After a seven-month trial, Cypriot exhibitor Michael Papas has been cleared of charges of exhibiting a film banned by the Cyprus Censorship Committee, Catherine Breillat's controversial Romance.
The court's decision has also opened up the possibility of a challenge to Cyprus's film censorship system, which is based on British Colonial legislation put into place in 1935. Ironically, the exhibition sector seems to be uniquely penalised as hardcore pornography is broadcast nightly on local pay-TV stations.
Due to its highly explicit sexual content, Romance was officially declared 'immoral' and banned from public screenings in Cyprus. Using a legal loophole exploited by a number of other local cinema clubs, Papas, owner of Nicosia's Acropole cinemas, screened the film in the specially-created Cine Club Acropole, operating under a strict over-18 members-only policy. Acting under advice from the censor's office, the police stormed the theatre, seized the print and brought charges against Papas of screening a film without a Censorship Certificate.
According to Sakis Tsitomeneas of Athens-based distributor Rosebud, which also handles the film for Cyprus, the court's decision has immediate effect. The print will be released from police custody and screenings at the Cine Club Acropole will resume.
Although there are no immediate plans for a general release of the film, sources both in Nicosia and in Athens underlined that this may occur at a later stage.