By Aarti Betigeri
Films that were considered too weird, too saucy, or simply too much for Australians at the time of their release are being revived.
The series of banned or controversial films will be showcased at The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia in Canberra over the coming weeks.
The Banned and the Beautiful exhibition has included films such as Catherine Breillart’s controversial 1999 movie about sex and desire, Romance, as well as a documentary about the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, and John Water’s cult classic Pink Flamingos.
The curator of the list, Louise Sheedy, said the collection was an exploration of how cultural and social mores change over time.
“Having a look at censorship and controversy is a fun way to examine how films enter culture and what they say about us as a society,” Ms Sheedy said.
These are some of the films that the government of the time did not want you to see:
Made in 1960, the film Peeping Tom is about a filmmaker with an uncomfortable interest in snuff pornography.
The movie appalled critics and audiences, particularly as it was shown from the point of view of the serial killer.
“It was banned and it was hugely controversial,” Ms Sheedy said.
“It was really the first slasher film, but people were horrified.”
Compared to modern shows such as Dexter, it is relatively tame, but it was the first time a story had been told in that way.
The movie ultimately killed the career of respected British filmmaker Michael Powell, who moved to Australia in apparent self-exile.
“Nowadays it’s considered a real masterpiece …but at [that] time the moral police, including well-known critics at the time, were saying this is absolutely unacceptable, we cannot be identifying with the killer.
“It shows the power of cinema and how people were affected by it.”
Out in 1972, Pink Flamingos was directed by John Waters who was “a queer, confrontational trash cinema auteur”, according to Ms Sheedy.
“So his muse, Divine, is this fat drag queen who is just the epitome of, and a celebration of all things revolting,” she said.
“It was first banned in 1976, and it has been banned and unbanned in various incarnations over the past 20 years.
“We did a test screening the other day with a bunch of our 20-something-year-old colleagues and they were still shocked by it, so it’s quite refreshing to know that the film is still shocking despite what’s going on now.”
Bad Boy Bubby
Directed by Rolf de Heer, Bad Boy Bubby released in 1994 tells the story of a man abused by his mother, and what happens when he finally escapes her clutches.
Film critic David Stratton famously gave the film five stars, describing it as a “milestone” in Australian cinema.
The Breaking of the Drought
The film The Breaking of the Drought was banned because of its depiction of drought in Australia. (Supplied: National Film and Sound Archive )
Made in 1920, this silent film by Franklin Barrett was banned, not for vivid descriptions of sex and violence, but rather, it depicted a harrowing drought in rural Australia.
“At the time the New South Wales government didn’t want the film imported because of the drought images,” Ms Sheedy said.
“They shut it down as they didn’t want to show that side of Australia to overseas audiences.
“But the images are starkly beautiful, they show an amazing image of Australia. But the cultural sensitivities of the time were about our image as a nation.”
Eleven films in all will be screened at the National Film and Sound Archive between now and September.