Censorship is an ongoing debate across artistic disciplines and governmental bodies worldwide, but director Sari Braithwaite brings it home with new documentary [CENSORED]. Between 1958 to 1971, 1,991 films were censored upon arrival by the Australian Censorship Board, and Braithwaite unearths the best – and worst – of it.
[CENSORED] is a confronting film. It will have you feeling uncomfortable, rolling your eyes, and sometimes even snickering. The footage features a wide spectrum of content the Australian government considered distasteful for Aussie audiences, from gratuitous nudity to a lengthy montage of women being assaulted by men. There’s also a sweary altercation involving Bob Dylan thrown in for good measure.
The film certainly earns an R18+ rating. Voiceovers from Braithwaite discuss her experience of delving into this archive of censored material, which she describes as a “state-sanctioned spank bank”. Braithwaite mentions her historical curiosity led her to investigating the materials, but soon grew to despise the work after recognising patterns of male fantasy rife in the footage. Those familiar with Laura Mulvey’s work unpacking the ‘male gaze’ will have plenty to dissect here.
The archives are derived from films all over the world, particularly Europe and Hollywood. What [CENSORED] does well is discuss some of the content that seems most out of place. Particularly, an educational film presenting a live childbirth, and the only censored film to be directed by a woman which merely depicted a scene with two characters, admittedly post-coital, discussing their feelings in bed.
Although Braithwaite’s work piecing together this montage of shunned clips is impressive, ultimately [CENSORED] suffers from being a little too guarded. Despite such a strong premise and solid production values, Braithwaite stops short of giving her ultimate opinion on the experience despite walking us through her journey from the beginning.
[CENSORED] is a provocative film that requires a certain frame of mind to watch, but for those interested in the darker spots of film history it offers plenty to think about.
[CENSORED] made its South Australian premiere as part of Adelaide Film Festival