'L.A. Zombie' causes a ruckus Down Under

Columns

Censorship has not been a big issue Down Under for a long time, but one film evidently upset the authorities in Melbourne. In July, the censorship board refused to grant the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) approval to screen the Bruce LaBruce "zombie porn" film L.A. Zombie. The festival attacked that decision, but did not screen the film. So along came an alternative festival, the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF), which staged an illegal screening they called a "public disobedience freedom of speech event" on August 29.

Police did not attend on the night and that seemed to be the end of the matter. However, on Nov. 11, three detectives from the Melbourne Criminal Investigation Unit arrived at the home of MUFF director Richard Wolstencroft with a warrant to search the home for any copies of the film. He told them that he had destroyed the only copy and they left. Wolstencroft noted, "I find the situation that a little festival is being pursued in this way quite distressing and depressing.”

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Cinema advertising has long been standard practice in Australia and New Zealand. Down Under cinemas were showing advertisements before films many years before the U.S. took up the practice. In New Zealand, advertising agencies are allocated 12 minutes of advertising per session. This is followed by trailers. Patrons expect this, and some arrive ten minutes after the start time.
But patrons were not happy when recently a five-minute sponsored film on the history of a New Zealand beer was added to the mix at some Event Cinema screenings. This reportedly brought the pre-feature presentation to around 22 minutes and complaints surfaced in local media. Event Cinemas said that they did not get any complaints about the advertisement.

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We are pleased to note that a film we had championed last year, Mao's Last Dancer, has become "a meat-and-potatoes art-house hit" in the U.S., according to the L.A. Times. Bruce Beresford’s film was always expected to find an audience in some American cities. It did not last long in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, but has performed much better in places such as San Diego and St. Louis. To date, it has grossed around US$4.8 million in its North American run, a very good result for an art-house release of an Australian film in that region.

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