There are roughly 150,000 movie screens around the world.[i] Around 40,000 are currently in service in the US;[ii] a mere three exist in the country of Angola.[iii]
There is no country on Earth that has outright banned the screening of movies, although Manila has actually banned Claire Danes movies.[iv] (Turns out you can’t say “Manila smells like cockroaches” with “rats…everywhere” now without being banned from the capital of the Philippines.)
There are, however, a lot of countries that ban movies for just about any reason you can think of. The Nazi party, for example, banned many films during their rule, for just about any reason. If a movie didn’t fit in with the culture the Nazis wanted to promote, it was banned.
After World War II, Germany went about making most things that depicted Nazi culture illegal, including Nazi propaganda movies. A lot of the ones that were initially banned in Germany due to being vaguely (or directly) associated with the Nazis are still banned today.[v]
Over the next few weeks, I’ll look at some movies that have been banned and examine the reasons why. I won’t be getting into the topic of whether a movie should or should not have been banned just yet, although that is an option for down the road.
Perhaps one of the most famous of banned movies is Duck Soup.[vi] This movie was initially ignored by both audiences and critics, until it came under the attention of Benito Mussolini, who banned it in Italy for its portrayal of a hapless dictator. It was also banned in Germany — not for its content, but simply because it was made by Jews.
Movies continue to be banned for similarly crude reasons, and today we will look at the movie Fat Girl.
Fat Girl, or À ma sœur!, is a 2001 French film directed by Catherine Breillat. It portrays two sisters: one who is attractive and more modest about sex, and one who is overweight and thinks you should just “get over with” losing your virginity.[vii] The movie was banned in the relatively forward-thinking Canadian province of Ontario.
The Ontario Film Review board, citing a 15-minute sex scene, banned the film for depicting “sexual acts involving teenagers.” Despite numerous movies that came out in the same period, like American Pie, American Beauty, or even the earlier Kids, not having received a ban, the OFRB decided to make an example of Fat Girl, lest filmmakers begin to feel that making such kinds was acceptable.[viii]
Ontario was the only jurisdiction among Western Countries to ban the film. Places like England, France, and Germany, all with storied histories of banning movies, didn’t mind Fat Girl.
Famous Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan wrote to the OFRB, asking, “What is it that makes our particular community in Ontario so vulnerable?”[ix] Ultimately, nothing, it would seem. The OFRB eventually overturned the ban in 2003 after a public outcry, and the film was shown in Ontario soon thereafter.
Jason Silvert has no formal training in writing or movies, but is simply a fan. You can see more of Jason’s work at thesilvertlining.wordpress.com, follow him on Twitter @silvertlining, or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[ii] natoonline.com; chartsbin.com/view/32k