Controversy and publicity a potent 'Combination'

Columns

I found the recent scandal over a free porn film screening being banned at an American university very interesting. As usual, the persons responsible for the ban gave the film millions of dollars of nationwide free media coverage. In the 1960s and ’70s, one local Sydney newspaper would have a front page story about some “shocking” film that had just been passed by the censor. I vividly remember the huge outrage over The Exorcist and the story of a woman fainting from shock during a preview screening. Many of these “stories” were initiated by the film’s publicists. The reporter was always keen to make the front page and happily recounted how truly shocking the film was. Newspaper sales went up when a “shocking” story was on the front page, and the film was given huge free publicity. Everybody was happy.

A recent incident in Sydney also helped a low-budget local film achieve considerable publicity and increased business. A fight occurred outside a Greater Union cinema complex showing the independent film The Combination. Amid much publicity, Greater Union pulled the film from the complex. The Combination deals with gangs and race and has a largely Lebanese-Australian cast. It was later discovered that the fracas had nothing to do with the film and the location was a coincidence. Greater Union put the film back into the cinema and writer-actor George Basha came to several screenings to talk about the film before it screened. The initial publicity about the fight and the pulling of the film reached Fox News in the U.S. and BBC News in Europe.

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Imagine having a film festival with prizes and not showing the winning film. This happened at the FedFest in Melbourne, a free outdoor festival for short films held annually. The films were judged in advance and the winning entries were chosen by the jury. But before the screening happened, the organizers were advised that the winning film was rated “MA” and could not be shown to an audience that included children. Attendees were advised that the winning short could not be shown but could be viewed on the Festival’s website. The rules have now been changed so that next year’s films must be rated “G,” “PG” or “M.”

E-mail your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.