Win! 'A Serbian Film' refused classification upon review

Film depicting extreme sexual violence now banned in Australia


Some time ago we received an email from a member of the community concerning the screening of 'A Serbian Film' at an underground Melbourne Film Festival.

This person expressed concern that a film depicting extreme sexual violence and child rape would be allowed to screen in Australia and wondered if there was anything we could do.

So we looked it up. We read film reviews and detailed accounts of the films content. How did a film featuring scenes of extreme sexual violence and child rape achieve an R18+, which allows it to be screened at a film festival and stocked in dvd stores?  We decided to take action by submitting an appeal to the Classification Review Board.

From Melinda Tankard Reist's blog

On September 14, Collective Shout made a submission to the Classification Review Board, calling for a review of the Classification Board’s April decision to grant the film an R18+ rating.

We described scenes of extreme sexual violence against a child and against women.

“A Serbian Film contains depictions of a man raping his five year old son; of a man beheading a woman while raping her and of an adolescent girl smilingly encouraging a man to hit a woman while the woman performs oral sex on him. The film clearly exceeds the classification guidelines for R18+ films and should have been Refused Classification.”

We also said it was beyond comprehension that such a film -which we hear is now doing the rounds of schools on USB sticks – could be approved for local video stores. Crikey website editor Luke Buckmaster described the film as “morally irredeemable”.

The Classification Review Board met yesterday and overturned the original ruling.

Naturally Accent films, the Australian distributor is not happy about the reversal, inferring on twitter that the decision was a denial of democratic freedom.

Apparently democratic freedom should allow images of child sexual assault and the torture and decapitation of women, available at your local DVD outlet.

While we do of course welcome the Review Board’s decision, we can’t help but ask: what was the Board thinking in to allow it to go through in the first place?

The Classification system is in need of an overhaul, as we’ve argued in two recent submissions, including this one to the current Australian Law Reform Commission review.

From the Classification Review Board's media release


In the Review Board’s opinion, A Serbian Film could not be accommodated within the
R 18+ classification as the level of depictions of sexual violence, themes of incest and depictions of child sexual abuse in the film has an impact which is very high and not justified by context.

Films classified RC cannot be sold, hired, or advertised in Australia.
Read the full Media Release here.

If we had not received that email notifying us about this film, we may have missed an important opportunity to make this submission. This is another great example of what can be achieved when we work together.


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