Tuesday, July 26, 2011

3 paragraphs on: This Film Is Not Yet Rated

2006, Kirby Dick

There are a lot bigger problems in the world than the fact that there's a shadowy organization with dubious ethics that controls the ratings system of films distributed in America. But then, once you realize that this seemingly minor problem actually escalates sharply into a damaging impact on society at-large and suddenly this seemingly frivolous documentary gains real weight.

The fact of the matter is, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the sole ratings board for the American film industry and it is financed by the major studios that present their films to it. The major studios are owned by larger conglomerates that have, within their holdings, the majority of network, cable and satellite television channels, magazines, newspapers and other media, which means that in this media oligopoly the MPAA rating is essential in order to advertise. This means a director or production company is forced to submit their film to the (rather arbitrary and unregulated) review process or else try and find alternate channels to distribute and promote their movie. Beyond that injustice, the film identifies how the MPAA, contrary to most other ratings boards around the world, are far more lenient on violence than sex (further how straight sex is more forgiven than gay sex) thrusts a dangerous message upon the youth of the country, a war-not-love message, if you will. Coupled with how the American military industrial complex (of which the aforementioned conglomerates often have a hand in) has some incredible sway on the content of the films that are made portraying it, there's more than one agenda at play.

Kirby Dick's documentary attempts to pull back the curtain on the MPAA, exposing the identities of various film reviewers, the biases that they have, the influence that comes from above them, and the self-serving attitude of the organization that isn't as altruistic as they would appear to be. Dick relays the tactics of this rather unseemly and unjust institution in both an informative and entertaining manner, with a healthy sense of humour, animated sidebars, and some clever editing of scandalous scenes (most sex-related). In the film's masterstroke, Dick hires a private investigator to find out as much dirt on the organization as possible, notably the people behind the scenes who review the films, and later the people who serve on the appeals board. The investigative process is actually quite thrilling, and turns the documentary into a quasi-genre picture. In the final act, Dick submits a cut of the film to the MPAA for review documenting the process and its bizarre rules of conduct and order. Entertaining and Infuriating.

The documentary is