'tide of filth'. 'I do miss Alex,' says Duval with a hint of genuine
sadness. 'Since his death, our profile in the Evening Standard has virtually
Walker's favourite ploy was to pen outraged reviews, claiming that the
BBFC had passed material which was clearly in breach of its guidelines, or
even of the law itself. Did such claims ever worry Duval? 'Well, I remember
that in his review of Gone in 60 Seconds, Walker accused us of passing
material which showed audiences in graphic detail how to break into a car. I
hadn't actually seen the movie at the time, because the examining team had
been clear that there were no problems whatsoever. But when the story came
out, I rushed to the local cinema to watch it for myself. I was relieved to
find that Alex was wrong and the examiners had been entirely correct.'
On the subject of pornography, Duval maintains a world-weary detachment.
Having helped to establish a 'pretty specific set of criteria' which
redefined the boundaries of consensual screen sex, he now exudes an air of
depressed resignation about the mechanics of enacting such standards.
'No matter what anybody imagines,' he says, sighing, 'regulating porn is
the least attractive and most exhausting task of an examiner at the BBFC. We
have had to be vigilant that at no point should any of our examiners start
to find themselves overwhelmed by this stuff. Nearly 20 per cent of all
submitted porn has to be cut, and the reason is simple: the distributors
have been using us as their editors. They save money and time on viewing
their films by simply sending them straight to us. You ring up and say, "You
do know there's bestiality in this film?" And they say, "No, we didn't. But
thanks for telling us!"'
Less shocking, but rather more troublesome, is the issue of the 12A
certificate which has presented some unforeseen problems. 'When we
researched the idea of an advisory 12 category, 70 per cent of those
questioned were in favour. And although we expected a certain amount of
people to complain about five-year-olds being able to watch a James Bond
film, we were caught off guard by complaints that those five-year-olds are
so bored that they run up and down the aisles and disrupt the film for
everyone else. Put bluntly, cinema staff are indiscriminately letting
babes-in-arms and toddlers in to see 12A rated movies, despite a very clear
understanding that it was not expected to accommodate very young children.'
So will the certificate be rescinded? 'No, I don't think so. But what
might happen is that a formal lower age limit may be imposed, which is what
they have in Sweden and Finland. But of course, that does to some extent
undermine the whole principal of the 12A, which is asking parents to take on
the responsibility to be media literate.'
For Duval, such media literacy is the key to the future of the BBFC
itself. To his successor, David Cooke, who takes over tomorrow, Duval has
this advice: 'Watch out for opportunities, because if you don't, you may
find that the things you took for granted are going to slip away. The future
Your Choice Viewers' Wives
Correlating violent lyrics with violent action
restricted Gaspar Noes Irreversible a film which I believe has yet to
arrive in Australia to festivals and academic institutions. However,
Irreversible has been passed "18" uncut for cinema and video release in the
UK and "16" uncut in France, and "15" in Sweden.
61. Is harmonisation at any level achievable? Well this is really part of
a wider subject, which is to do with convergence. And that is intended for
other and separate sessions at this conference. I do not want to overlap too
much into that territory but there are a few things I think I can say.
62. In Europe, as the European Commission report this year found, there
is in fact no desire for harmonisation even amongst the film industry or its
audiences. At the same time, there is a lot to be said for diversity- which
is the opposite of harmonisation and convergence. At its most obvious, the
cultural differences between the nations of the world, which define who we
are, are expressed and sustained by our different languages.
63. Harmonisation would progressively remove the present barriers which
prevent Hollywood rolling everything out from a single matrix generated in
64. It would considerably lower their unit costs and make them more
dominant than ever before. Our different national industries, making films
with different national languages, will be squeezed even further. Would they
65. And it is worth looking at the models available for harmonised
regulation. There are really only three ways of regulating films. One,
the most common in Europe and elsewhere, is regulation by government
department or at least by a body which reports directly or indirectly to
government. The second is self-regulation by the film industry itself
indeed, the American model, represented by the MPAA. The third is the
rarest: regulation by an independent body. This is very difficult to
achieve. The BBFC in Britain is the only clear example I know of. Our
independence of course is really an accident of our history rather than any
deliberate act of policy.
66. So any future harmonisation, which by definition has to be
international, probably only has two models that are pragmatically
available: self regulation by industry and government based regulation.
67. It is difficult to see how this can ever work. In Europe, where we
have economic union, and have achieved a degree of administrative
harmonisation, there is no serious prospect of similar politicisation of
cultural harmonisation. The British, the French, the Germans to name but
the three largest nations would oppose it. Indeed, I do not believe there
is any desire within the European Community for harmonisation of film
regulation under a single body reporting to Brussels where the union has
68. That leaves only self-regulation. This already exists in Europe for
video games. It is called NICAM and is based in the Netherlands. It is
relatively new but should work for videogames because they are highly
adapted to trans-national regulation. There is no problem with regionality
of video games the all (nearly) come from Japan and America and share a