CATEGORIES Documentary, IFC, Celebrities and Controversy, Movie Marketing, Politics, Cinematical Indie, Movie News, CinematicalSome of us were pretty excited yesterday after hearing that the MPAA and NATO (and CARA) is reforming the film ratings policies, procedures and practices. But two people aren't buying the whole "change" part of the announcement. This Film is Not Yet Rated director Kirby Dick and producer Eddie Schmidt have released a statement saying that they are grateful their documentary has put uncredited pressure on the MPAA, but that they see through the B.S. of the ratings revisions, calling all but one "cosmetic."
For each supposed "change" to the system, Dick and Schmidt gave a response that exposes the real meaning, and explain the continuing problems with the ratings system despite the MPAA's claim that things will be more fair and honest from now on. It is great that we are getting such quick commentary from these guys, since they are the experts on the issue (as much as any documentary filmmaker is an expert of their subject). Such a public reaction also can't hurt the guys with regards to their upcoming DVD release.
Check out the responses (lifted from the official press release) after the jump ...
MPAA: Most members of the ratings board will remain anonymous, although CARA will describe the demographic make-up of the board, which is composed of parents. The names of the three senior raters have always been public; now, they will be posted online.
RESPONSE: It will still be a secret ratings board because "most" of the raters will still be secret. Anonymity still = unaccountability. The MPAA says its rating system is for the public. If it's for the public, it should be public, and the entire rating process and all the raters should be known to the public. Also, it is untrue that the senior raters were ever known to the public – until This Film Is Not Yet Rated, they were known only to members of the film industry.
MPAA: For the first time, CARA will post the ratings rules on the MPAA Web site, describing the standards for each rating. The ratings and appeal processes also will be described in detail, along with a link to paperwork needed to submit a film for a rating.
RESPONSE: CARA has never given enough information to parents and has consistently resisted giving out any more. Even the current descriptors such "some horror violence" came about only through intense pressure and criticism – and those are still useless to parents. Meaningful details? We'll believe it when we see it.
MPAA: A filmmaker who appeals a rating can reference similar scenes in other movies, although the appeals board still will focus heavily on context.
RESPONSE: We are pleased they have finally removed this absurd restriction. However, there are quite a few other excessive restrictions that unfairly limit filmmaker appeals, such as a 2/3's majority vote to overturn and not allowing an attorney of the filmmakers' choice to be present.
MPAA: CARA will formalize its rule that a member of the ratings board doesn't stay on the board after his or her children are grown.
RESPONSE: Joan Graves has stated that the senior raters' positions are permanent. These three senior raters, and chairwoman Graves, all have adult children. Are Joan Graves and the senior raters all going to step down, or will the MPAA continue to allow its most powerful raters to violate its rules?
MPAA: CARA also will formalize its educational training system for raters.
RESPONSE: According to former raters interviewed in our film, there is no educational training. And since the MPAA has consistently avoided "expert" opinions from child psychologists, etc, who will train them and to what standards and sensitivity?
MPAA: When the CARA rules are implemented later this year, the MPAA and NATO will designate additional members to the appeals board who don't come from the MPAA or NATO fold. (Indie filmmakers might be one possibility.)
RESPONSE: Most appeals board members will still be from the major exhibitors and studios. With a 2/3 vote to overturn the rating, it is unlikely that a few "additional" members will be enough to level the playing field for independent and foreign filmmakers. There is still a huge built-in conflict of interest in this process. Also, apparently they still plan to keep the names of the appeals board members secret, which means that the only people who know these names will be people within the studio film industry.
MPAA: NATO and MPAA will occasionally be able to designate additional observers from different backgrounds to the appeals board.
RESPONSE: The MPAA has been shamed into opening their doors in response to quiet arrangements revealed in our film that allowed Catholic and Protestant religious representatives into the appeals process. *Adding MORE religious representatives *wouldn't necessarily solve this problem. What are they doing there in the first place? The MPAA needs to give full disclosure as to the nature of these "observers," their role in the proceedings, and the process by which other observers will be selected.