Although free speech should never be suppressed, this isn’t always the case. As was shown with the recent ban on Wonder Woman by the Lebanese government due to lead Gal Gadot’s Israeli nationality, politics still force their way into seemingly non-politicised cinematic exploits. People will forever try and bring their own personal views into everyday life, so, let’s take a look at some other examples of cinematic suppression.
The Birth of a Nation
Though undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of early cinema, there is no excusing the subject matter of D. W. Griffith’s 1915 The Birth of a Nation. This film is notorious for its positive and heroic portrayal of the extreme right-wing group, the Ku Klux Klan. Yep, the group that murdered innocent African American’s were apparently heroes. I understand that 1915 was comprised of an entirely different political landscape, but even then this sort of discriminatory and prejudiced violence was still condemned by many. Because of the widespread racism in this period of American history, the film was not outright banned, but several more progressive states campaigned for it to be blocked due to its promotion of racist attitudes. Despite its dark subject matter, this film is still lauded however for its innovative camera techniques. This is both a cinematic landmark and a terribly racist film. Although I condemn making cinema which reflects positively on one of the most barbaric groups in recent history, this film will forever retain a legendary status.
A Clockwork Orange
It’s painfully ironic that a film all about the importance of free will would be censored. Due to its depictions of ultra-violence, this film upon release in 1971 hit a nerve with more conservative audiences. It was deemed far too extreme at the time, despite reflecting a shift in attitudes in a decade which would further implement a growing mainstream liberalism and fights for individualism and free will. Art should always be respected, and whilst still a shocking film in parts even today for audiences used to a more intensely violent cinema, A Clockwork Orange is one of the greatest films ever made, and the only people missing out are those who refuse to watch it. Kubrick is a visionary, and accurately perceived a society where self-expression would become the norm. Whilst you can understand the problems with a film which says that people should be allowed to brutalise others if they want to, you must respect the artistic voice of others.
Back to the Future
This is a rather strange one. Back to the Future is merely a family-friendly sci-fi comedy, right? Well, according to the Chinese government, this is wrong. They ban all time travel movies, apparently due to the fact that they disrespect history. Erm, okay then… The point of these films is usually to revisit these events with a modern and critical eye, but never are these events reconfigured or misconstrued. Are they going to ban revisionist historians now for taking a look at the past? This is an innocent film and an undisputed classic. The only thing being disrespected here is cinematic history and the Chinese populace. When a film is intensely violent or sexual, whilst still wrong, you can somewhat understand the decision to ban it, but this just doesn’t make sense.
The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin, a famous pacifist, gave support to the war effort in his own unique way. The Great Dictator took aim at infamous dictator Hitler. This was completely unambiguous, and Hitler sure didn’t like it. The film was banned in Germany for undermining the führer. Considering how history has looked upon this tyrannical leader, this was a rather feeble effort to try and change the public perception of him. Try all you like, but you won’t reverse decades of international condemnation. It’s hardly a shock though, Hitler isn’t exactly a man known for promoting freedom of speech. This failed artist clearly had no respect for the art of others, but the rest of us were treated to a cinematic treat.
The Life of Brian
Religion, religion, religion. Whilst I entirely respect the views of everyone, and believe that we are all entitled to our own ways of life, has anything throughout the entirety of history been responsible more than this for conflict? I would argue not. The Life of Brian, a seminal film from the legendary Monty Python group, looked at the insanity of overzealous religiosity based on nothing more than flimsy evidence. This film was banned due to its supposed bashing of Christianity. Ironically, however, this film didn’t take aim at organised religion itself, but at those who would blindly follow it. In a world where we are told to respect religion, surely we must also respect the views of those who are more critical of devout religiosity? You can’t suppress others and then complain about being oppressed yourself.