August 5, 2008

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

Who rates the movies you watch? The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), of course. But who are the actual people that decide a film’s rating? The answer is, nobody knows.

So filmmaker Kirby Dick hired private investigators to uncover the identities of the members who make up the MPAA’s ratings board. The result is This Film is Not Yet Rated, an engrossing documentary about how movie ratings are assigned, how directors battle with the MPAA over the content of their film (and usually lose), and why we may be letting a small panel of people commit censorship on a daily basis.

Dick interviews many well-known directors whose films have been rated NC-17 by the MPAA, including Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jersey Girl), Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry), and John Waters (Pink Flamingos, A Dirty Shame). Most major movie studios will not release an NC-17 film, let alone promote it. So if a director wants their NC-17 film to reach a mainstream audience, he or she needs to make cuts to their film for it to receive an R rating. And if they decide not to cut their film and appeal their rating, they’re not allowed to cite other films as examples or precedents.

The NC-17 material in nearly all the examples Dick shows is of a sexual nature, and often it’s the portrayal of gay sex in films that cause them to be rated NC-17. Dick even uses a split screen to compare gay sex scenes to straight ones. In each instance, the sex act or position is identical, but each “gay” film received an NC-17, while each “straight” film received only an R.

At the end of This Film is Not Yet Rated, life imitates art as Dick submits his film to the MPAA; of course, it’s rated NC-17. He then appeals his rating to a different set of MPAA board members (including two members of the clergy!), while his PIs do some snooping about the identity of this “shadow board” as well.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids want to see it?
This documentary about movie ratings, sex vs. violence, and creative freedom should be kept away from young eyes and ears. For Dick to make his point, he shows A LOT of graphic sex scenes. High-school teenagers could probably cope, and they’ve probably seen much worse on the Internet (a point made by both Smith and Waters).

Will your FilmMother want to see it?
If you’re comfortable watching sex scenes with your FilmMother and hearing frank talk about sexual acts, I recommend you watch This Film Is Not Yet Rated together. Every adult should see how the MPAA may have other interests in mind than helping parents (the connection between the MPAA, film studios, and theater owners is stupefying).

This Film is Not Yet Rated
* Director: Kirby Dick
* Screenwriter: Eddie Schmidt, Kirby Dick
* Stars: Allison Anders, David Ansen, Darren Aronofsky, Jamie Babbit, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan, Stephen Farber, Mary Harron, Kimberly Peirce, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, John Waters
* MPAA Rating: Unrated (includes adult language, nudity, and strong sexual content)

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1 comment:

Gemma said...

Wow. Sounds like an interesting look into the workings of the MPAA. I'll try to find the DVD to rent. Might not be easy in T-qua, we don't even have a chain video store, just some Mom and Pops.


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