"This Film Is Not Yet Rated"
Director: Kirby Dick
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 73
In a Nutshell: In grad school, I TAed for a Censorship class and one of our guest lecturers was Joan Graves, head of the MPAA's ratings board. I still remember my amazement at how this woman could rationalize the way her panel of entirely anonymous "parents" without any kind of accountability system managed to possess such a stranglehold on the movie business. I know enough about the history of film censorship and the growth of the MPAA that I wasn't spectacularly shocked by much of the analysis in Kirby Dick's documentary about the ratings board. Yes, the ratings are harsher for sex than for violence. Yes, the ratings are harsher for gay sex than straight sex. Yes, the distinctions between an R and an NC-17 can be nearly laughable. Yes, studios have a great advantage with the ratings board than independents. What's appealing is that the filmmakers featured in the doc -- recognizable figures like John Waters, Kevin Smith and Matt Stone (of "South Park") -- don't talk down to the viewers. This isn't an introduction-to-the-MPAA kind of movie. It's about the nuts and bolts, about the acceptable four-letter words and those that are off limits. The canned stuff is interesting, but sometimes incomplete -- I wouldn't have minded more historical discussion, perhaps charting more and less lenient ratings boards. Where the documentary stands out, though, is when Kirby goes muckraking and attempts to identify the individual raters, formerly anonymous. No fair revealing how many he's able to track down by name and picture, but his quest -- with the help of a pair of lesbian private eyes -- is notable. It would have been nice if Dick had wanted to offer solutions, but he makes a great case that there's a problem.
A full review will be up on Zap2it by Sept. 1.