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This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006)
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Review Date: September 07, 2006
Director: Kirby Dick
Writer: Kirby Dick, Eddie Schmidt, Matt Patterson
Producers: Eddie Schmidt
Actors:
Kevin Smith as Kevin
Darren Aronofsky as Darren
Matt Stone as Matt
Plot:
A documentary which attempts to take you behind the scenes of the MPAA, the company that provides the ratings for all films in America (G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17). Filmmakers stop by to talk shop, industry folk share their thoughts and detectives are hired to find out exactly who the people are behind the decisions at the MPAA. You see…nobody knows.
Critique:
Maybe it’s because I’ve been a huge movie fan for most of my life, or maybe it’s because I run a movie website and considered part of the “biz”, but not all that much that I saw in this documentary surprised me. That’s not a condemnation of the film though, as it does present a lot of useful and interesting information about the governing body that chooses the ratings that are stamped onto new movies in America, but for me, on a personal level, I was mostly just nodding and agreeing most of the way through it, as I had already heard about most of these things before. Two things that I wasn’t aware of though, which are ultimately at the basis of this documentary, is that the actual members of the board who make up the MPAA ratings, are not publicly known, and have been kept secret for decades. Secondly, there are no “set guidelines” to how these people vote on specific films, which means that filmmakers are basically left out in the cold, if they don’t agree with the rating that their film receives, and given very little guidance. Furthermore, when “appealing” their rating, the filmmakers can’t even bring up previous films as examples or precedence. I know, I know, it all sounds pretty fascist and oddly mysterious, right? Well, that’s pretty much how the MPAA comes off, to be honest with you.

Many filmmakers also take part in this documentary, speaking against the MPAA, of course, including Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, John Waters, Matt Stone, Atom Egoyan and others, but I have to admit that I would have liked to have seen some interviews with “old school” directors like Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter or Brian DePalma as well, if only because it would have provided a greater generational point of view. Also, they didn’t mention any studio execs per se, or get any interviews with them. Since the MPAA is basically “working for” the big 7 studios, I thought it very odd that the documentarian didn’t talk to them, or mention why they weren’t involved in this movie. The film moves pretty quickly though, offering some stats here and there, mixed in with some interviews, as well as director Kirby Dick’s own brush with the MPAA for this film. At the same time, the filmmaker also hires a private detective to find out who the members of the MPAA really are, and ultimately “outs” them in the film (they’re supposed to represent “Joe and Jane America” and yet they all live in California as part of the upper middle-class, and most of them have kids over the age of 18).

Despite giving the documentary a little more oomph with the detective work footage, this part of the movie wasn’t as interesting as the actual interviews with the industry folks, especially when we were provided insight into the detective’s own lives, like how one turned into a lesbian at some point in her life (what that has to do with the MPAA is beyond me!). The film does bring up the points that many people have complained about for years though, including the vast discrepancy in ratings between films featuring violence and those featuring sex (the exact opposite is true of European rating systems), as well as the aforementioned lack of any true guidelines and most importantly, accountability. The people behind the MPAA basically control a great deal of what (and how) films are shown in America, and yet, everything is extremely secretive with them and they didn’t even bother to sit down for a damn interview for a film about them (if you have nothing to be ashamed of, why not come out and talk about your shit?). Ultimately, it all starts to look and feel a lot like a secret mafia of some kind, and with the big studios being run by even bigger corporations nowadays – which according to this film, own 90% of all the media in America – it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that there are people behind the controls colluding for their own benefit, while selling it off as “good for your children and America”.

I already knew most of this before watching this documentary, but hopefully this film’s well-presented efforts will make some kind of a dent into the embarrassing rating “board” system that America has been slave to for close to 40 years. It’s time for a revamp, it’s time for a change, and for the love of God, at the very least…it’s time to make the MPAA accountable for their decisions! This ain’t friggin’ a Communist country man…this secretive shit is for the birds. You can still help American families make decisions for their kids, but draw up some friggin’ guidelines already and stop all the covert handshake shit. Oh yeah, and Jack Valenti sucks. PS: For those who are so inclined, this film also features plenty of snippets from actual movies that were cut/screwed by the MPAA, which between me and you, made for some “stimulating” viewing.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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