Moves to bypass gay sex film 'ban'

KARL QUINN
Last updated 16:18 07/03/2013
I Want Your Love

'TOO EXPLICIT': Gay film I Want Your Love has been banned from screening at film festivals in Australia.

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The producer of "banned" gay sex film I Want Your Love has defied the Australian censors, claiming the movie's global release on Monday via web-based video-on-demand services represented a way "to bypass the gatekeepers" and render them irrelevant.

Classification Australia's refusal to grant the film exemption from classification - which would have allowed it to screen to adult audiences at three queer film festivals around the country - has drawn criticism from Hollywood actor James Franco and attracted worldwide media attention.

The star of Disney's Oz The Great and Powerful - and a past collaborator with I Want Your Love director Travis Mathews - this week posted a video message on YouTube in which he decried the decision as "just embarrassing" and "really silly".

The decision also prompted the director of the Mardi Gras Film Festival, Jain Moralee, to question if the board was guilty of "double standards", having classified the sexually explicit Michael Winterbottom film Nine Songs R18+ in 2005, allowing it to be distributed in mainstream cinemas.

Now producer Tim Valenti, a veteran of the gay porn industry, has written an op-ed piece for The Huffington Post in which he claims the "ban" will prove to be largely irrelevant anyway.

"From its early days, gay filmmaking has faced constraints when finding an audience that straight filmmakers don't," Valenti writes.

That has forced producers and distributors of gay porn to find new ways of financing and distributing their material. "We've always been the insurgents of the film community," he observes.

"Video-on-demand, a platform pioneered by porn companies ... holds the possibility of a new era of gay filmmaking. Gay film festivals ... will remain cultural events, but distribution - the lifeblood of filmmaking - will be increasingly virtual, allowing them to reach a larger and more targeted audience."

Valenti notes that "porn hasn't had a theatrical revenue base for almost 40 years. And what we've done in the meantime has been to build up email lists, to learn audience behaviours, and find ways to bypass the gatekeepers."

I Want Your Love is not typical of the fare Valenti produces, he concedes. It is an art-house film about gay relationships that includes about six minutes of explicit and real sex. It was, according to a press release from Valenti's company NakedSword.com, a "cinematic hybrid ... too explicit for most producers, but it wasn't exactly porn either".

It was certainly too explicit for the Australian censor, which declined to grant an exemption to the film on the basis that had the film been submitted for classification - a process that costs a minimum of $2180 for a film of 61-120 minutes - it would have been classed as an X18+ title. That would mean it could be sold or exhibited only in the ACT or Northern Territory.

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A decision is still pending on the application from the Melbourne Queer Film Festival for exemption but it is unlikely to differ from the first ruling.

That may be bad news for the festival and its patrons. But for a distributor looking to let the world know his film is available on the internet, it's the best sort of publicity imaginable.

- The Age

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