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In a rare and refreshing reversal of roles, filmmakers put the powerful Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA for short) under the microscope for inspection in Academy Award-nominated director Kirby Dick's incisive look at stateside cinema's most notorious non-censoring censors. Compelled by the staggering amount of power that the MPAA ratings board wields, the filmmaker seeks out the true identities of the anonymous elite who control what films make it to the multiplex. He even goes so far as to hire a private investigator to stake out MPAA headquarters and expose Hollywood's best-kept secret. Along the way, Dick speaks with numerous filmmakers whose careers have been affected by the seemingly random and sexual-content obsessed judgments of the MPAA, including John Waters, Mary Harron, Darren Aronofsky, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, and Atom Egoyan. Written by
The MPAA announced that starting in March of 2007, it will change their policy and allow filmmakers to cite other film's ratings as comparison. The MPAA will also provide information about the demographics of its board. See more »
The film rating system in this country is governed by a secret panel created by the major film studios more than 35 years ago. Since its inception the MPAA ratings board has functioned as a sort of 'black box' where movies go in one end and a rating comes out the other, with absolutely no transparency or public accountability of the process.
The MPAA rating system is publicly proclaimed to be merely a voluntary industry system that nobody is 'required' to follow. Unfortunately the reality of the movie industry is entirely divorced from these innocuous proclamations. The rating placed on a film largely determines who gets to see it in a theater, and what sort of publicity for the movie will be accepted by television and newspapers. An NC-17 basically guarantees that only the small sliver of the public with access to art house cinemas will ever sit down in a theater to watch the film, and that there will be virtually no way to promote the film to the public.
So, in the real world, the MPAA ratings board wields considerable unchecked power over the film industry. Since the organization is funded and sustained by the major studios, that influence becomes particularly problematic when applied to independent productions. It would be not unlike a small, local merchant having to go to board set up by Wal-Mart and Target to get approval for what he can put out on his shelves.
Kirby Dick approaches this subject with humor, insight, and tenacity. He undertakes to blow the lid off of the black box of the MPAA rating system. In the process he creates a narrative filled with both information and humor. While I will leave his methods as a surprise for the viewer, suffice it say they are both unconventional and effective.
The interspersing of interviews with independent filmmakers who have been forced to do battle with the MPAA to get their movies seen, provides an excellent counterpoint to Dick's quest to expose the star chamber like proceedings of the rating board to the light of day. As well, his side-by-side comparisons of similar films, one receiving an R rating and the other an NC-17, is illustrative of the particular biases present on the ratings board.
If you care deeply about he art of film, This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a must-see. On the other hand if you just want to learn a little something and have a good laugh, this is a good pick for you too.
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