The filmmakers behind Australia’s first indigenous comedy, Stone Bros, which was classified MA15+ due to its depiction of drug use, have succeeded in persuading a government minister to order a review of the rating.
The rating means that anyone under 15 years cannot attend without a parent or adult guardian in tow.
The film’s distributor, Australian Film Syndicate (AFS), will give a presentation to the Classification Review Board on September 12 as a result of the intervention of the Minister of Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor. They will be arguing for an M rating – recommended for mature audiences – a classification not subject to enforceable legal restrictions, unlike MA 15+.
Stone Bros has been referred to as an Australian Cheech And Chong and the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) ordered that cinemas carry a “strong drug use” warning. While there is no denying that the lead characters in the road movie smoke a lot of marijuana throughout the film, the AFS and writer/director Richard Frankland say they were surprised and disappointed at the original rating.
“The key message of the film is that if you connect with your culture you don’t need to smoke pot,” said AFS managing director Allanah Zitserman. The OFLC itself argues that context is important in classification decisions.
Distributors can ask for any classification decision to be reviewed by the separate Classification Review Board but it costs $6,700. AFS unsuccessfully requested a review and also a waiving of the fee before lobbying O’Connor.
Zitserman is also director of the Dungog Film Festival, a not-for-profit event, and chose Stone Bros as her opening night film back in May. The film opens on September 24. Lightning Entertainment is handling international sales.