the new moral panic

– . – The New Moral Panic

The New Moral Panic

Genre filmmaker Jake West, director of the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape, gives us his views on film censorship in the modern age.


Your documentary has appeared around the release of Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave, both remakes of notorious video nasties. Is there something in the air?
Sometimes there is a sort of zeitgeist moment. For whatever reason, we seem to have reexamined this video nasties thing at a period that seems to coincide with censorship becoming a bit more prevalent again. If you get more films like A Serbian Film coming along, then you could make it another video nasty miniwave. Who knows what’s going to come next? No one was talking about A Serbian Film before it appeared, so it just came out of nowhere. It’s also interesting just looking at news events. The last time we saw street riots and protests was in the Eighties. We’re going to see more social unrest because we’re in a period of austerity and people will be upset and unemployment’s going up. And there is the return of a Tory government as well. It’s not necessarily about censorship, but certainly the news does mirror what happened in the eighties to some extent. We primarily did the [documentary] because we felt it hadn’t really been covered in an audiovisual medium. I grew up in the Eighties so I thought it would be an exciting and interesting thing to look back at because of all of the levels of both political intrigue and moral panic.

What do you make of the BBFC’s decision to cut A Serbian Film so severely?
I’m not in favour of censorship, personally— not for adults. I understand having an age classification system where you can warn about what sort of content is in a film, but ultimately anyone over the age of 18 should be able to choose what they want to see without it being cut at all. I don’t think that one group of adults should be telling another group of adults what they can watch. A film which is transgressive and deals with difficult subjects is never going to be a mainstream film. The BBFC are very uptight still on sexual violence, and they will say that their studies have led them to believe that this is what the public want. Personally I think it’s treating people like children; you end up with a nation of people who can’t make any decisions for themselves. Filmmakers should be allowed to work in difficult subject matter. You could say that there are people who maybe do get off on this sort of material, but I don’t think you can have a healthy artistic society without people wanting to delve into these darker areas. Obviously the question of whether filmmakers have anything to say depends on the level of their talent. You can turn on the news and you can see far worse things happening, and that’s real. I think there’s a big difference between film and reality.

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape appears on Nucleus Films’ three-disc compendium Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (above), available now.




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