The British Board Of Film Classification is celebrating its centenary this month. I believe it's come a long way from the bad old days of cutting, damaging and controlling the films that we see - what do you think?

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  • Comment number 56. Posted by tomschoon

    on 15 Nov 2012 10:32

    I totally agree with your post Mark.
    I used to hate the BBFC, they almost always used to cut chunks out of my favourite films. I grew so frustrated by their butchering that I started importing all of my DVDs.

    Then, with the advent of re-releases and Blu-Ray I noticed that films were suddenly being released uncut. Then the BBFC website became the fascinating place it is now and we even have an App!

    I have been really impressed with how they have allowed us to make the decision for ourselves. In return they have the respect of an entire industry and are responsible for one of the smartest classification systems in the world, in my humble opinion.

    Their crowning achievement for me has been the introduction of the 12A certificate, which I really didn't understand when it first came out. When my wife and I went to see 'Skyfall' recently it was the first time I noticed that there was not one mis-behaved child in the theatre. It was, I can only assume, because of the need for an adult to accompany them.
    I remember seeing Jurassic Park and kids being thrown out because of all the noise they were making...although that was a PG!

    Anyway, long live the BBFC!

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  • Comment number 55. Posted by Sarah Jo

    on 11 Nov 2012 11:24

    I think the BBFC do a fine job, especially because like you said they detail why they classify a film a certain certificate or why they make a particular cut.

    The problem is that people will out and out ignore all that good work. Working in different cinemas the excuse I've heard time and time again is "but he/she is 15 next week" or "but I'm their parent and I'm with them, surely it's okay". The fact that film classification is subject to the same laws as alcohol sale is irrelevant to them, they just don't understand why they can't take their children in to see Horrible Bosses. I don't really care what people watch at home, I was watching 15 films at home from age 12 or so, but if you go out you're subject to the same laws as everyone else.

    The other issue is the 12a. Some parents need to realise that just because you CAN take a child under 12 to see a 12a, that doesn't mean you SHOULD. I'm not talking about cases where the parent genuinely believes a child can handle the film in question, more when parents use 12a films as an excuse to take a small child into a film that they or an older child wants to see. I've seen 6 year olds being taken into Braking Dawn part 1, and no matter what you think of the quality of that film there is denying that the birthing scene is quite intense and almost horrific. I know of young children being taken to the Woman In Black, even when Daniel Radcliffe himself kept saying "12 really does mean 12 in this case". Lastly there was one memorable incident at work where I advised a young mother that the film The Vow would possible not be suitable for her 5 year old girl or hold her attention, adding that the film did feature the main female character going through a car window in the first few minutes. Both the woman and my colleague ignored me and the woman later complained to a manager because another member of staff asked her to please stop her child from running around the cinema screen due to boredom.

    I think the BBFC do a fine job, shame that a lot of parents don't listen or can't be bothered to seek out the very public information on the films they take their children to.

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  • Comment number 54. Posted by Gary Ingrey

    on 8 Nov 2012 11:46

    I general I agree with you Mark that the BBFC have moved onto the right cultural track. Censorship is never a good thing in democracy in any event. However, their principle problem is caused by the viewers and the distributors. Any classification system will compartmentalise the audience figures, and as movie-making is a business in which astronomical amounts of money are at stake the BBFC will be under constant pressure to keep the classification as low as possible, yet the artist(s) behind the film will have content they feel is right for the artistic integrity of the film. A conflict arises here methinks. Then when you put the viewers into the equation more problems arise. The 15 certificate is an apparent favourite with distributors becase it guarantees teenage audiences, but I have been in 15 rated films that teenagers just do not get, so they then disrupt the performance.
    The 12A certificate is another issue for me. If the BBFC surveyed the number of parents who preview or at best check out info before letting their little uns see a film I bet they'd be shocked at the low result. An example: I saw War Horse - a 12A rated film, and the audience was filled with little children, 5/6/7 yrs of age, who became quite upset at some of the scenes in this film.
    So, my view is this, the BBFC are trying to maintain the integrity of films but under pressure from distributors and with disengaged viewers, so instead of demarcation certificates why not just issue 2 grades - Over 18s only & Suitable for Under 18s (but with detailed description of content to force parents especially to take more responsibility)

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  • Comment number 53. Posted by Freddy_Jones

    on 7 Nov 2012 16:15

    I remember a few years ago The Fountain was rated 15 for "Some Violence". I was 13 going on 14 and had been looking forwards to it for about a year. It seemed a bit of a harsh rating, so I sent them an e-mail voicing my complaints. I never got a message back, but the film was changed from 15 to 12A. I like to think part of that was thanks to me. And it's a good thing too, because I think I'm one of only about 10 people who actually saw that film and one of only 4 or so who actually loved it. Long live the BBFC!

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  • Comment number 52. Posted by jasterixstrange

    on 7 Nov 2012 10:17

    Can't help but still feeling angry at the BBFC but they have improved somewhat. Or is it more that film makers and studios have toned down their output or that the BBFC are more relaxed. You still can't pick up uncut versions of Cannibal Holocaust, Murder Set Pieces or even The Human Centipede 2 in the UK and the studios and directors behind the August Underground and Vomit Gore trilogies wouldn't even dare submit their movies to the BBFC.
    They are still way behind the times and need to realise that I, as a consenting adult, wish to see a film as the director intended and not as they or the studio did.
    Case in point ... until Arrow Video argued the toss time and time again with the BBFC the film The House By The Cemetery was cut as it displayed, and I quote, "violence against women". I mean seriously it took until 2009 for the BBFC to realise how sexist they were being. And, look at the Cannibal Holocaust cuts ... the removal of a scene showing a muskrat being killed for food. They'll show a woman having a mud ball covered in spikes being inserted into her vagina but the killing of a muskrat. As a vegan, and despite detesting that level of cruelty, the BBFC have no right to suggest that I as a mature adult cannot view that.

    One other thing ... the R18 rating is great ... if you live in London. For the rest of us it's a waste of time. Similar to the introduction of the 12 and 12A certificates it's now time to introduce the American "NR" or Not Rated certificate to audiences of 25 years and above.

    Movies don't kill people, rappers do. ;)

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  • Comment number 51. Posted by KieranK1982

    on 6 Nov 2012 23:28

    Yes, as much as my natural inclination has been to rally against the BBFC, I have to say that there is very little to pick on when it comes to their day-to-day work these days. When I was at Brunel uni, I did my thesis on James Ferman's tenure at the BBFC. I had all these hunches that Ferman was pushed by Straw and co so decided to put a lot of (in hindsight, ludicrous) propositions to the BBFC directly. Being a typically snotty undergrad, and thinking I was onto something similar to 'All the President's Men', I told the BBFC (having got no reply in the mere three days since I'd sent the email) that I'd planned on citing my hunches as fact if I did not hear from them by the end of the week. Sure enough, I get an email from Craig Lapper patiently replying to each of my questions ('How high up did the order from Ferman's removal come?' was a typical question I posed, along with the somewhat blunt 'Now Mary Whitehouse is dead, will the BBFC finally ignore anti-censorship campaigners?'). His replies was quite straight-forward and he couldn't help but point out the silliness of my questioning (although I didn't think so at the time). So, in my thesis, I had to concede that the BBFC might indeed be open and accountable.

    Recently, when I get bored during free periods at the college where I teach, I send joke emails to the BBFC asking why Top Cat is a 'U' certificate when, in the opening credits alone, we see the central feline protagonist stealing and conning his way round the city, and should not PG be more appropriate? They patiently emailed me a very sincere reply and made me feel a little childish! I have far too much time on my hands!

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  • Comment number 50. Posted by LETTSJaM

    on 6 Nov 2012 22:49

    In recent years I've gone to see films rated only 12A and been shocked at the levels of graphic violence in such films. I would not have been happy if I had a child that had watched that level of violence at a young age of 12 or 13.

    Freya.

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  • Comment number 49. Posted by Physiocrat

    on 6 Nov 2012 10:09

    @ EddieLarkin

    Thanks for the info. I didn't even consider the cost of having the content classified.

    Re- BBFC classification itself I like the fact it has a clear system and you can see why it's been rated as such. However given its privileged legal position (I think I'm right in thinking that anything that is released theatrically needs classifying by them) it is an anticompetitive body. If I make a film and you want to watch then there should be no compulsion on me classifying it.

    Thinking of the children parents ought to take far more responsibility than the presently do rather than farming it out to the BBFC. Further ignoring the MPAA and BBFC there's loads of classification produced for free by many websites. If there's a market for classification then it would arise naturally via voluntary exchange. If a cinema can't sell many tickets for an unrated film then it makes sense for them to get it rated by a respected body.

    Finally on one of their recent podcasts they were essentially promoting restrictive intellectual property laws which will become an utter scourge when even more of life is conducted online.

    The BBFC via the government is still part of the problem.

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  • Comment number 48. Posted by Gramscian

    on 6 Nov 2012 10:04

    The strides made by the BBFC may all be well and good, but the bottom line is that their role should only ever be advisory to the audience. That way WE make up our minds about what we choose to see not some absurd specialist group. After all, if they can handle it, so can we! Classification should be their only role and advisory classification at most.

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  • Comment number 47. Posted by Steve Tudor

    on 5 Nov 2012 15:01

    @6 chronax and a few others have commented on the BBFC cutting for lower certification, but that isn't the BBFC's fault or issue, that's the studios making a commercial decision and commercial success is (and always has been) the nain driver of the studios.

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