I just received a very troubling press release from Oscilloscope Laboratories, the production company founded and operated by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch. The word is that their upcoming Holocaust documentary, "A Film Unfinished," has received an R-rating from the MPAA for "disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities including graphic nudity." There've been a lot of hateful comments bubbling to the surface lately from public figures whose names aren't worth mentioning, but whom you probably all know quite well. But this is crossing a line, and Yauch agrees.
In a statement, he said "This is too important of a historical document to ban from classrooms. While there’s no doubt that Holocaust atrocities are displayed, if teachers feel their students are ready to understand what happened, it’s essential that young people are giving the opportunity to see this film. Why deny them the chance to learn about this critical part of our human history? I understand that the MPAA wants to protect children’s eyes from things that are too overwhelming, but they’ve really gone too far this time. It’s bulls--t."
He's 100% right.
"A Film Unfinished" chronicles the creation of an unfinished Nazi propaganda film shot in Poland's Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. That location in particular has frequently been the site of previously Holocaust-centric World War II films and documentaries, largely because of its notoriety as "a last transit point before deportation to the extermination camps." The conditions were so bad that the people living there in 1943 staged an uprising, even in the face of the fear Nazi rule sowed and the certain death that awaited them all for acting out.
As the press release notes, "A Film Unfinished" -- which debuted at Sundance earlier this year -- "presents the raw footage in its entirety, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (including a staged dinner party) falsely showing 'the good life' enjoyed by Jewish urbanites and probes deep into the making of a now-infamous Nazi propaganda film."
I'm offended at the idea that a real-life presentation of facts would garner an R-rating from the MPAA. If ever there was a sign that this is an organization that is out of touch and sorely in need of a reformation, this is it.
I attended Hebrew School when I was younger and one of my classes at age 12 -- 12 -- was entirely focused on the Holocaust. What did we do for every single class session? We watched documentaries. What we saw was horrifying, and entirely too real. For months, twice a week we would watch Holocaust doc after Holocaust doc. We were repeatedly exposed to the horrors of what happened during World War II. This wasn't scary or scarring. It was educational. There was always a disclaimer before class for the squeamish, that they could leave if they chose, but everyone stayed. There was an implicit understanding; we needed to see this imagery. We needed understand the depths to which people can sink, the better to ensure that such an evil thing never happens again.
The MPAA ruling on "A Film Unfinished" essentially makes it impossible for a school screening to ever happen. Schools could conceivably be fined for showing the movie without first getting parental consent. I say this isn't something for a parent to decide. If a child wants to know the history, and understands the basic nature of what he or she will be seeing beforehand, then it should be his/her choice to make.
This is my perspective. It's going to take more than a few complaining bloggers to reach the MPAA's ears. We need to send out the message that this isn't right with a loud roar. Are you outraged at all? Do you think they're in the right? I say this a lot, but I really mean it now: please discuss in the comments below.