UPDATE 20/9/2011: Yesterday this blog was the first news outlet to confirm that director Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film has been banned by the Classification Review Board. This afternoon the CRB distributed an official media release which opens with the following sentences:

A three member panel of the Classification Review Board (the Review Board) has by unanimous decision determined that the film A Serbian Film is classified RC (Refused Classification).

In the Review Board’s opinion, A Serbian Film could not be accommodated within the R 18+ classification as the level of depictions of sexual violence, themes of incest and depictions of child sexual abuse in the film has an impact which is very high and not justified by context.

What the release doesn’t explain is why the same film was green lit for distribution in Australia with an R+ rating only three weeks ago. The fact that the CRB can come up with two very different rulings, as I noted below, sends a clear message that our classification system is fickle and inconsistent.

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Director Srdjan Spasojevic’s controversial psychosexual thriller A Serbian Film was given an RC (Refused Classification) rating this afternoon by the Classification Review Board, effectively banning it from sale and distribution in Australia. The CRB will release an official statement tomorrow, but their decision — a U-turn on their ruling in April to pass it with an R18+ rating — was revealed late this afternoon on Twitter by the film’s distributor, Accent Films, who broadcast the following tweet to their less than 400 followers:

A SERBIAN FILM has been refused classification by the Classification Review Board. That’s democracy, right? What’s next, a media inquiry???

The film was initially banned by the CRB in November 2010. Accent shaved two minutes off the running time, re-submitted it for classification, and it was banned again in February. A second censored version was passed in April and released on DVD in August in every state except South Australia, where it was KBed by the state’s Classification Council (the only state body with the power to overturn federal classifications).

South Australian Attorney-General John Rau, who watched the film, urged the government to overturn its classification. Rau said last month:

I am strongly of the opinion that A Serbian Film should not be released at all and I have asked the federal government to take urgent action to reconsider its classification of the film. Some of the scenes in the DVD are so depraved that I am not prepared to even describe them in any detail.

Given today’s ruling, Rau will presumably be celebrating right about now with a fresh cup of camomile chased by a cheeky after dinner lamington.

One of the side effects of the CRB’s decision is that it detracts from the organisation as a reputable decision-making body. To give the film a green light one week, and rescind that decision three weeks later, with potentially significant effects on the stores that bought copies and the distributor which supplied them, sends a message that our classification system is fickle and inconsistent.

Accent Films smelt something funny in the air. At 6:35pm they tweeted:

BTW, we have a great relationship with Classification Board. This is really not their doing. It’s political.

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