Prior to its application to become a registered charity with the Charities Commission, the Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc. (SPCS) engaged in a “revitalised campaign” against gratuitous sexually explicit movies screened in New Zealand cinemas, focusing on those such as Baise-Moi (French = “Rape-Me”) which was scheduled as an opening show-piece in the now defunct Beck’s Incredible Film Festival (B.I.F.F.) directed by Mr Ant Timpson. The R18 classifications issued to this morally putrid film and others like the Japanese film Visitor Q, were appealed by the Society to the Film and Literature Board of Review, to test whether or not the Chief Censor Bill Hastings and his staff had correctly applied the censorship laws to safeguard the “public good”.
Both films were effectively shut out of Timpson’s B.I.F.F. and after protracted litigation through the courts, the Court of Appeal issued decisions upholding in large part the concerns raised by SPCS. The Society contended that the Chief Censor had well passed his “use-by date” as a competent censor, having become “desensitised” by excessive exposure to the injurious, corrupting and toxic impact of so many films containing explicit sexual content and gratuitous sexual violence he had had to view. The vast bulk of publications (films, videos, DVDs and magazines etc) he had “examined” over his lengthy career as a censor involved the degradation, dehumanisation and demeaning of women and are “injurious to the public good”. The Society’s concerns about the Chief Censor and his Deputy Ms Nicola McCully, were taken up by a number of MPs in the House of Representatives and eventually Hastings left the job.
Bill Hastings served as NZ’s tenth Chief Censor from October 1999 to July 2010. Prior to that he was Deputy and Acting Chief Censor from December 1998 to October 1999. He was a member of the Indecent Publications Tribunal from 1990 to 1994 and Deputy President of the Film and Literature Board of Review from 1995 to 1998. He played a key role as Deputy of that Board in issuing a highly controversial decision that banned the “talking heads” Living Word videos. This decision was subsequently overturned by the Court of Appeal and the videos were classified as “unrestricted”. The Board was forced to concede the obvious – the videos contained nothing that remotely came within the five censorship “jurisdictional gateways” of the censorship Act – involving “sex, horror, crime, or cruelty or violence” – the basis upon which a publication can be classified “objectionable”.
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