BEHIND ENEMY LINES: CENSORSHIP & THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALThis conversation took place at approximately 9:20 pm Tuesday, September 13th 2005. It was just outside of Roy Thomson Hall where The War Room’s 'agent in the field' code-named Starr was posing as a patron awaiting the North America Premiere of Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s Where the Truth Lies.
For the purposes of blending in, Agent Starr called herself Bella and adopted the persona of an ‘artsy’ film industry type. She also made sure that in addition to wearing the requisite garb of dark glasses and dark sweater; she carried a Dolce and Gabana bag that had an embroidered bead ‘peace symbol’ clearly showing. She sipped a Second Cup crème latte and read a thoroughly highlighted copy of The DaVinci Code.
She recorded her conversation with a stranger in the line named Cerise. Cerise claimed to be a PR Flack for a ‘major Toronto film company’ (although for the life of us we cannot think of one that qualifies as major). Cerise claimed to be in her late 30’s and alone for the evening. She was looking forward to meeting some industry types after the screening.
Cerise: Wow! The new Egoyan. I am soooo jazzed.
Bella: They say he’s the best Canada has to offer. Even if it stiffed at Cannes.
Cerise: This stiffed at Cannes? I thought Egoyan was like, king there?
Bella: Well, I guess Egoyan won’t be ‘goyan back to France anytime soon. ‘Cause they hated it. So did some American critics too. Said it was David Lynch wannabe poseur stuff.
Cerise: Americans. Pffft. Nazi’s. Apparently the MCAA is trying to censor it.
Bella: You mean the MPAA?
Cerise: Whatever. They say the three-way sex scene between Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and some actress means the film gets an NC-17 rating. They’re all a bunch of fascist, homophobic, mouth breathing trogle…troogle…trogela
Cerise: Yeah. Babykillers all.
Bella: But that’s not censorship. The MPAA is the film industry's self-regulating body that rates films. It doesn’t censor them. Only a government can censor.
Cerise: But like, Cronenberg even said that when Egoyan went before the MPAA to appeal there was like a priest and a pastor present. Don’t they have some children they’d rather be molesting instead of influencing our art? Inquisition, I tell you.
Bella: Well…they are supposed to represent community standards.
Cerise: A community of third world nation killing, environment destroying Hitleresque pigs perhaps; not my community! At least Canadians are more sophisticated than that.
Bella: Hmmm. I never thought of it in that nuanced a way before. So you believe that when a group such as the Christian community or conservatives try to influence what types of films we can see, that’s a form of censorship?
Cerise: Damn right!
Bella: Because artistes such as Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg or say Rob Schneider shouldn’t be forced to put out the vision of any pressure group.
Cerise: Right. They’re all artists.
Bella: What about PETA? Or howabout GLAAD?
Cerise: They do great work. I’m going to a party of theirs later.
Bella: But GLAAD influences and threatens the film industry in an effort to affect what can actually be produced. Such mainstream films as Basic Instinct and Braveheart both felt their wrath.
Cerise: (mumbling) Braveheart. Pffffft. Nazi.
Bella: Even more to the point…after Basic Instinct, they demanded and got the right to look at and comment on any studio script they ask to see. If the priest at the MPAA is censorship, wouldn’t you have to call that censorship too? There is a reason why all of Hollywood vies for the GLAAD media awards every year y’know.
Cerise: You’re like, creeping me out. Whose side are you on anyway?
Bella: The side of free speech. If you cry ‘censorship’ anytime someone tries to influence which ideas are allowed to be said in the marketplace then the Egoyan types have had they’re say for over 4 decades. Especially in Canada.
Cerise: You like, so have that wrong. Canadian artists are the most free, influencial and respected on the planet. Our films truly represent the wealth of diversity and multiculturalism of the planet of Toronto.
Bella: Then why will nobody see them?
Cerise: Sarah Polley says it’s because the fascist American’s take up all of our screens and if the government can regula…
Bella: Please. Name me one Canadian film in the past twenty years since the government started controlling the financing of our film industry that actually spoke to the average Canadian.
Cerise: Easy. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. A love story everyone could relate to.
Bella: Wrong. Nia Vardalos is Canadian and it is based on her life growing up in Canadian Greek Town but Tom Hanks produced it because Canadian producers wouldn’t front the cash.
Cerise: Okay, but we got the message. We then produced two mainstream romantic comedies by Canadians and for Canadians that everyone loved.
Bella: Mambo Italiano and Touch of Pink. One about a gay Italian relationship the other about a gay Hindu relationship. Both bombed. Hardly mainstream fare.
Cerise: Well what about Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, James Cameron and Kim Cattrall? HA!
Bella: Nada. HA! All Canadians who Canadians wouldn’t hire so they went to America where they made their name. Instead, we finance people with such ‘household names’ as Don McKellar, Daniel McIvor and Cynthia Dale. We mostly make films about S&M, incest and necrophilia.
Cerise: Like, you’re starting to offend me.
Bella: Face it. Our film industry is about as multi-cultural and diverse as the KKK…but with designer hoods of course.
Cerise: That’s because David Miller says more minorities need help and funding to…
Bella: …to what? To take film jobs away from the hypocritical silk stocking socialists who are mostly white, gay, liberal, confused and should be allowing differing points of view in the first place?
A moment of awkward silence.
Cerise: The line is beginning to move. I think they’re letting us in.
Bella: I think I might leave…all of a sudden I don’t really wanna see this film.
Cerise: But…don’t you want to support Canadian Film?
Bella: I do. Every spring when I pay my taxes. Here’s my ticket. I wonder if Revenge of the Sith is still playing anywhere?