News & commentary

Mar 5, 2013

James Franco to the rescue: Hollywood star slams Australian Classification Board

In the wake of Australia's latest film censorship controversy, Hollywood star James Franco has weighed in, slamming the Classification Board.

Luke Buckmaster — Writer, Critic and The Daily Review Journalist

Luke Buckmaster

Writer, Critic and The Daily Review Journalist

They are regular albeit unpredictable events emblazoned on the Australian film culture calendar. Observers know of them all too well: government-financed productions directed by clipboard-wielding people in dark screening rooms.

They are, of course, the critically lambasted antics of our national censorship body, the Australian Classification Board.

The most recent instalment premiered late last month, when up-and-coming American filmmaker Travis Matthews’ drama I Want Your Love was granted an RC rating, effectively banning it from Australian screens. The film, which depicts graphic homosexual sex, was due to play at festivals across the country.

This arrived four months after Canadian horror-comedy Father’s Day was similarly banned. Before that, Norwegian horror/thriller The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) was OKed for distribution in May 2011. In an embarrassing about-face it was banned late November, then, with less than one minute shaved off its running time, re-granted an R classification.

This time is a little different, in the sense Hollywood has become involved. At least, one man: 34-year-old actor, filmmaker, teacher and one-time Academy Awards host James Franco.

The Oscar-nominated star of 127 Hours and Oz the Great and Powerful (which opens in Australian cinemas this Thursday) has weighed into the Australian censorship debate via this video message, in which he speaks directly to the Classification Board.

Franco, who has previously worked with Matthews, describes the banning of I Want Your Love as “hypocritical” and “disappointing”:

“Travis is making this film, including sex, because he wants to explore story and character and the nuances that sex contains.

“Because films have been banned because of sex, sex and films hasn’t had a chance to grow and become a sophisticated storytelling device. And frankly adults should be able to choose. They’re not going in blind. I don’t know why in this day and age, something like this — a film that is using sex not for titillation but to talk about being human — is being banned. It’s just embarrassing.”

The Australian Classification Board not just embarrasses by the films it chooses to ban and the inconsistencies in its approach — it also embarrasses by the films it allows to screen, or simply doesn’t bother to review.

Last August, a documentary feature called Donkey Love played at both the Melbourne Underground Film Festival and the Sydney Underground Film Festival. The film explores the sexual relationships between Colombian men and their donkeys.

“Within the first five minutes of Donkey Love, someone has fucked a donkey and it gets worse and worse,” said MUFF director Richard Wolstencroft, who was surprised the censorship body let it pass. “We got full permission from them [the Classification Board] to play it.”

They didn’t, in fact, even request a copy to review.

The implication appears to be obvious: a film featuring sex with donkeys is OK; a film that depicts homosexual sex is a no-no.

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8 thoughts on “James Franco to the rescue: Hollywood star slams Australian Classification Board

  1. Media Regulation | VCE Media, VELS Media, Media Arts, digital literacy, media education, filmmaking | lessonbucket

    […] classification controversy: rating drops from MA to M, doors open for the kidsJames Franco to the rescue: Hollywood star slams Australian Classification BoardTHE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA AUTHORITYThe ACMA is a government body responsible for […]

  2. How Reasonable Things Still Get Banned by the Australian Classification Board - News - Concrete Playground Sydney

    […] is the banning of American director Travis Mathews' film I Want Your Love, which was brought to national attention this week when James Franco filmed himself sitting on a sofa in a Hawaiian shirt, declared the […]

  3. Week 4 – Analysing policy: Focus on media regulation | BCM 310- Anneliese P

    […] to read about what hasn’t passed classification, what has been banned and on what grounds. A hot topic at the moment is the banning of the film ‘I Want Your Love’ in Australia due to grap… I do think it’s important for a body, government or independent, to regulate the media that is […]

  4. mark pope

    If the USA is so much better at recognizing the validity of the art of this narrative film how come the director had to go to a gay porno company to get it made? Because everyone in the US narrative film making business can recognize a porn film when they read the script. How come they had to use amateurs instead of professional actors? Cause you can’t get professional actors to do porn, especially not on a porn film’s budget. Film festival programmers censor films every festival when they choose which ones to reject, often because they don’t like the director or because the film does not have the obligatory naked guys in the pool scene which any honest gay film festival programmer will admit they always like to program in their festival.

  5. Matters Peter

    James Franco misunderstands the function of the Australian Classification Board. The subjects censored are freely discussed behind every school shelter shed in the land. But then, the Board is not intended to protect the virtues of our school children, it is meant to protect our wowsers – sorry, if James does not understand the word – from ever finding out that the human body is neither sinful or dirty. For if the wowsers did find out that they had sat on the pendulum to stop it from moving right up to the 1960s they would have to acknowledge that it was their narrow mindedness which caused that pendulum to literally jump to the other extreme of the swing, when sex became a game where the highest score wins.


    What about “Lady Chatterley’s Donkey”?

  7. prembrowne

    Clearly the donkeys were female…
    Luke, you hit the nail on the head when you highlighted the inconsistencies in the banning of films in Australia. I would be interested to know which countries DO allow ‘I Want Your Love’ to be screened. Many, I expect.

  8. Jesse mandragoria

    i guess the the good news (or the bad news from the directors/studio/et al. point of view) is this will probably inspire people to go out of their way to see it. nothing works like “censorship” to increase a films viewing.

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