This Film Is Not Yet Rated

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(Scene from the expose).

Who rates the movies you watch, deciding whether a film deserves a G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17? The clandestine organization entrusted with this task is known as The Motion Picture Association of America. Though the MPAA claims that its rating board is comprised of average family folks with young children, the actual membership has long been a closely guarded secret.

This anonymous group of nine individuals wields an incredible amount of influence, because their ratings essentially determine who will be allowed to see a film, which in turn affects whether or not the movie will even attract a distributor and thus end up in theaters. And because director Kirby Dick (chain Camera) noticed that similar flicks often fared different fates after being screened by the MPAA, he decided to do some digging to get to the bottom of the discrepancies.

The results of his investigation are contained in This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a damning documentary which exposes the MPAA as a thinly-veiled arm of the handful of Hollywood studios (Warner Brothers, Universal, Disney, Paramount, Fox and Sony) which have come to dominate the industry. Relying on the assistance of a couple of ruthless private investigators who employed every trick in the trade (including stakeouts, stalking, digging through trash, hidden cameras and other undercover work), Dick determined the identities of the ratings board.

You might be surprised to learn that two members turned out to be Catholic and Episcopalian priests, which might help explain the outfit’s Puritanical bent. The rest of the board, we learn, were indeed parents, but older than expected, and mostly with children who were already adults.

While neither recently-retired MPAA President Jack Valenti, nor any of the current members of the gang of nine were willing to explain the methods involved in arriving at a movie’s ratings, maverick directors like John Waters, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone and Atom Egoyan do appearances, here, to show how the ratings are rigged in favor of pictures produced by the big studios, while simultaneously suppressing work created outside of the studio system.

Plus, gruesome violence garners only an R, while it is relatively easy for graphic sexuality to be labeled NC-17. And gay-themed content is likely to be censored to a greater degree than nudity and carnality found in a similar straight adventure. Overall, This Film Is Not Yet Rated represents a fascinating breakthrough which leaves the audience wondering whether a screening process with has such a profound effect on American culture ought to be open to public scrutiny.

Review: Excellent (4 stars). Rated NC-17 for graphic sexual content. Running time: 97 minutes. Studio: IFC Films 

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