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British film board rejects 'disturbing' sexual torture film

Is Obscenity Law undermined by extreme porn?

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There is clearly no meeting of minds. Both she and China Hamilton are adamant that this is not a film about sex or intended for sexual arousal.

Cataloguing a list of films that include unpleasant images of torture – from Hostel to V for Vendetta – China Hamilton describes the BBFC as "daft as a brush".

He says: "The BBFC has a long history of passing for release unpleasant films that boast of their extreme and violent content.

"The problem was that we did too good a job: this film was intended to be a disturbing and realistic film about a serious subject. The narrative echoes what was accepted with little difficulty in Closet Land, which also included extreme images of torture. The only difference lies in the extent to which the victim remains fully clothed and the fact that the BBFC seem to equate nudity with sexual arousal."

Both he and Niki Flynn are adamant that the BBFC position is hypocritical. Flynn, in particular, is scathing of an attitude that, she says, regularly permits depictions of male torture, but which sees women as somehow fragile and in need of extra protection. This attitude is "patronising and insulting".

The BBFC rejects this accusation, arguing that they are not imposing moral judgements, but merely applying the law. Their experience, gained from viewing hundreds of films every year, gives them a very clear insight into what constitutes material that is sexual in nature and potentially harmful. Their spokeswoman conceded that for a select audience attuned to BDSM values, this film may not be seen as sexual – but the role of the BBFC is to consider the likely effect of the film on a range of audiences, including young people with a far less developed view of sex.

She further pointed out that outright rejection was an extremely rare occurrence.

One last observation by Niki Flynn seems set to cause future mischief. The government, with its legislation on extreme porn, has now put in place a legal system whereby what is not obscene in law if viewed by an individual is obscene if published or put out on DVD. Far from restricting the availability of extreme material, the government may have just undermined existing laws on Obscenity.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice was unconvinced.

The producers of NF713 now have 42 days in which to appeal. As far as we are aware, they have not yet decided whether or not to do so. ®

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