruce LaBruce’s film in question was selected for the prestigious MIX New York Film Festival last night and was screened to an overflow crowd. It is not easy for a film to be chosen to either open or close this wonderful unique film festival and La Zombie was celebrated not censored.

    Barbara Hammer

  5. Bruce LaBruce is an internationally known filmmaker and however controversial, his work is not overtly prurient nor purely pornography.

    I have screened most if not all of LaBruce’s films at my cinemas in the USA – in Cincinnati – where they didn’t blink an eyelid – the same city that raided Mapplethorpe and in the UK. if Cincinnati can stand “No Skin off My Ass” then “LA Zombie” surely in 2010 is acceptable to play to an audience that CHOOSES to be there.

    This case seems tragic as Richard Wolstencroft is an internationally recognized curator and champion of film known well beyond the greater Melbourne area. It saddens me that he faces such diabolical treatment from clearly ill-informed “law” officers.

    This provincial and deeply embarrassing raid by the local police will only serve to highlight their lack of knowledge about this director and seemingly the international standing and importance of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

    Please know that this raid will be seen around the world as backward, ill-informed, outrageous and anti-cultural. If the Melbourne police want to stand for this
    and it should be said – homophobic – then this is the perfect marketing tool for Melbourne, Inc.

    I urge the local officials to drop the harassment of Richard Wolstencroft and the Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

  6. Adam Hyman said

    Banned? Aren’t we past this yet? This work is not offensive. It’s only work with homoerotic content of an artistic nature that gets attacked, not the mindless porn.

  7. […] Lastly, Jack Sargeant has penned a fantastic open letter in support of Wolstencroft and MUFF. […]

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