Down with this sort of thing

Posted on: 5th February, 2014

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: Sheila Mullins

Clonakilty Park Cinema in West Cork will become a hotbed of subversion from this Sunday February 9, as it hosts ‘The Banned Film Festival’. Run in association with Clonakilty Film Club, the festival’s organisers have put together a programme of films, which for cultural, religious or political reasons were once deemed unsuitable for innocent Irish audiences.

Surprisingly, a number of Hollywood classics were originally banned or very heavily cut by the Irish Film Censor and so this will be the first time ever that an Irish cinema audience will be scandalised by Rhett and Scarlett’s passionate embraces in ‘Gone with the Wind’, Charlie Chaplin hamming it up in ‘The Great Dictator’ or Stanley menacing Blanche du Bois in ‘A Streetcar named Desire’.

Other movie greats being shown on the big screen include The Life of Brian, A Clockwork Orange, Natural Born Killers, The Night of the Hunter and surprisingly Casablanca, which was banned during WWII under the Emergency Powers Act, and afterwards suffered cuts due to an ‘adulterous’ relationship being depicted.

With a reputation for having a vibrant arts and cultural community, Clonakilty is no stranger to unique festivals, from The Random Acts of Kindness Festival to the inaugural Clonakilty International Games Festival which will be ending on Sunday February 9, just as The Banned Film Festival takes over.

Tickets €7, €10 for two, €20 Festival Ticket – all available from cinema box office.

Sunday 9th 7pm Gone with the Wind (Reception 6.30pm. All welcome)

Monday 10th
7pm Life of Brian
8.45pm A Clockwork Orange

Tuesday 11th
6.35pm A Streetcar Named Desire
9pm Child’s Pose (Clonakilty Film Club)

Wednesday 12th
6.35pm Casablanca
8.30pm Natural Born Killers

Thursday 13th
7pm Great Dictator
9.20pm The Night of the Hunter

 John Kelleher, Director of IFCO (Irish Film Classification Office) from 2003 to 2009, speaks to West Cork People on the topic of film censorship, past and present. During his time at IFCO, John implemented a range of significant reforms and initiatives that modernised the former Film Censor’s Office and transformed it into an accountable and transparent public service with a strong emphasis on consumer guidance for parents. 

How have the criteria for film classification/censorship changed over the last 50 years?
It has changed enormously. Around 200 films were banned in the 1970s, none this century. Today it is generally accepted, and it is a fundamental principle of IFCO, that  — subject to the law — adults should be able to decide for themselves what they will watch.

It is classification today, not censorship — with concern for children being the primary factor. IFCO’s primary role today is to provide age-related classification for parents — effectively, consumer guidance. If you look at their website, you can see how helpful it is for parents.

How much influence did government or the church have on decisions in the past? Did you ever feel pressure from these groups during your time as Director?
In the early days of the Film Censor’s Office, the Church and the establishment had a very strong influence — reflecting a very different Ireland than the one we have today. The first Film Censor refused to allow newsreel footage to be shown in cinemas of the Pope blessing pilgrims at Lourdes!

I never experienced any pressure in that regard, and the only objections were from individual members of the public who took a different view to me about certain decisions. I always welcomed that, even if not agreeing with certain points of view.

Did you ever in retrospect feel differently about a decision you had made regarding a films classification?
Not really, though early on I gave an ‘Over 18’ cert to a film called ‘The Girl Next Door’. With hindsight, I think that was too severe. At the time there was nothing between 18 and 15A, so I introduced the ‘Over 16’ cert, which both parents and cinema managements welcomed.

How do you feel about film classifications today, have we become too liberal or are we getting it just right?
I think IFCO gets it absolutely right. Its guidelines reflect its approach and it is worth having a look at them on their website.

What have you moved on to since leaving IFCO?
I’m back doing what I always loved: being a film and television producer. It’s not easy, but it can be very satisfying, (though creatively more than commercially, I have to say!)

I’d like to congratulate The Park Cinema and Clonakilty Film Club on a terrific Festival — what a great choice of films! I’ll hopefully make a few of them myself.




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