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Can reality be censored?

Is Guantanamo Bay’s Reality Too Scary For The Motion Picture Association of America?

A few facts, gathered from The Washington Post:
1) A 2003 report by the U.S. Department of Defense said hooding detainees in the war against Iraq does not violate any national or international laws. Hooding (placing bags over the head of a prisoner) is the practice at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and other sites.

2) The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has rejected the poster on the left for a documentary about three British men held for more than two years at Guantanamo Bay. This poster was rejected, an MPAA spokesman told The Washington Post, because it did not meet MPAA standards. MPAA standards prohibit “depictions of violence, blood, people in jeopardy, drugs, nudity, profanity, and people in frightening situations, disturbing or frightening scenes.”

The poster on the right will be used instead for the movie, which is scheduled to open June 23, according to a recent article in The Washington Post.

3) The MPAA has approved these posters for the horror movies Hard Candy and Saw. These violent images were deemed acceptable.

4) The American public has now been blocked, courtesy of the MPAA, from seeing an image of a person held by Americans, who himself has his vision blocked by a hood, which means, as the The Washington Post put it,

…the MPAA required a change in the image that removed something not deemed torture (hooding) and focused the image on the bound hands and extended arms that clearly depicts someone forced to stand (or worse, hang) under restraint to the point of collapse, which might well be torture.”

That may be reading a bit too much into it, but you get the point. The flap also underscores one more hurdle small documentary film makers must jump: Getting past the MPAA. These filmmakers do not have money to design several alternate film posters or lobby the MPAA. While larger studios can push their weight around to get their way, film makers like these just want to take this final step to get the movie released. There was just one attempt to ask the MPAA to change its position on the film before the poster was changed.

Giving sort shrift to debate over such an important issue sounds familiar. Isn’t that what happened right before we went to war in the first place?

Observers of the flap have suggested this whole situation is just a reflection of American discomfort with what is being done in their name to detainees in the war. So let me see if I have this straight — it is ok to scare the bejesus out of children and others with horror movie images, but to show them what we are doing to prisoners — innocent and guilty alike — is unacceptable? How sad is that? Photos taken by American soldiers of the torture they have done of prisoners is acceptable fare for publication but a depiction of it is unacceptable?

What I found most disturbing of all is that the film, along with other news stories, confirms that some of the people held there are innocent.

Now, that is offensive.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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