Clare Sidoti Staff Writer
“Very short-sighted” and “very hypocritical” is how Oz the Great and Powerful star, James Franco, has described the Australian Film Classification Board in YouTube in response to the banning of his friend and co-collaborator, Travis Mathews’ film from being screened anywhere down under.
Franco has publicly spoken out in support of Mathews’ film, I Want Your Love, the story of a gay man’s last 36 hours in San Francisco after living there for 10 years. It includes a farewell party thrown for him by his friends as well as him engaging in sex with his best friend. Franco and Mathews have recently collaborated on Interior: Leather Bar, an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival this past January.
In the two-minute video, Franco expresses his “disappointment” that the Board banned the film. He says that “Sex is a big part of our lives” and should be used to tell the stories of people’s lives. He feels that Mathews uses “sex in such a sophisticated way… [and] to keep it away from films that want to explore it as human behavior is very shortsighted and I think very hypocritical.” He also believes that this debate and ban would not be happening if Mathews had made “a very violent film” instead. See it for yourself:
Mathews’ feature debut was due to have its Australian premiere on March 16 as part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. A statement on their website from Festival organisers’ states:
The MQFF are disappointed to announce that the 2 sessions of Travis Mathews’ film I Want Your Love have been refused exemption from Classification by Classification Australia, meaning that the MQFF have been banned from screening the film. The Classification Board have refused the film because they state that it contains explicit sex scenes without the narrative context to support the sex scenes, and if the film were to be classified it would be given an X rating and therefore not available for the sorts of exemption processes the MQFF follow each year. The MQFF disputes that reading of the narrative of I Want Your Love and insists that the sex is in context with the narrative.
We’re shocked that Classification Australia have taken this path. I Want Your Love has screened to critical acclaim at dozens of festivals around the world. Australia is the first film festival to have it banned. We’re sorry our audience won’t be able to make up its own minds about adult content.
In an interview with Australian paper, The Age, Festival director Lisa Daniel says that in her 15 years of working at the Festival, this is the first film to not receive an exemption. Likewise, having appeared at numerous festivals around the world, this is the first time it has been banned. Daniel states that the “decision is an embarrassment for Australia”.
Daniel has organised a petition against the ban which went before the Board yesterday (March 4). She included a statement from Mathews, who declared that:
”With my films I have always sought to capture honest and intimate depictions of modern gay life with everyday men… this involved a through-line of intimacy and that meant not shying away from sex… [He uses sex] as a tool to show character development, interpersonal issues, intimacy, playfulness and something overall closer to the reality I’m familiar with.”
The result of this petition is still pending.
I Want Your Love was also due to screen at Sydney’s Queer Screen and the Brisbane Queer Film Festival.
What do you all make of all this controversy? Do you think James Franco was right to call them out?