‘Crazy and controversial’: why censorship laws permit offensive movies to be shown

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The directors of the Sydney Underground Film Festival, Stefan Popescu and Katherine Berger.

The directors of the Sydney Underground Film Festival, Stefan Popescu and Katherine Berger.Credit:Steven Siewert

But festivals such as SUFF may screen films that are not classified although they are obliged to suggest a “likely rating”.

“I think politicians have realised that audiences now have more agency and are mature enough to choose what images they subject themselves to,” Popescu said.

Popescu and co-director Katherine Berger created SUFF more than a decade ago to present movies that were experimental, provocative and pushed the boundaries of taste.

“While we do have some completely crazy and controversial films on offer, we feel that the extreme violence and sexual content are all contextualised and we are not expecting to have any screenings shut down this year,” Berger said.

The festival opens on September 12, with The Beach Bum, a stoner comedy featuring Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron and Isla Fisher.


Other movies headlined by big-name Hollywood actors include The Art of Self-Defense, a comedy featuring Jesse Eisenberg, and horror film The Lodge starring Alicia Silverstone.

The festival’s eclectic program also includes documentaries, short films and Alice, Australian director Josephine Mackerras’s award-winning movie about sex work.

“We are interested in fostering an alternative film culture by presenting works that are in some way independent, experimental and transgressive,” Berger said.

In the past, Popescu said censors had drawn the line at movies in which sex and violence intersect. More recently, the law has been changed to ban films that encourage terrorism.

Popescu said he believed actual depictions of sex and violence should be “controlled”, but adults had the right to watch movies that many viewers might regard as distasteful or offensive.

“I certainly don’t think any depictions of sex and violence that is fictionalised should be censored even if I personally despise the film,” he said.

The Sydney Underground Film Festival is at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville from September 12 to 15.

Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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