Censorship


Censorship
   During the period of partition, films in the Polish territories were censored according to the laws of the occupying powers. After regaining independence in 1918, the government was in favor of an open market regulated by tariffs and censorship. The decree of 7 February 1919 placed cinema under the control of the state and introduced preventive censorship. The Central Film Office (Centralny Urząd Filmowy) controlled films screened in Poland, especially during the 1918-1921 war against Soviet Russia. The opening of a new theater required a permit, and screenings had to be approved by the censor. The Instruction for Cinema Censors issued in May 1920 specified the banning of images that were offensive to religious and national sensibilities, violent, and of "corrupting nature."
   The Polish government frequently intervened by issuing regulations that established lower taxes and preferential treatment for locally produced films. For example, the government showed interest in promoting patriotically minded (mostly anti-Russian) pictures by reducing taxes on them, which may partly explain the popularity and rate of recurrence of such pictures in prewar Poland. During the interwar period, the Catholic Church sporadically objected to films, which purportedly either offended the faith or public morals. Since Poland was a country traditionally suspicious of ideas coming from its Communist neighbor, it is not surprising to note that Soviet films had only 0.4 percent of the Polish market in 1925. Attempting to stop the growing import of American films in the 1920s, the authorities tried to impose a ten-to-one contingent plan (ten imported films for one Polish production), which did not materialize due to the pressure from Hollywood.
   During World War II, the Germans maintained theaters in Poland for profit, as well as for propaganda reasons. The cinemas were divided into three groups: for Germans only, cinemas with separate screenings for Poles and Germans, and for Poles only. The Polish underground ineffectively tried to discourage people from visiting theaters by boycotting them, using stink bombs, and punishing filmmakers and actors who collaborated with the Germans.
   The economic censorship of the interwar period was replaced after 1945 by political censorship. The fully subsidized and centralized Polish film industry, nationalized on 13 November 1945, was controlled through state censorship. Initially headed by Aleksander Ford, Film Polski ("Polish Film," the National Board of Polish Film) was established as the sole body producing, distributing, and exhibiting films in Poland. It operated within the Ministry of Information and Propaganda. The ambitions of Film Polski were high, but due to heavy political censorship, very few feature films were made within the first ten years after the war. Many scripts were subjected to severe criticism and endless rewrites especially during the period of socialist realist cinema; others were produced and immediately shelved. In 1952 the Central Office of Cinematography (Centralny Urząd Kinematografii) was founded, but the real decisions concerning the release of Polish films were made at a higher level, by the members of the Communist Politburo (Biuro Polityczne, PZPR).
   During the Polish School period, several films challenged the official policy concerning the arts. The dose of realism, enormous by Polish standards in the mid-1950s, was often unbearable for the censors, who reacted in several cases; they were harsher toward contemporary realistic films than films dealing with recent history. The filmmakers' demands for greater independence for the film units and softer censorship were incompatible with the attempts of the Communist Party (PZPR) to regain total control over the filmmaking process, which had been characteristic of the pre-1956 period. Toward the end of the 1950s, the Communist authorities were openly disappointed with the messages and themes permeating Polish films, the lack of compliance with the party line, and the alleged "Westernization" of Polish filmmakers. As a result, the autonomy of film units was gradually limited, and stricter control of films was administratively implemented. Although the Main Office for Control of the Press, Publications, and Public Performances (Główny Urząd Kontroli Prasy Publikacji i Widowisk, GUKPPiW) was responsible for media censorship in general, censorship was frequently much harsher at the film units level. The Committee for Evaluation of Scripts (Komisja Ocen Scenariuszy) was the first major obstacle in the process of approving a film project. The restrictive policy of the Communist Party can be observed toward some of the representative films of the Polish School. The most frequent way to punish the makers of "unwanted films" was the limited distribution of their works, as was the case with Kazimierz Kutz's Nobody Is Calling (1960). Another form of punishment was delaying the premiere of some films and in extreme instances even banning them, as was the case with Eighth Day of the Week (1958/1983) directed by Aleksander Ford. The third practice, which reflects the suspicion as well as the aversion of the Communist leaders toward some of the films, was the reluctance to send them to international film festivals, as was the case with Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds (1958).
   The following period of "small stabilization" was characterized by stricter censorship. Polish filmmakers were unable to voice their real concerns regarding politics, social issues, and recent national history. Rather, they retreated to safer adaptations of the national literary canon and popular cinema. After the events of 1968, the Communist authorities tightened censorship, criticized alleged "commercialism" of Polish cinema, and called for films reflecting the true spirit of socialism. They also reorganized the existing film units to introduce a more centralized organization of the film industry.
   Polish artistic life in the late 1970s was characterized by the presence of the official and the unofficial culture. The former was approved and censored by the state, and the latter existed in opposition to the Communist regime. The lines between the two spheres of culture were often blurred. The absence of life "as it is" on Polish screens prompted audiences to practice allegorical, Aesopian reading. The audiences often looked for references, frequently nonexistent ones, to Polish reality. When the corrupted side of Communism was explored in the late 1970s by the Cinema of Distrust, the system was not attacked directly; the films targeted its institutions and functionaries and focused on corruption and social maladies. The mechanisms of manipulation and indoctrination were often examined on a metaphorical level—symbolic pictures, unlike dialogue, were difficult to censor. Polish cinema became known for its double talk and subversive visual images.
   During a brief Solidarity period, several filmmakers successfully challenged the restrictions of Communist censorship. However, the introduction of martial law in December 1981 seriously affected local cinema. Several political films were immediately banned by the authorities, among them Wajda's critically acclaimed Man of Iron (1981), Agnieszka Holland's A Woman Alone (1981/1988), and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blind Chance (1981/1987). Another film, Ryszard Bugajski's Interrogation, which was finished in 1982, circulated in Poland on illegal video copies until its release in 1989. Apart from the Communist ban on political films, the restrictive policy of the state also resulted in the suspension of the Polish Filmmakers Association and the removal of Wajda and his close collaborators from the film studio X. The political situation after 1981 intensified divisions between the pro-Communist filmmakers and those who opposed the system.
   The cinema industry in Poland was changed after the new legislation in 1987 that abolished the state monopoly in the sphere of film production, distribution, and the purchase of foreign films. The change of the political formation in 1989 and, above all, the abolition of censorship in 1990 enabled the transformation of film units into independent film studios. The process of democratization began with the release of a number of films shelved by the previous regime and the preoccupation with history, especially with its long-suppressed aspects such as the Stalinist past. In democratic Poland, state-run political censorship has been replaced by the economic censorship of the producer, which in many aspects has proved to be even harsher for some filmmakers.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof
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   Official film censorship in Spain started in 1912, and remained in place as an explicit system to control artistic expression, enforced in one form or another, until 1977. The power to censor spectacles was held, in the early periods, by the central government, and later by local governors. Two main criteria marked a film as undesirable in the first four decades of censorship. On the one hand, there were references to "buenas costumbres" ("good habits"). In Spain (as elsewhere in Europe), this was manifested in the control of representations that had to do with human sexuality and marital life. For decades, even rather common behaviors like adultery (not to mention prostitution or homosexuality) were frowned upon by the authorities. On the other, the authorities were particularly concerned about the expression of dissident political opinions, and this remained a central criterion, enforced until the disappearance of legal censorship codes. This concern became more stressed in periods of unrest (so frequent in the early decades of the 20th century), such as at the beginning and end of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship and the two-year right-wing Republican period between 1934 and 1936. In those periods, cinemas could be, and often were, closed and the people responsible for forbidden propaganda could be incarcerated, although the approach was not always consistent.
   The triumph of the Franco rebel army brought 40 years of dictator-ship and a centralization of censorship (the new system was set up in 1941), which became a powerful tool to control artistic expression and the communication of ideas. Film now depended on central government institutions, and it was subject to severe controls. There were two different periods. Until 1963, there were no explicit and specific guidelines on what would not be allowed, thus censorship had an arbitrary element. In the 1955 Salamanca Conversations, filmmakers demanded that a set of criteria be drawn up. The second period began with the application of the 1963 code, and filmmaking became a game to circumvent explicit guidelines through suggestion, irony, or obscure references.
   The earliest Francoist regulations of censorship practice date from 1938; that is to say, from before the triumph of the Fascist army. Each Spanish script that sought permission to be shot and every foreign film was reviewed by a committee of four "experts" from the church, the army, and the para-fascist Falange party. They could actually forbid the script in toto or, as was most often the case, could suggest emendations to prevent "corrupt" interpretations of reality. They looked carefully into the potential ideological implications in every single instance, but since most political dissidents had left the country or were stifled by the threat of death penalties or jail, the actual amount of problematic texts was very limited.
   Of course, censorship worked not only by forbidding certain ideas, but also by encouraging and supporting some films that contained the "right" kind of images and themes to the detriment of others. Since Spanish film relied heavily on institutional support and government funding schemes, by rewarding certain kinds of films that gave the "right" image of the country, those who did not follow such official guidelines had no access to extra funds.
   Another area of concern, particularly for the Catholic Church, was representation of sex and sexuality. In discussing Spanish film censorship of sexual matters, it is often overlooked that the international situation in this sense was very similar. Until 1961, the Hays Code determined what could be represented in Hollywood studio films, and even in countries with no official censorship, the authorities frowned upon anything that went against certain notions of public morality. Besides, no matter what actual censors focused on, censor-ship worked particularly as a threat that led to self-censorship.
   Censorship could take many forms: on many occasions, kisses were shortened to reduce their passion rating, or problematic scenes were deleted; on a number of occasions, dubbing was altered to make the film's plot conform to a more acceptable ideology or morality. For instance, a voice-over was added at the end of Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sicca, 1948) to guarantee that the protagonist would end up happy. Among the films forbidden in the first period were Roberto Rossellini's postwar output, as well as Luchino Visconti's neorealist films, Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be (1942), Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1941) and, at the end of the first period, Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and Federico Fellini's La dolce vita (1960).
   In the early 1960s, the Hays Code became more flexible, and the approach in other Western countries became less consistent. Spain, however, retained an officially Catholic and ultraconservative regime, and censorship regulations were tightened. In 1962, José María García Escudero, a right-wing reformist, became head for film policies (Director General de Cinematografía) and agreed to introduce a censorship code. In this way, a list of regulations on what could be represented on film came into force in February 1963. Every script had to be submitted to a censorship commission of 13 experts, chaired by the director of cinematography; each wrote his or her report and each case was discussed separately. In some cases, censors were very strict, especially when considering the work of filmmakers labeled as problematic, like Luis G. Berlanga. In other cases, potentially "dangerous" films simply were accepted.
   As the decade progressed, dissidence became stronger. The authorities were at odds to show in international venues that Spain was on the path toward modernity, and freedom of expression became an issue. Filmmakers insisted that unless censors were more flexible, it was impossible to believe in openness. One consequence is that attitudes changed from period to period. Whereas in the late 1960s a brief era of liberalization occurred, the beginning of the 1970s was one of the harshest periods. Although censorship was officially derogated in 1977, there was evidence that old habits would die hard when Pilar Miró's El Crimen de Cuenca (The Cuenca Crime) was banned temporarily in 1979 because, it was stated, it offended the Civil Guard.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira
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   Film censorship regulations were first introduced in Italy in 1913 by a law that established the requirement for all films to be furnished with an official written release (nulla osta) from the Ministry for the Interior, granted on the basis of the film's having been viewed and approved by a designated police commissioner. Henceforth the release of any film, and thus the possibility of its being screened in public, was made conditional on the attested absence of any material that could be deemed offensive to public morality, national decorum, international relations, or any official state institution (including the police). These provisions were reinforced by a new decree in 1919, passed into law in 1920, that reassigned the responsibility for recommending or withholding the award of the nulla osta to a commission composed of a magistrate, a teacher, an artist, a publicist, a mother, and two members of the police force. The new law also imposed the further requirement that the subject or screenplay of any prospective film be submitted to, and approved by, the censorship commission before any actual filming was begun.
   The incoming Fascist government thus found itself already provided with a fairly strict censorship regime when it came to power in 1922, and the first Fascist law regarding films, promulgated in 1923, merely reaffirmed the provisions of the previous two laws, while stipulating a further prohibition against the inclusion of any scenes that might incite conflict or hatred between the social classes. A number of subsequent Fascist laws and decrees introduced a requirement for the commission to indicate whether a film might be deemed unsuitable for minors (below the age of 16) and progressively modified the makeup of the censorship board itself, which, by 1931, came to be composed of a representative of the Fascist Party, designated members of the police force and of the Ministry for Corporations, a judicial magistrate, and a mother. In addition, from 1933 onward, all foreign films, as well as being subject to normal censorship regulations, were required to be dubbed into Italian (in Italy) in order to obtain a general release. In 1934 the responsibility for preventive censorship over prospective films, together with all other aspects of film production and exhibition, was assumed by the newly formed Direzione Generale per la Cinematografia (General Directorate of Cinematography), headed by Luigi Freddi. In the same year the Vatican also established the Centro Cattolico Cinematografico (Catholic Cinema Center, CCC), which regularly published its own moral evaluation of films that might be shown in the church's extensive network of parish cinemas, thus also effectively exercising a censorial function. As war loomed in 1939, further and more restrictive forms of censorship were promulgated, granting the government the power to prohibit and withdraw from circulation any film that might be regarded as in any way "socially dangerous," including films that had already been granted a nulla osta.
   Immediately following the war, in October 1945, a legislative decree from the new interim government summarily abolished all Fascist regulations relating to the film industry but retained the basic censorship prescriptions of the 1923 law. In 1947 the Constituent Assembly, by the same act with which it instituted a Central Office for Cinematography under the direction of the undersecretary of the Prime Minister's Department, also reconfirmed the censorship provisions of the 1923 law. Although presenting the screenplay before commencement of filming was no longer stipulated as a legal requirement, producers were nevertheless strongly encouraged to do so in order to avoid the risk of the film being eventually refused a general release by the censorship board, which would now be composed of only a member of the Central Office for Cinematography, a judicial magistrate, and a delegated representative of the Ministry for the Interior. As a result, film censorship during the early years of the Italian Republic came to reproduce quite closely the previous situation under Fascism, with the state and its bureaucracy exercising a determining influence over what sorts of films were produced and shown.
   One of the first films to fall foul of the new censorship regime was Pietro Germi's Gioventuperduta (Lost Youth, 1947) due to what was alleged to be its "social pessimism." Three years later the release of Germi's Il cammino della speranza (Path of Hope, 1950) was similarly held up by the censorship commission on the allegation that a number of the scenes set in Rome presented the police force in an unfavorable light. It was during this period that Undersecretary Giulio Andreotti, in his role as head of the Central Office for Cinematography, frequently took the opportunity publicly to reprimand neorealist directors like Vittorio De Sica for their negative portrayal of Italy, with a number of neorealist films consequently having their export permits withheld. At the same time Mario Monicelli's Totd e Carolina (Toto and Carolina, 1955), a film in which the great comic actor Toto played a warmhearted police sergeant willing to bend the rules in order to help a young unmarried pregnant woman, was held up for almost two years and only released after 32 cuts had been made to attenuate its alleged poor reflection on the forces of law and order. By far the most glaring intervention by the censors during this period, however, occurred in 1953 when filmmaker Renzo Renzi and editor and film critic Guido Aristarco were arrested, tried, and given prison sentences for having published the screenplay for a prospective film about the Italian invasion of Greece during World War II, in which the Italian army was shown to be more interested in chasing women than in fighting the enemy. In April 1955 a group of film writers and directors, including Sergio Amidei, Michelangelo Antonioni, Alessandro Blasetti, Giuseppe De Santis, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, and Carlo Lizzani, among others, issued a manifesto calling for an end to repressive film censorship on the part of the Italian state. Nevertheless, the next major law regulating the Italian cinema, passed in 1956, merely reiterated the provisions of the earlier law, and a revision of the entire system of film censorship, frequently promised by the ruling center-right government, was end-lessly postponed in all the other film legislation enacted during the following six years.
   The long-awaited new law, finally promulgated in April 1962, transferred responsibility for issuing the nulla osta to the Ministry for Tourism and Spectacle and provided for a much greater representation on the censorship boards of qualified academics and members of the film industry. More importantly, under the new legislation, films could only be denied a general release on the grounds of seriously offending a generically defined "common sense of decency." In addition, the new law gave the censorship boards the option of classifying a film as either for general release or as unsuitable for minors (under 18 years of age), in which case the film could not be shown on television. These censorship provisions were largely reiterated in the next major piece of legislation on the cinema, the socalled Corona law, passed in 1965. One should note, however, that films granted a general release by the censorship commissions could still be denounced as offensive to common decency by both members of the general public or by police or magistrates in the place where the film was first shown. The most acrimonious censorship struggles of the following decade were all, in fact, the result of such denunciations, the most glaring case being the long-running battle over Bernardo Bertolucci's Ultimo tango a Parigi (Last Tango in Paris, 1972), a film that had been granted its release by the censorship commission but that was subsequently arraigned and condemned for obscenity by a court of appeal, which took the extraordinary step of ordering all copies of the film in Italy to be burned. After a long legal saga Bertolucci's film was formally exonerated in Italy only in 1987. The abolition of the Ministry for Tourism and Spectacle in 1993 prompted a new law in 1995 that reallocated responsibility for the vetting of films and the granting of the nulla osta to the Department of Spectacle, located in the Office of the Prime Minister. The same law restructured the censorship commissions by reducing the representatives from the film industry to two but including a practicing psychologist and two representatives of interested family organizations.
   In 1998 responsibility for granting the nulla osta was transferred to the newly established Ministry for Culture. In that same year, Toto che visse due volte (Toto Who Lived Twice), a film by the provocative filmmaking duo Daniele Cipri and Franco Maresco, was refused a general release on the grounds of obscenity and blasphemy. When the film was finally granted a release on appeal, the ruling center-left government put forward a proposal to withdraw the power of the censorship commissions to block the general release of a film, retaining merely the possibility of awarding either a general release or an unsuitable for under 18, or under 14, classification. The end of film censorship in Italy, however, effectively occurred only in 2007 when a different center-left government abolished the censorship boards altogether in favor of a system of film classification to be carried out by the producers themselves, whereby films should be designated as either suitable for the general public or as unsuitable for either under 18, under 15, or under 10 years of age.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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  • Censorship — Cen sor*ship, n. The office or power of a censor; as, to stand for a censorship. Holland. [1913 Webster] The press was not indeed at that moment under a general censorship. Macaulay. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • censorship — [n] forbiddance; ban blackout*, blue pencil*, bowdlerization, control, forbidding, hush up*, infringing on rights, iron curtain*, restriction, suppression, thought control*; concepts 376,388 Ant. approval, compliment, encouragement, endorsement,… …   New thesaurus

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  • Censorship —    Film censorship regulations were first introduced in Italy in 1913 by a law that established the requirement for all films to be furnished with an official written release (nulla osta) from the Ministry for the Interior, granted on the basis… …   Historical dictionary of Italian cinema

  • Censorship —    Official film censorship in Spain started in 1912, and remained in place as an explicit system to control artistic expression, enforced in one form or another, until 1977. The power to censor spectacles was held, in the early periods, by the… …   Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema


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