This Film Is Not Yet Rated
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
This Film Is Not Yet Rated is an independent documentary film about American film censorship and its effect on American culture, directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Eddie Schmidt. It premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and was released into select theatres on September 1, 2006. The Independent Film Channel, the film's producer, aired the film later that autumn.
The MPAA gave the original cut of the film an NC-17 rating for "some graphic sexual content": scenes that illustrated the content a film could include to garner an NC-17 rating. Kirby Dick appealed, and descriptions of the ratings deliberations and appeal were included in the documentary. The new version of the film is not rated.
The film discusses disparities the filmmaker sees in ratings and feedback: between Hollywood and independent films, between gay and straight sexual situations, between male and female sexual depictions, and between violence and sexual content.
Themes and discussion
Much of the film's press coverage was devoted to Dick and his crew's use of a private investigator to unmask the identities of the ratings and appeals board members.
Other revelations in the film include: the discovery that many ratings board members either have children 18 and over or have no children at all (typically, the MPAA has suggested it hires only parents with children between the ages of 5 and 17); that the board seems to treat homosexual material much more harshly than heterosexual material (this assertion is supported by an MPAA spokesperson’s statement in USA Today that "We don't create standards; we just follow them"); that the board's raters receive no training and are deliberately chosen because of their lack of expertise in media literacy or child development; that senior raters have direct contact in the form of required meetings with studio personnel after movie screenings; and that the MPAA's appeals board is just as secretive as the ratings board, its members being mostly movie theater chain and studio executives. Also included on the appeals board are two members of the clergy (one Catholic and one Episcopalian, who may or may not have voting power).
Prior to Sundance, the film sparked initial press interest when it was handed an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for "some graphic sexual content." When it premiered at Sundance, the film's ratings deliberations, along with Kirby Dick’s appeal, were included in the documentary. Since the film had changed dramatically from the time of the NC-17 rating, the film cannot be released with an MPAA rating without the film being resubmitted for review.
MPAA Appeals Board
According to the investigation done within the film, the following people (as of 2006) have been named as members of the MPAA appeals board:
- Matt Brandt, President, Trans-Lux Theaters
- Pete Cole, film buyer, The Movie Experience
- Bruce Corwin, chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Theatres
- Alan Davy, film buyer, Regal Entertainment
- Mike Doban, president, Archangelo Entertainment
- Steve Gilula, CEO, Fox Searchlight Pictures
- Frank Haffar, COO, Maya Cinemas
- John Lodigian, vice president of sales, Sony Pictures
- Michael McClellan, vice president and film buyer, Landmark Theatres
- Milton Moritz, CA/NV chapter president, North American Theatre Owners
- Len Westenberg, VP of operations, west coast division, Loews Cineplex Theatres
- Jonathan Wolf, director, American Film Market
- The Reverend James Wall, United Methodist Church minister representative, National Council of Churches
- Harry Forbes, representative, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
At Sundance, the film received a standing ovation amidst a wave of favorable coverage by major publications. The magazines Rolling Stone ("terrific...indispensable"), Entertainment Weekly ("irresistible") and USA Today ("rated R for raves"), as well as journalists such as Roger Ebert ("devastating") and Film Comment’s Gavin Smith ("incisive") praised the film for its novel techniques and unprecedented revelations that dispute longstanding MPAA statements about the ratings system.
A few critics were bothered by the film. Boxoffice, a magazine dedicated to the financial side of movie exhibition, wrote that This Film Is Not Yet Rated paid only passing mention to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), which was a co-founder in the ratings system. Instead, Dick focused mainly on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in its role as overseer and operator of the current system and its ratings decisions. The film does reveal that two members of NATO, including its California/Nevada president, sit on the secret appeals board. In its two-part essay, Boxoffice also called the documentary "willfully distorted." David Poland, who runs "Movie City News" wrote, "Even though it speaks to a subject I think is very important—the failures of the rating system and, specifically the NC-17—the tough, smart research just isn't in the film."
On the day of its premiere, the Los Angeles Times reported a much greater controversy around the film: the MPAA, a longtime bastion of anti-piracy, had made an unauthorized copy of the entire movie (see below).
The film is not available for rent on Blockbuster.com because the film does not meet Blockbuster's approved MPAA ratings. However the film is available for rent in some U.S. Blockbuster stores, and in many Blockbuster Canada branches. The film is available from Netflix and LOVEFiLM.
People interviewed in the documentary:
- Darren Aronofsky, Filmmaker (Requiem for a Dream)
- Jamie Babbit, Filmmaker (But I'm a Cheerleader)
- Maria Bello, Actress (The Cooler, A History of Violence)
- Paul Dergarabedian, Box Office Analyst (Media by Numbers)
- Atom Egoyan, Filmmaker (Where the Truth Lies)
- Mary Harron, Filmmaker (American Psycho)
- Wayne Kramer, Filmmaker (The Cooler, Running Scared)
- Jon Lewis, Film Professor (Oregon State University)
- Kimberly Peirce, Filmmaker (Boys Don't Cry)
- Bingham Ray, Distributor (October Films, former President, United Artists)
- Kevin Smith, Filmmaker (Clerks) Clips from Jersey Girl are shown.
- Matt Stone, Cartoonist/Filmmaker (Orgazmo, South Park) The puppet sex scene from Team America: World Police is also discussed.
- Michael Tucker, Filmmaker (Gunner Palace, The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair)
- John Waters, Filmmaker (Pink Flamingos, A Dirty Shame)
On January 24, 2006, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) admitted to making duplicates of a digital copy of the film that was provided to them for the purpose of obtaining an MPAA rating. According to the film's director, Kirby Dick, he sought assurances that no copies would be made or distributed for any other purpose.
The MPAA admitted to making copies of the film contrary to Dick's wishes although they contend that doing so did not constitute copyright infringement or a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). They say that the privacy of the raters themselves might have been violated by Dick. Since no complaint has been filed against Dick and since the DMCA addresses the act of subverting access control and not copying, it is unclear whether the MPAA's justification is sound.
Dick's lawyer, Michael Donaldson, has requested that the MPAA destroy all copies of the film in their possession and notify him of who has seen the film and received copies.
The DVD version of the film contains deleted scenes that showed both phone calls where Kirby Dick was assured that no copy would be made, and the last one where he found out that a copy had indeed been created.