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BBFC to adopt tougher line on unclassified video content, Black Swan most complained about film in cinemas last year

British film censor also commissions new research into sexual violence in film, partly due to controversial horror films The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) and The Bunny Game.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is to adopt a tougher line towards video content which is currently exempt from classification. The measures will affect around 200 current works, according to BBFC director David Cooke.

The crackdown comes after a DCMS consultation on the classification of exempt works deemed potentially “harmful” to children, and will require “a technical adjustment” to the Video Recordings Act.

The types of work to be newly categorised include music videos, historical documentaries and sports videos, with examples including historical documentary The Bitch of Buchenwald, music videos of bands like Slipknot and Gorgoroth, and extreme fighting videos including the series Cage Rage.

The BBFC is also carrying out new research into depictions of “sadistic, sexual and sexualised violence, mainly against women” to better understand public opinion about what is harmful.

The organisation said the research, which will be completed later this year, was “partly” inspired by last year’s controversial films The Human Centipede 2 - which was heavily cut - and The Bunny Game, which was refused certification. The BBFC deemed both films to be “harmful” to the public.

As part of the research a focus group of 30-40 members of the public will watch films including Antichrist, Human Centipede 2, A Serbian Film, The Bunny Game and The Killer Inside Me.

The announcements were made by the BBFC to reporters during the launch of its 2011 annual report.

Concerning a recent spat with the producers, director and writer of The Angels’ Share over the number of times the word ‘cunt’ is used in the film, Cooke said: “the ‘c’ word is still at the very top of our chart of offensive words…The filmmakers didn’t think numbers should play an important part in the classification but it is essential to what we do”.

Cooke said that BBFC research proved that the public was still concerned about strong language but that the type of material people found offensive had changed with more complaints in recent years about racist and discriminatory language.

Among surprising statistics released to journalists was that Black Swan was the most complained about theatrical release in 2011 (with around 40 complaints) and The Woman in Black is this year’s most complained about film to date with 120 complaints, largely due to “confounded expectations.”

The Dark Knight was the most complained about film in the last decade, with more than 300 complaints. At least two national newspapers ran campaigns against perceived violence and “darkness” in Nolan’s second instalment in his Batman trilogy. Cooke described the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises as “a solid 12A”, without the “spook” elements of The Dark Knight.

A Serbian Film was the theatrical release to suffer most cuts in the last decade, with 49, while the BBFC estimated that 2005 documentary The Aristocrats was one of the most “sweary” films it had encountered.

Cooke admitted that the BBFC was “comparatively speaking one of the most conservative classification boards in Europe” and said the main difference between the BBFC and US censors [MPAA] is that “the US [board] is more squeamish about sex, but more tolerant towards stronger violence.”

Another key difference between the UK and US boards has concerned the classification of US PG13 films. Dream House and The Roommate were last year passed  PG-13 in the US but were given the 15 mark in the UK. One BBFC official said: “We tend to be stricter than the MPAA when it comes to violence, threat and intensity.”

The organisation is currently looking for a new president after Sir Quentin Thomas last week stepped down after ten years in the role. A successor will likely be announced in the autumn.

The full report, which also notes “a decline in video material reaching the UK market”, can be found at: www.bbfc.co.uk/

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