U.K.'s 'The Hunger Games' Cut Nixed A Mere Seven Secondsby: Posted:
Meeting British officials halfway over rating "The Hunger Games" didn't take Lionsgate much more than a few steps. In fact, without pointing out what was left out, one could probably watch the U.S. and U.K. cuts back-to-back and never perceive the difference.
British Board of Film Classification Head of Policy David Austin recently had a chat about the minimal edits with BBC Radio 5 Live. For some sense of perspective, one might liken the rating change from a "15" to "12A" to getting the U.S. cut down from its "PG-13" designation by the Motion Picture of Association to a "PG" that excludes fewer young viewers or from an "R" to a "PG-13", only with different age cut-offs.
"When we saw the film we told them that although much of the film was appropriate according to the BBFC's guidelines, there were certain sequences which went beyond what's acceptable at '12A' - beyond what the public told us is acceptable at '12A'."
Getting the more accessible rating required trimming a mere seven seconds, Austin said - a cut the BBFC itself didn't even request. When the board offered the "15" rating, Lionsgate brass volunteered a slightly safer cut that would secure a "12A" rating making the film accessible to pre-teens. The board suggested cuts, but demanded none. According to the interview, cut material mostly included a few "blood splashes."
The board approached inherently violent theme of a dystopian society's televised fight for survival among juveniles with some perspective and relative consideration of other works, Austin said. Officials also kept in mind Suzanne Collins' literary trilogy's tremendous popularity with pre-teen readers.
"It's not a theme that is completely unknown to 12-year-olds and above," Austin explained. "It's essentially gladiatorial combat, although involving children, but the concept of gladiatorial contests is well known. It's based on a well-known novel that has been widely read by 11 to 14-year-olds. It's not dissimilar to 'Lord Of The Flies', which is a book that I studied at school when I was 11. In a sense, 'Lord Of The Flies' is even bleaker than 'The Hunger Games'. [In this case] children are forced against their will to take part in this competition. In 'Lord Of The Flies' certain children revert to their natural state."
I'd propose a trade between the BBFC and MPAA of Austin for the MPAA's Christopher Dodd, but between the ill-informed regulatory debacle that was trying to force SOPA/PIPA down Congress' throat and the ridiculousness of "Bully" receiving its "R" rating because someone said "fuck" too many times, I don't wish Dodd upon anybody.
It's striking, the difference between the two processes. As Austin indicated, the BBFC apparently takes public input into consideration and maintains a realistic sense of perspective when it comes to equal standards. The BBFC actually considers context. Someone actually has the sense to look at a movie, be objective and say, "These themes are no worse - or, to be honest, any different from - something I was assigned to read in school."
Then consider the fuss over "Bully". Its producers tackled unflinchingly a problem heavily impacting - and perhaps, even a symptom of - the way America's youth grow up. It's a movie that when seen, could very well open parents' and children's eyes alike. It's an honest, unscripted documentary.
Because it depicts one bully as the remorseless, foul-mouthed juvenile he is, the MPAA slapped it with a rating that guarantees the audience whom the film could most significantly impact will have a harder time seeing it.
Yes, someone should enforce reasonable standards and practices. But doing so can and should be accomplished by applying sensibility, reasonable expectations and some adequate perspective rather than overlaying black-and-white standards that are guaranteed somewhere or another to be ill-fitting.