Ontario Film Review Board vs Toronto Film Festival

The Ontario Film Review Board and the Toronto International Film Festival have a long history of disagreement, from the 1978 battle over “In Praise of Older Women” to the confusion of “Baise-Moi” in 2000.

In a late 1980s interview, Board chair Mary Brown accused film festival organizers of deliberately selecting controversial films. Commenting on a film banned in 1984, she pointed out that 448 films were reviewed, and only one banned, for sexual violence and underage sexual activity (Sweet Movie, from 1974, and also banned in England). She noted “Every year the Festival seems to introduce a film that we have no choice about and it gets them a lot of publicity”.

Festival director S. Wayne Clarkson disagreed with this “totally inappropriate statement” and declared “no film has ever been selected for presentation at the festival based on the assumption that it will contravene the guidelines established by the Ontario Film Review Board”.

Some years later another festival director noted “The Ontario Censor Board was a wonderful target for us to posture with in the press, and what seemed like a disadvantage worked in our favour as we occasionally posted ‘Screening Cancelled by order of the Ontario Censor Board’ at our theatres. This actually made it easier for the banned films to get publicity and to arrange private screenings for buyers”.

In 1988 festival films became except from review, provided the audience was limited to those eighteen and over. This ended the banning of festival films, but the later ban of Baise-Moi for general distribution, after it had been shown at the festival, demonstrated that the days of controversy were not over.

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