The “Not a Love Story” Myth

One of the persistent myths about the Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB) is that they banned the NFB anti-pornography  documentary “Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography.” Wikipedia is one of the sources that perpetuates this myth. As with all myths, there is an element of truth, but here’s the whole story.

In the early 1980s, the OFRB did review documentaries. However, the presence of explicit sex did not necessarily lead to a ban, or even cutting. “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” includes 46 seconds of close up explicit sex. It was submitted for review by a group of artists called The Ontario Film and Video Appreciation Society (OFVAS), and passed, uncut, with a Restricted rating (no one under age 18 may view). However, the Board placed limits on when and where the film could be shown.

OFVAS submitted three other films. A second one, “Rameau’s Nephew” also passed with time and place restrictions. The third film, “Amerika,” was banned, and the fourth film was “Not a Love Story.” The Board refused to review “Not a Love Story.”

OFVAS took the OFRB to court, claiming that the Board had violated the new Canadian Constitution.  The Ontario Divisional Court ruled in 1983 that film classification and censorship per se were justifiable under the Constitution. The court also determined that three of the Board’s rulings were valid.

The refusal to rate “Not A Love Story”  was acceptable to the court. The court ruled that the Board did not need to perform hypothetical reviews. The judge stated “the applicants were seeking permission to show a film they did not own and which they had no right to exhibit.” The two approvals with time and place restrictions were ruled a “valid exercise of the Board’s power.”

The ban of “Amerika” was another matter entirely. The court ruled that the Board had no legally defined rights to determine what the public could view.  The Ontario government appealed to the Ontario Supreme Court, but the appeal was dismissed in 1984.   Over the next few years, the Ontario government developed legally defined standards for the operation of the Board.

So, “Not a Love Story” was not banned – it was never reviewed. But it did form part of a court case that led to significant changes at the Board. And while all this was going on in Ontario, “Not a Love Story” was a popular draw at a downtown theatre in Montreal – the hottest show on the strip for folks who missed the point the film was trying to make.

As good a review as any is at Canuxploitation. Of course, the OFRB ban myth is there too…

By trc

Freelance writer, freelance editor, web consultant, and film studies scholar.

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