On Monday, I reported that Yael Hersonski's gripping Holocaust documentary, A Film Unfinished, was given an R by the MPAA for "disturbing images of holocaust atrocities including graphic nudity." The filmmaker, Oscilloscope Laboratories, and Warsaw Ghetto survivor Hana Avrutzky (by means of a letter) fought the decision, asking the appeals board to "consider the context of the nudity in the film in terms of its historical and educational importance" so that viewers across the country could have unrestricted access to the material.

But the board upheld the decision, voting 12 to 3 in favor of the R rating. It's another example of the MPAA ignoring precedent and voting by whim, as the Oscar-winning Steven Spielberg film, The Last Days, was given a PG-13 for "graphic images and descriptions of Holocaust atrocities."
One might think that the fact that nudity isn't mentioned in the '90s PG-13 ruling makes the film different, but like A Film Unfinished, The Last Days shows much horror and nudity, some of which is detailed in the harrowing clip (NSFW) below.

And this is one of the biggest problems with the MPAA -- that there is no accounting for precedent and comparison. If you've seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated (and if you haven't, see it pronto -- it's on Netflix streaming), you're aware of just how little they care for past decisions. In appeals, you are not supposed to refer to them. It's all up to the whim and interests of the current people voting. While this might help themes too stringently rated in the past get a more modern and enlightened rating as years go by, it also hurts filmmakers who use past decisions as a guideline.

Why wouldn't Hersonski have thought her film would get no more than a PG-13 when Spielberg's did over ten years ago? Did they time the minutes of nudity, and it was some amount of time they just couldn't abide? Like 5 minutes of dying or dead naked Jewish people are alright, but not 10? It might seem ludicrous, but that's exactly what they do with sex scenes, and hash-marks for every profanity uttered. Furthermore, we're talking about a group that gave But I'm a Cheerleader an NC-17 until Jamie Babbit took out some fully-clothed touching and a reference to oral sex.

Without a standard to work with, how can they strive to uphold standards?

Speaking of the decision, Hersonski said: "I am extremely disappointed that teenagers in this country won't have unrestricted access to this critical imagery of the Holocaust."

Adam Yauch, meanwhile, remains hopeful:
In a world where young people are bombarded with meaningless entertainment, it's unfortunate that a film with real educational and historic value would be denied to them by an organization that is supposed to be working to help them. I still have hope that the MPAA will reconsider at some point in the future, so young people will be able to learn from this film.
categories Movies, Cinematical