Given that the unofficial charter of film festivals is to introduce new work and challenge audiences, the Melbourne International Film Festival takes an evenhanded approach to its hundreds of titles. In the program for this year's MIFF, which opens tomorrow night and runs until August 8, the phrase “Contains scenes that may disturb some viewers” is cordially attached to various synopses. One title, however, Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce's L.A. Zombie, has a sterner warning: “Contains scenes that will offend” (MIFF's italics).
Other relevant parties agree. Yesterday the Film Classification Board wrote to MIFF director Richard Moore to inform them that L.A. Zombie could not be screened as it would likely be refused classification. MIFF titles usually receive a blanket exemption from the classification process, in exchange for all screenings available only to those 18 years and older (effectively an R rating), but having read about the movie the Board requested a DVD and then issued a ruling. It is, according to The Age newspaper, the first time in seven years, since Larry Clark's Ken Park, that a film has been pulled from the popular Australian film festival scene.
L.A. Zombie is the story of an alien creature (porn star Francois Sagat) who arrives on Earth in search of dead bodies, some of which he has sex with, reanimating them. That obviously implies necrophilia, and the film also reportedly features wound penetration and erect (zombie) penises.
Narrative content is one thing, but tone and intent are quite another. In a statement to The Age, Richard Moore said: “Bruce LaBruce's blend of sex and violence can be confronting, but I would argue that within the context of the festival, it is nonsensical and patronizing to not allow people to decide what they want to see.”
The Film Classification Board obviously felt differently. MIFF has yet to decide whether to appeal the decision.
For a full preview of what you can watch at the Melbourne Film Festival, click here