This Film Is Not Yet Rated Kirby Dick

This Film Is Not Yet Rated Kirby Dick
Taking on one of the most secretive and powerful organisations in Hollywood might be career suicide, but documentary director Kirby Dick isn’t afraid of challenging material (he’s got Sick, about masochist Bob Flanagan, on his resume). Having watched the end result, making a film about the C.I.A. or secret fraternal organsations might be easier than taking on the MPAA, the American ratings board that determines the age appropriate "stamp” that goes on any theatrical release. (Without them, or worse yet, with the dreaded NC-17 rating, exhibitors won’t go near a film and neither will advertising outlets.) Amongst the comparisons between straight and gay sex, indie and studio-backed film, and graphic killing vs. graphic loving arguments, two frightening facts emerge: that the MPAA operates in unbelievable secrecy, revealing neither its raters nor the standards it’s applying, and that during its own internal appeals process (again, which is anonymous and mysterious), a filmmaker is not allowed to cite precedent to prove their case. Thus, when the South Park guys wanted to call their big-screen debut All Hell Breaks Loose, and were "slapped” with an NC-17 rating for the title alone, they were barred from listing other hellish titles in their own defence. (Hellraiser, Hell House and From Hell all got an R but none could be pointed to as a "what about them?”) Hilariously, as co-creator Matt Stone reveals in one DVD deleted scene, they got an R for their alternate title, Bigger, Longer and Uncut, only to get a panicked phone call two weeks later from the MPAA saying they only just "got” the joke and that it should in fact be an NC-17. (Too bad, said the South Park guys, the posters have been printed, and with Paramount’s muscle behind them, that was enough.) Director Kirby Dick puts a lot of effort into using a private detective to track down the identities of the MPAA’s raters, but even the surface evidence is damning enough that this organisation has way too much power, too much influence and nowhere near the appropriate transparency about it. Not the best doc ever but chilling in its revelations. Plus: commentary, director Q&A. (Mongrel Media)