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This week’s decision by the Classification Review Board to uphold the original R classification for Mysterious Skin is made the more important by the pointed terms in which the Board rejected the argument for a ban. Is this a sign that finally the war against censorship is being won by enlightened reason in favour of our system classification, asks Andrew L. Urban.

“The subject matter of Mysterious Skin is handled sensitively and the film unambiguously condemns child sexual abuse,” Classification Board Convenor, Maureen Shelley said in the statement accompanying the decision to uphold the film’s R rating. This clearly delivers a slap in the face for the Australian Family Association (AFA), the Festival of Light - and the South Australian Attorney General who acts as the string-puller for them. 

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion, “Mysterious Skin warrants an R 18+ classification because of the general character of the film in its treatment of child sexual abuse from a victim’s perspective. The educational merit in this treatment means the film is such that it contributes to the understanding of the consequences of this horrific crime.”

The language used here is clearly aimed directly at the AFA-led lobby, contradicting the AFA’s arguments; one can almost see CRB’s body language, with stern looks over the rim of their glasses in the direction of the lobby that has again wasted taxpayers’ funds in their determination to impose minority will over majority common sense. 

Australian Family Association spokesman Richard Egan was reported (SMH, July 19, 2005) as saying the film could be used by paedophiles for their own satisfaction, or to help groom children they were planning to abuse, after he read the film’s synopsis. Egan made further uninformed comments on ABC radio’s PM (July 19, 2005), suggesting that Mysterious Skin was like a How To guide for paedophiles.

"after a thorough and detailed examination"

The Classification Review Board made its decision “after a thorough and detailed examination, including testimony from independent child psychologist Dr Robin Harvey, as well as submissions from the film’s distributor, Hopscotch Films, and the Australian Family Association,” in a meeting that lasted 12 hours. The final vote was 4 to 2 in favour of upholding the R rating, with the consumer advice: High level sexual abuse themes, High level sexual violence, Paedophile themes.

In reviewing the classification, the Classification Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.

Mysterious Skin will be released in Australia by Hopscotch on August 18, 2005.

Published August 4, 2005

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