Movies Banned Across The World


I have always been interested in film censorship. I wrote my university dissertation on the Video Nasties of the 1980’s and am fascinated by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) website which I peruse frequently. I think it is a case of being interested in what is deemed suitable or not and why this is the case. Whether its sex, violence or bad language, how do we know what people can tolerate and put an age restriction on it or even ban it completely. Obviously this is different according to the censors, context and even the circumstances in a particular country.

Therefore, I decided to look at what films are deemed to be unsuitable all over the world, especially the movies that we would think to be mostly innocuous. No amount of cuts by the censor could prevent it from being banned in a certain country. I’m bypassing the movies that would be banned for obvious reasons, mostly those of sexual violence (Cannibal Holocaust, A Serbian Movie, I Spit on Your Grave, etc) so I decided to share with you all some that you probably wouldn’t expect to see in the restricted zone.


Schindler’s List – Spielberg’s Oscar winning masterpiece of modern cinema is a very hard watch due to its subject matter and intense visuals. However, it is probably one of the most important films of all time. This isn’t seen to be the case in Indonesia where censors banned it in 1994, some cite that it is due to the film being sympathetic to the Jewish cause and there is no place for it in a heavily Muslim populated region. The National Censorship Board insist however it is due to too much nudity and violence.

brief encounter

Brief EncounterBrief Encounter is, by today’s standards, massively innocuous in its treatment of an emotional love affair between two married people who meet at a train station. There’s no sex scene or heavy petting, it’s all implied within the dialogue. However, this is still too much in Ireland where the film is still banned because the movie is too “permissive of adultery”. This is a big surprise, especially if you’ve seen the movie, which is rated PG in England, but they seem to be sticking to their guns as the ban doesn’t seem to be lifting any time soon despite all the highly sexed films we see today.


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: Probably not too surprising, the ban has still not been lifted in Kazakhstan (as well as Russia) where it was deemed offensive. This would be in part to the opening and closing scenes that portrayed the locals as poor and stupid or rapists. Countries all over the world have been portrayed with negative and unflattering stereotypes but this was just deemed too far from Sasha Baron Cohen. Kazakhstan, however have since thanked Borat for the boost to their economy from tourism as a result of the movie’s success.


Zoolander: Another set of locals to get offended by western comedy was that of the Malaysian government who didn’t see the funny side of the movie’s plot to assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister. I don’t think they were too impressed with the depiction of the sweat shops visited by Derek Zoolander either. The country has form in this area who have also banned Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.


The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning portrayal of the life of Jordan Belfort pushes all the boundaries, but looked like it pushed a few too many in Kenya where the Classification Board banned the movie citing “extreme scenes of nudity, sex, debauchery, hedonism and cursing” as the main reasons. It is against the law to watch the film within the boundaries of the country and arrests were made last year when pirate copies started to circulate which could have resulted in a couple of years in prison.


2012: Roland Emmerich’s film was not banned for being an average disaster movie but for showing the apocalypse happening in the year 2012. Although the Mayans had this in their calendar as the end of humanity for a very long time the North Koreans had a different way of thinking. Because it was the hundredth year anniversary of the birth of ‘The Great Leader’ Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il declared it was the year that North Korea was to “open the grand gates to becoming a rising superpower”. Therefore watching a film about the world’s destruction would be highly inappropriate and anyone caught watching the film was to be prosecuted. Not really worth it in my opinion, they should watch The Road instead.


The Simpsons Movie: Whether this one is genuine or not is a mystery as there isn’t enough written on the matter but apparently The Simpsons Movie and its TV show counterpart are both banned in Burma because the censors in the country don’t allow the colours yellow and red combined on screen. Baffling.

In Britain in America there are not that many films that don’t get past the censor these days, the only ones lately to have come up against some trouble here lately are The Human Centipede 2 and A Serbian Film, both of which required cuts. Every Classification Board knows the context of the society in which they live so they should be the best positioned to make these decisions but sometimes those decisions may be deemed questionable.


You Saw It Coming


When you walk into a blockbuster movie in the present day, I think it is fair to say, we are not going in waiting to be as shocked and surprised like we used to. Most of the time a film’s trailers will give away large amounts of information, sometimes to the extent where the entire plot is revealed. From there each frame from trailers and sneak peaks are speculated about on message boards, blogs and social media until, if we wanted, we could all have a good idea of where the movie is going in a narrative and character sense. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, in fact, sometimes the anticipation and speculation outweighs the excitement derived from the actual film. What I am saying, that in this day and age the movie has to understand that a large chunk of its audience will have been exposed to its money shots and best lines of dialogue already, so instead of insulting their intelligence it’s all about embracing the predictability.

Predictability is not a bad thing, some would say it is connected with a film being boring. However, the ubiquity of a massive summer blockbuster and the marketing associated with it will not change. Jurassic World has handled this fantastically and is a great example of producing a film with the knowledge that everyone is going to have a good guess at the storyline and will have watched the trailers quite a few times.

In the last month, the marketing team behind Jurassic World has been hitting us hard. Trailers, TV Spots, merchandise, magazine covers and not to mention the app where you can build your own Jurassic World (if you have the money to buy the £40 packs of cards to play the game via in store purchasing) my point is, you know there’s a new Jurassic Park film coming out and you know the basis for the plot and have already seen the dinosaurs. Add this to the fact that a lot of people going to see this film have seen Jurassic Park I-III or at least the first one which Jurassic World mainly derives it ideas from. It all looked set up for a potential disappointment where we’ve seen it all before. But director Colin Trevorrow was probably aware that this would happen which is why he just went all out.


The best case and point would be that of the new park attraction, the hybrid dinosaur Indominus Rex. The early trailers tried to mask the appearance of this creature but with the merchandise coming out many months before in Lego form and as its design was starting to be shown online and on magazines, the cat was out the bag and from that stage you might as well show it as much as you can in the film. The Indominus is shown very early in the movie, unlike Jaws which this movie borrows from in some respects. Trevorrow mentioned in an interview these days you don’t get the luxury of just one trailer like Jaws had 40 years ago so you can keep your best secrets hidden, so, to his credit, he just went all guns blazing and it worked wonderfully. Also, the main reason the suspense was so great in Jaws was down to the mechanical shark not working and so Spielberg had no choice but to keep the shark hidden for the majority of the film.

In Jurassic World we knew the raptors we’re going to be smart and Chris Pratt was going to be their trainer, also the Mosasaur was going to play some part, as we also knew that Bryce Dallas Howard holding a flare in in front of an opening of a door can only mean one thing is coming up. The plot was massively derivative of the first film where two children, who are related to somebody very important in the running of the park are left to alone with carnivorous dinosaurs. However, it does it in a way that is still entertaining and because there isn’t the element of surprise that Jaws or the original Jurassic Park had in 1993, Jurrasic World presents us with huge amounts of action and a well written script from Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa.

This isn’t the only franchise in which the movies must up their game to survive at the box office. Although studios know that lots of people like the same thing presented, there has to be some difference, something new to keep us coming back to the cinema. Studios that have become complacent and have churned out the same rubbish all the time have suffered bad financial returns. People are not that easily fooled and many franchises have needed a reboot to survive or been destroyed completely (Terminator Salvation, Speed 2, Batman and Robin, Spiderman 3, etc.)


A studio like Marvel has to keep upping its game to create a sense of something you haven’t seen before with the huge amount of films they have produced in such a short space of time. When we had Phase One with Iron Man, 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America, that all culminated in The Avengers which was ground breaking because of the build-up and the sheer scale of the movie. Now, with Avengers: Age of Ultron, new characters are being established to give the audience something new but through marketing and the previous films we have already seen so much in the last few years. That’s why Guardians of the Galaxy was so great, because it was such an original choice of comic to adapt compared to the normal Marvel universe. Age of Ultron was a well made film but it lacked surprises and didn’t do anything special, besides establishing the vision, to remedy the overused formula.

Jurassic World is a great movie though, whether my opinions are deep seated in nostalgia is one for everyone else to determine but it was so great to go into a movie in which I had seen the trailer to death and not be disappointed with the end product. I can only hope that it is the same with The Force Awakens. Although J.J Abrams does like to keep a lid on his films and not give too much away it’ll be a big ask in the world we live in now. At this moment, we’ll just have to speculate.

The End of The World As We Know It!


You wait years for an end of the world comedy starring a country’s selection of finest funny actors and then two come at once. Two potential, very good ones in This is the End and The World’s End. In all honesty the last couple of years have been absolutely inundated with apocalyptic, end of the world fare, although most of them have attempted to show our earth’s final days in a more dramatic manner. Whether they were inspired by the Mayan’s 2012 predication or the fact that our society’s social, economic and environmental problems are represented within cinema through this bleak genre, they have truly saturated the market.  

Whether it’s 2012, The Book of Eli, Melancholia, Oblivion, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Road, 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Vanishing on 7th Street, Knowing, After Earth, The Day The Earth Stood Still and even Wall-E, we have probably been subjected to too many of these movies in such a short space of time. Our poor earth has been nothing but terrorised in the past decade.


With all these bleak, terrifying and sometimes dubious apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic movies it’s refreshing to see something new with the genre. Parody and pastiche are the best way to liven up a tiresome genre that’s past its peak and we’re seeing this with both the aforementioned comedies. This is the End, written by the scribes of Superbad, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan, sees a selection of the best and brightest in American comedy join forces to play fictional, exaggerated versions of themselves.

The trailer (See above), which hopefully hasn’t blown all the best jokes and surprise cameos already, sees Rogan, Baruchel, Hill, McBride, Robinson etc shelter in James Franco’s house as they struggle to survive the apocalypse. Although much of the plot wasn’t revealed after the opening party and subsequent invasion, except the fact that Emma Watson comes in to steal their limited supplies, I’m sure that much more happens and hilarity ensues in their quest for survival.

On this side of the pond Edgar Wright has completed his long awaited third film of his Cornetto trilogy. Teaming up again with Simon Pegg on writing duties after the widely successful Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the story sees Pegg and friends played by Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine embark on an epic pub crawl they once attempted, but failed, in their youth, only to find they are in the middle of the apocalypse.

It really is a battle of the juggernauts between Britain and American comedy and I’m sure that both will be enjoyable and breathe life into a genre that, like that of the zombies, has been tarnished with saturation and simply too many films. Innovation and re-invention is how these genres develop and comedy is a great way to establish what we originally loved about these films. 

The Death of British Cinema?

So the announcements for the Oscar Nominations have been made and nine films are up for best picture, with Hugo, The Artist and The Descendents leading the pack. However, throughout the list of nominations there was a distinct lack of British contribution. Although last year our fair nation dominated the awards season with The King’s Speech there is very little to shout about this year, with the only nomination worth any acknowledgement being Gary Oldman’s for his Best Actor nod for his role of George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Now, we could look at this and suggest that the Americans have very much just stuck to their own this year and not gone down the road of nominating less mainstream, British flicks such as Tyrannosaur and Tinker itself. However, I believe we must look towards our own shores as to why this year has been such a damp squib for British film.

A few weeks ago, David Cameron visited Pinewood studios as the government assessed how the film industry has been performing and ultimately deciding whether The Conservatives should continue to fund the British Film Industry (BFI). In 2010 their decision to cut all funding towards the UK Film Council was met with fierce opposition from actors, directors and film fans. However, this was expected from an economy making cuts all across the board.

Upon visiting Pinewood, David Cameron said he wanted more films like The King’s Speech, films that not only garner favour and help the world see the power of British cinema, but are also marketable and economically viable. Sorry Mr Cameron but only very few films are critically successful across the board while making a lot of money, garnering huge audiences and achieving awards success. Especially when all of the funding for potential filmmakers to spread their wings is axed. If they cannot begin somewhere then audiences are going to have the same formulaic, systematic cinema repeated year after year and British cinema will go into a dark age, the likes in which various European countries such as Spain and Italy were facing under dictatorships. It is a shame that The Conservatives only seek an economically beneficially culture, putting it ahead of artistry. One thing that politicians should never do is dabble in the creative industry because a cut in funding now could damage the amount of money that British films contribute to the economy in the future.

This is why we have had so many directors moving to Hollywood such as Christopher Nolan, Tom Hooper, Edgar Wright, Gareth Edwards and so on. This is because there is just no money over here whereas in the States they get the freedom and the economic stability to make the films they want. We are in severe danger of living in a cinematic world of sequels, generic films and American imports, that while good, rids us of our culture and what made our films famous in the first place. It is a deep shame that out government do not believe in the age old mantra Ars Gratia Artis, Arts for art’s sake. Comedian Stewart Lee perfectly sums up the attitude to the arts here and describes how this started with Mrs Thatcher back in the eighties.

Cameron also wants a cut in the gritty dramas that don’t make much money, although that is what our industry is based upon. The films of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach are much more important to society than the money they produced. Where would the film industry be without the pioneers of British cinema such as Humphrey Jennings, David Lean and Powell and Pressburger. What these people did was more important than the money. Where would we be without film funding, some of the most influential and important films would have never been made and many of the best British directors would never have begun their careers.

More money must be pumped into the film industry, the museums are given huge amounts and while important it does not have the same power of transcendence as cinema. Not everyone has access to the museums, with some thinking they are only for the rich and culturally literate to enjoy whereas film transcends classes and economics. It has the emotive power that any other medium doesn’t. If The Conservatives do not push money into this cause the BFI will be dead within the decade and we will all be so much the poorer for it.