prog: 1903

Belgium : Ceci n’est pas de la censure


In Belgium as in other countries, film had a bad reputation from the start. Showmanship for the masses, a spectacle sedentarized by dark rooms in which God knows what can happen; film was never considered an art form, rather a kind of low entertainment. And a dangerous one at that, considering its capacity to impress and influence. The authorities and other defenders of moral conduct didn’t wait long to start regulating the medium. The same principle applies everywhere: to protect the weak-minded (typically children, but also the natives of Belgian Congo, for example, or the working class in general) who may be particularly susceptible to impulsive behavior or coercion. It was imperative to uphold public order and protect proper social values.

Yet in Belgium there’s that pesky, progressive Constitution which guarantees freedom from censorship. Film regulations would therefore need to be disguised as a kind of child protection. Starting in 1920, films could be distributed freely, but couldn’t be seen by children. In order to receive a "child-friendly" certificate, a film would have to be evaluation by a Commission. This Commission would ensure that the proper moral codes, Judeo-Christian values, and social authorities were upheld and sometimes even recommend edits or changes.The Commission, however, was not allowed to push a political or ideological point of view (although it sometimes forgot to comply). In practice, the economic consequences of excluding family audiences forced distributors to enter into the logic of the censors. Outside of this official body, other institutions could also be involved: the Church, very influential, local authorities in the name of public order, and the justice system which could ban a film (see "L’empire des sens"). Production and distribution in Belgium also operates in such a way that governments play a major role by allocating financial resources that make or break a film production.

In a country where censorship doesn’t exist, there’s a lot to discuss. And discuss we shall, together with Daniël Biltereyst, professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Ghent and expert in film censorship.

(in French)
08.12 > 19:00


L’empire des sens

愛のコリーダ [Ai no korīda]

Nagisa Ōshima, 1976, JP-FR, 35mm, ov st fr & nl, 107'

At the height of porno-chic, French producer Anatole Dauman asks Ōshima to shoot an "intellectual porno". He’ll direct the true story of Abe Sada, a prostitute-turned-domestic-servant who becomes her employer’s mistress in an ever-increasing intense, carnal passion, leading to criminal acts. The movie was shot in Japan, but the film was developed in France in order to escape the Japanese censors. The movie scandalized audiences all over and was a triumph wherever it wasn’t prohibited. It was released in France (forbidden for minors) but remained unscreened in Japan until 2000 (where the censored version was released). Ōshima was tried in his country for obscenity (but found innocent). In Belgium, the film was released in three theaters, including Studio Arenberg (where Cinema Nova is now established!). After 48 hours, the Prosecutor intervened, seizing the copies in Brussels. The film was banned: anyone who showed images that went against proper moral was subject to prosecution. The film continued to screen for another 12 days in Maaseik until the Prosecutor of Tongres ordered its seizure (undoubtedly pressured by his counterpart in Brussels). Three people (the distributor and the programmers of the cinemas in Brussels) received hefty fines and were sent to prison without sentence! The press at the time ironically pointed out that the only way to see the movie would be to work at the courthouse, where it was projected during every phase of the trial. After a few underground and private screenings here and there, the film re-emerged in 1994 without eliciting any reaction from the Justice.

08.12 > 21:00
5€ / 3,5€

lang: en
id_rubrique: 1908
prog: 1903
pos: aval