Movie industry wants clarity in age-based certification

By Mai Nhat   August 10, 2022 | 05:15 am PT
Movie industry wants clarity in age-based certification
A still from ‘Naked Truth’. Photo courtesy of CJ Entertainment
Many filmmakers are perplexed by the lack of clarity on depicting sex scenes in movies and classifying movies based on viewers’ ages.

On August 5 a workshop organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism in Ho Chi Minh City saw questions being raised about age-based censorship in movies.

Many well-known names from the film industry complained that the guidelines have many shortcomings due to a lack of specific provisions.

For instance, a film rated P (for all ages) must have "no nudity."

Speaking about the restriction, Duong Cam Thuy, chairwoman of HCMC Cinema Association, pointed out: "The upper portion of a woman is considered nude but a scene of a mother breastfeeding is considered humanist and artistic. Should such scenes be off-limits to audiences under the age of 13?"

Many others shared similar frustrations.

Nguyen Hoang Hai, content director of CJ&CGV cinema complex, expressed surprise when the popular cartoon Crayon Shin-chan (released in 2019) was labeled C13 (films restricted to those 13 years of age or older) because there was a scene in which a character removes his pants and bares his buttocks.

He said there should be clearer and more specific guidelines for naked scenes.

Many also spoke about the censoring out of sex scenes from movies.

The censors require that sex scenes to be "artistic" and show "honest affections."

Phan Bich Ha, former principal of the University of Theater and Cinema in HCMC, panned these criteria as too abstract and general.

Her students frequently ask her about how to evaluate an art scene because each audience and age group has different expectations, she said.

"When young people watch a sex scene, they love it. But old people criticize it."

Some said classification criteria should be measurable and not abstract to make it easier for movie producers.

For instance, sex scenes in films classified as T13 (formerly C13) must not be shown "too regularly and too provocative," but what is the frequency allowed and how should the term "regular" be understood, they asked.

Similarly, films certified T18 (not for audiences under the age of 18) must not have scenes with "offensive tattoos," but the regulations do not spell out what is offensive.

Filmmakers expressed relief at the fact the amended Cinema Law has many open and progressive provisions.

Now movie classification includes five categories with the addition of K, which requires audiences under the age of 13 to be accompanied by a "parent or guardian."

Director Phan Gia Nhat Linh called this a step up for the movie industry, one that emphasizes the role of parents in supervising children when allowing them to watch new content.

But delegates called for clarifying how the term "guardianship" is used in this context.

Many attendees said age-based classification should also be applicable to television and OTT (online) platforms.

Linh said TV shows should have the age label on a corner of the screen like in online content providers HBO and Netflix’s shows so that parents could easily monitor the content their children watch.

He also suggested that the specific reasons for classification, such as having sex, violence, profanity, and others, should be displayed.

Some filmmakers said trailers should also be age classified, especially since many incorporate 18+ scenes to promote the film.

Vi Kien Thanh, director of the Cinema Department, the amended Cinema Law is more in line with current movie trends than in the past, particularly with respect to films released in cyberspace.

Based on delegates’ comments, the drafting committee would frame guidelines for a circular to guide implementation of the amended Cinema Law and submit to the Government in November for approval, he added.

Le Thanh Liem, director of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism’s legal department, promised that the drafting committee would set the clearest criteria possible for filmmakers to self-classify their films, especially online movies, and be held accountable for possible violations.

Authorities would impose severe penalties on distributors and cinemas that fail to comply with certification regulations and allow audiences see movies not prescribed for them, he warned.

The National Assembly approved the amendments to the Cinema Law in June, and the revised law comes into effect on January 1.

The changes made to the 2006 law include a ban on movies that incite violence and criminal acts with detailed descriptions, images, sounds, dialogue, violence, torture, and so on.

Foreigner filmmakers shooting in Vietnam need to submit a summary of the script and a full script of the content to be filmed in the country in Vietnamese when applying for a license.

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