Are there now crimes that cannot be depicted in film?…And is the job of film censor becoming a little ‘political’?

Posted: 9 March, 2015 in BBFC Bans
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Hate Crime is a 2013 USA action horror thriller by James Cullen Bressack.
Starring Jody Barton, Nicholas Clark and Greg Depetro. Youtube link BBFC link IMDb The film has just been banned by the BBFC for 2015 Horror Show VoD.

The BBFC commented:

BBFC logo HATE CRIME focuses on the terrorisation, mutilation, physical and sexual abuse and murder of the members of a Jewish family by the Neo Nazi thugs who invade their home. The physical and sexual abuse and violence are accompanied by constant strong verbal racist abuse. Little context is provided for the violence beyond an on screen statement at the end of the film that the two attackers who escaped were subsequently apprehended and that the one surviving family member was released from captivity. We have considered the attempt at the end to position the film as against hate-crime, but find it so unconvincing that it only makes matters worse.

The BBFC’s Guidelines on violence state that ‘Any depiction of sadistic or sexual violence which is likely to pose a harm risk will be subject to intervention through classification, cuts or even, as a last resort, refusal to classify. We may refuse to classify content which makes sexual or sadistic violence look appealing or acceptable […] or invites viewer complicity in sexual violence or other harmful violent activities. We are also unlikely to classify content which is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example, it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) that it may pose a harm risk.’

It is the Board’s carefully considered conclusion that the unremitting manner in which HATE CRIME focuses on physical and sexual abuse, aggravated by racist invective, means that to issue a classification to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board’s Guidelines, would risk potential harm, and would be unacceptable to broad public opinion.

Of course, the Board will always seek to deal with such concerns by means of cuts or other modifications when this is a feasible option. However, under the heading of ‘Refusal to classify’ our Guidelines state that ‘As a last resort, the BBFC may refuse to classify a work, in line with the objective of preventing non-trivial harm risks to potential viewers and, through their behaviour, to society. We may do so, for example, where a central concept of the work is unacceptable, such as a sustained focus on sexual or sadistic violence. Before refusing classification we will consider whether the problems could be adequately addressed through intervention such as cuts.’ The Board considered whether its concerns could be dealt with through cuts. However, given that the fact that unacceptable content runs throughout the work, cuts are not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.

See article from . The Director James Cullen Bressack responded:

james cullen bressack I am honoured to know that my mind is officially too twisted for the UK. So it goes…I find it unbelievable that a film that shows little to no on screen violence and no nudity was actually banned. it just shows the power of what is implied and peoples imagination; and is a testament to the fact that the same crimes that happen in the world are truly horrifying.

And an article from the director continues:

As a Jewish man, and a victim of anti -Semitic hate, I made a horror film that depicts the very thing that haunts my dreams. As an artist I wanted to tell a story to remind us that we live in a dangerous world; a world where racial violence is on the rise. It saddens me to learn that censorship is still alive and well.

Despite the lurid language used by the BBFC, reviewers have concurred that the violence and sexual violence is not explicitly portrayed. For example, see review from

Clocking in at just over an hour, its not an exceptionally long feature film and with it being a low budget production, not all the acting is up to the standards of the Royal Shakespeare Company (so to speak). Also, some of the more brutal scenes are perhaps more implied than shown (the wife and daughter get to keep their underwear on for the most part whilst being sexually assaulted). But then, many might argue that’s a good thing and in any case, does not detract from the extremely uncomfortable nature of it all.

The film as described in the language of ‘outrage’ by the BBFC doesn’t quite tally with even mainstream film reviews. Well known US film critic Roger Ebert was quoted in an article from saying that he gave the film 2.5 stars, saying of the film:

Actually more of a thriller than a social commentary. the film holds our attention and contains surprises right until the end and raises complex moral issues that makes the movie more thought-provoking than we could possibly have expected.

So it would seem that the ban is more about the racist invective, than the portrayal of the violence. And of course there’s also the ever important political correctness aspect, that the the film would be unacceptable to broad public opinion .

Perhaps it is also relevant to note here that the BBFC has been lobbied by a political group on the subject of the censorship of racism. From an article from :

Danny Stone the director of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism told the Jewish Chronicle:

We welcome this decision [to ban Hate Crime]. We have worked closely with the BBFC over a number of years and are confident they not only have the right systems in place for certification, but a robust position on anti-Semitism and racism .

Could it be that the job of film censor is becoming a little ‘political’. The BBFC now has to determine if it is acceptable to depict crimes that are PC sensitive, regardless of the director wanting to highlight the abhorrence of the racist crime portrayed.


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