The North American distributors of Catherine Breillat's controversial film Fat Girl (A Ma Souer!) have lost an appeal to the Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB). Given that joint distributors Cowboy Pictures and Lions Gate Films have chosen not to make the cuts requested, the decision effectively bans the film from screening in the province's theatres. The film has been cleared for release in the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, was released unrated in the US and has passed uncut in the UK.
The scenes under dispute include full-frontal nudity of adolescent females, particularly a central episode where a 13-year-old girl watches her older teenage sister engaged in a sex with a man. Other disputed sequences include a scene with the 13-year-old looking at her breasts in a mirror, and another where her breasts are exposed in what an OFRB spokesperson described as, "a fairly brutal rape scene."
In a letter written in response to the OFRB's initial decision, Breillat expressed astonishment that the same body had passed uncut her earlier film 36 Fillete, which also features sexually explicit depictions of female adolescents. And she has been joined by leading Canadian filmmakers, including David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, in calling for a reversal of the decision. Cronenberg accused the Board of applying its rules "mechanically and to the letter" and that the effect of their decision would "prevent any profound cinematic discussion of an entire field of human experience." Toronto International Film Festival director Piers Handling has also written the board, asking the Board to "allow our community to make their own decision about this film."
The 3-2 decision against the film prompted the two dissenting board members to go public. Wrote board member Sara Waxman, "This intelligent handling of a controversial subject, adolescent sexuality, does not glorify or glamorize the subject' If anything, this is an anti-sex film." Board member Roger Currie wrote that "the nudity in question was not gratuitous and was a legitimate choice for the filmmaker to make. I feel strongly that in such a situation the board should exercise discretion." Members upholding the Board's earlier decision issued no statement.
The OFRB was notoriously censorious in the late 1970s and early 1980s, banning such films as Louis Malle's Pretty Baby, Marco Bellocchio's Devil In The Flesh, Bernardo Bertolucci's Luna and Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum also on the basis of adolescent nudity. Supporters of the Toronto International Film Festival lead a fight against censorship in the mid-1980s that lead the Ontario government to grant the festival special dispensation to show films as it sees fit. However, any film for general release is subject to provincial review.
In a statement, Noah Cowan, co-president of New York-based Cowboy Pictures, "The Board has rocketed Ontario back to the cinematic stone age," said Cowan, a Toronto native. "Canadian distributors will now fear any controversial material after this inconsistent and scandalous ruling by a reactionary censor." He said Fat Girl is the first film in 15 years to be rebuffed on appeal.