This Is England 18 rating vetoed by council
Story by Jack Foley
AN English council has decided to overrule the decision by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to award Shane Meadows’ new movie This Is England an 18 certificate.
Bristol City Council described the BBFC verdict as “idiotic” and awarded the critically acclaimed film a 15, enabling more teenagers to see it.
The BBFC made the rating because of a scene of racist violence and the high level of profanity throughout. But the decision has been heavily criticised by both Meadows and the film’s cast, who believe it contains a strong message for the youth of today and raises many contemporary issues concerning racism despite being set in the 1980s.
Bristol’s decision to award it a 15 certificate instead is an example of local councils taking power into their own hands to decide a film’s classification – something that only happens on rare occasions.
But Councillor Ron Stone, who sat on the committee that decided the change, told the BBC that it was a unanimous decision by his colleagues.
“[We all felt] there was nothing we saw in the film which was any worse than you would see probably on Channel 4 or one of the main TV channels at peak-time viewing. We felt it was idiotic that what is basically a very good film and very well made, on a difficult but social issue, should be prevented from being seen by the audience it was targeted at. I think the censors actually are wrong in giving it an 18 certificate.”
The film, starring newcomer Thomas Turgoose and Snatch star Stephen Graham, follows the fortunes of a lonely schoolboy whose soldier father was killed in the Falklands War as he is taken under the wing of a gang of skinheads influenced by the ska and reggae movements.
But what begins as a happy liaison takes a darker turn when the child falls under the influence of a National Front supporter just out of prison in a friendship that eventually forces him to come of age much faster than he intends.
Further English councils are now expected to follow Bristol’s lead in changing the rating, including Grimsby, Turgoose’s home town. As things stand, the 18 rating prevents Turgoose from seeing the film in cinemas as he is only 15.
However, in defending its decision to award the higher 18 certificate, a spokeswoman for the BBFC said it had been a “borderline” call.
“What we are concerned about is young people seeing this in a context where they are not in a position to discuss the issues, and where it may come across as more attractive than offensive,” said a spokeswoman. “It’s not a common occurrence for local authorities to set their own classifications, but they are certainly within their rights to do so.”