Hate Crime, a film about of a Jewish family recording their youngest son's birthday celebrations on video when their home invaded by a bunch of neo-Nazis high on crystal-meth, has been given the dubious honour of becoming only the fourth horror film to be denied a certificate by the BBFC.
I'm a fan of horror, I consider myself to be pretty liberal and I would consider myself a supporter of free speech and free expression but I also think there comes a time when a line has to be drawn and we have say that something is not okay. A film where a mother is raped, first by an intruder and then by her own son at gunpoint followed a girl being molested and a swastika is branded onto a victim's skin is not okay.
The thing that bothers me most is not the extreme sexual and physical violence or the anti-Semitism - both of which, let me be very clear, do bother me very, very deeply - but it is that fact that someone, somewhere thinks this and enactment of such horrendous events is okay to make and that this is okay to watch and are happy to distribute it. This not Baise Moi, this is beyond The Bunny Game, this is something else, something far darker.
Critics have described it as "one of the most realistic portrayals of pure fear and terror in modern day society" and say "it makes films like Hostel and Saw look like Disney movies" and one declared that it "made me physically ill and I can't wait to watch it again" with perhaps the last comment being the most disturbing of all. Because watching 73 minutes of rape and torture and extreme anti-Jewish hate crimes once is never enough, right?
The film is directed by James Cullen Bressack who says he is "honoured" to know that his mind "is officially too twisted for the UK." He also finds it "unbelievable that a film that shows little to no on screen violence and no nudity was actually banned" and that "it just shows the power of what is implied and people's imagination and is a testament to the fact that the same crimes that happen in the world are truly horrifying."
The same crimes DO happen in the real world and they ARE horrifying so why enact them as if they were real events for entertainment? What purpose does it serve? If that was a real event that happened and was filmed it would not be shown publicly because it would be graphic so why mock it up and put it out there for titillation and entertainment?
Yes, I believe we can make our own choices and, perhaps contradictory, we shouldn't be told what we can and can't watch but there are, and have to be, exceptions to that rule but this is not Hostel or Saw or You're Next or The Strangers, this is something more real, more visceral, more terrifying and more deliberate than any Hollywood movie. I am very aware no-one will force me, or anyone else, to watch this and I can chose not to watch it but the fact it is there for others
However, there are people that will watch this and enjoy this - they will watch it because they want to see a family being raped, branded, brutalized as entertainment, as fun. It might excite them. It might incite them. And that terrifies me more than any film ever could.
We live in a fiercely precarious time where videos of real people, living and breathing human beings, are beheaded and the footage is put online for anyone to watch. We live in a time where the fire of hate doesn't need to be fuelled whoever it is aimed at, where the buttons of reasons to commit heinous crimes don't need to be pushed but there are people willing to push them and not even flinch. We live in a time where some people think it's okay to draw a swastika in a public place be it a bus stop or a Synagogue or a Mosque not spare a second thought. Or cut off someone's head. And film it. And put it online.
The found footage film was due to be the first release in a new joint VOD venture between film website Nerdly and on demand video portal The Horror Show.
In an official statement, the British Board Of Film Classification, explained why they refused to give the film a rating - without a rating a film can't be released effectively banning it.
Among the reasons they gave for the certification being refused they cited that it "focuses on the terrorisation, mutilation, physical and sexual abuse and murder of the members of a Jewish family" that "the physical and sexual abuse and violence are accompanied by constant strong verbal racist abuse."
The film ends with an on screen statement stating that the two attackers who escaped were subsequently apprehended and that the one surviving family member was released from captivity however the BBFC considered the attempt at the end to position the film as against hate-crime "so unconvincing that it only makes matters worse."
The statement also stated that is their "carefully considered conclusion" that the "unremitting manner in which Hate Crime focuses on physical and sexual abuse, aggravated by racist invective, means that to issue a classification to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board's Guidelines, would risk potential harm, and would be unacceptable to broad public opinion."
It concludes by saying that "given that the fact that unacceptable content runs throughout the work, cuts are not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification."
This is not about anti-Semitism. They victims in this case are Jewish, targeted for being Jewish, and that cannot be ignored or denied but this is about the depiction of the brutalization of a human being and labeling it as entertainment and being okay with that. You could change Jewish to Muslim or black or gay and the list goes on, they could be anyone and anything, but the fact remains that this is not okay.
They are not targeted and ARE something, they are targeted BECAUSE they are something. This is not tale of revenge for a wrong that was done, they aren't attacked at random or because they were home, this is an act of pure hate. They are hunted. If you've actively chosen to watch that, where do you go next?
There is pushing boundaries and there is provoking controversy - both of which are vital parts of any creative process or debate - and then there is what is acceptable and what is not. This, in my opinion, is not.
Here's a boundary to push and a controversy to provoke. Think about what the film is about, the synopsis. Now, ignore the Jewish angle. Is it acceptable now? Next, take away the neo-nazi labels. Is it any more palatable? Finally, swap the adult roles for children. Still okay with it? Just because it happens doesn't mean it should be a movie.
Nazi's film themselves violating and torturing a Jewish family in their home and, among the atrocities they commit, they force the son to rape the mother.
That's entertainment. Apparently. And I'm not okay with that.