THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED
Director: Kirby Dick
Executive Producers: Alison Palmer Bourke, Evan Shapiro
Producer: Eddie Schmidt
Sony HD Cam
U.S.A., 2005, 100 min.
*The independent film community has constantly debated the role of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) over the past several years. The issues of piracy, ratings, and the unequal treatment of independent filmmakers (as opposed to the member companies of the MPAA) are all at the forefront of this ongoing discussion. Filmmaker Kirby Dick leaps into the fray with This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a provocative and cogent inquiry into these issues and more. Analyzing, examining, questioning, and, most critically, investigating the MPAA, Dick asks whether studios get different treatment, why violence and sex are treated so disparately, and, most interestingly, why the MPAA ratings must operate behind a veil of secrecy.
This censoring process is commented on by filmmakers ranging from John Waters to Kevin Smith, from Kimberly Peirce to Darren Aronofsky, as Dick examines why filmmakers are left in the dark about what triggers an NC-17 and who and what the MPAA represents. Dick, Oscar nominated for last year's Twist of Faith, is no simple provocateur, nor is this film some kind of personal vendetta. The queries he poses are troubling, and the results of his breakthrough investigation are both disturbing yet straightforward. The MPAA's role in preserving a profoundly misguided system requires consideration, and we can only hope that this film prompts another step toward reform.
*Summary by Geoffrey Gilmore, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
This film was a blast to see, a real ballsy look inside the mess of an organization that is the MPAA. It really is a testament to the dedication and tenacity of Kirby Dick that he was able to uncover as much dirt about the MPAA as he did. The documentary does go a bit too long, bogging down as it details the appeals portion of the MPAA's ratings decision process. However, he makes a point of varying his approach to the topic. By combining interviews, amusing title sequences, and hilarious cartoons about the ratings process, Kirby Dick keeps the film moving at a fast and entertaining pace. The best material Kirby Dick has to offer concerns the partnership he establishes with a personal investigator to investigate the members of the MPAA. The female PI is entertaining and unique; she brings up the energy level of the film whenever she is on screen. Together, they tail members of the MPAA, waiting for them to exit the MPAA garage and following them to restaurants and their homes. The PI is a lesbian with a daughter who often accompanies her mother on her missions. Their trips are so entertaining because they are completely realistic. It is a blast to see the process a real-life PI goes through to investigate her charges.
I also found the interviews to be entertaining, for the most part. The directors have a lot to say, but much of it comes off a bit too whiny. I thought the best interview was with Maria Bello. She is amazingly frank about her nudity on screen and her anger over the MPAA's rating of her film, The Cooler, is palpable. I also enjoyed the bit where Kirby Dick started going through the trash of an MPAA member and discovers the rating card for Memoirs of a Geisha, a film that I worked on. It was fascinating to hear the MPAA's written comments concerning some of the film's more extreme scenes.
The reform of the MPAA is a very important issue, and though I wasn't quite convinced that independent features are more roughly rated than studio films, Kirby Dick creates a persuasive and passionate argument about the outdated regime of the MPAA. For anyone interested in the perplexing reasons why the naked body can sometimes warrant an NC-17 when the most sadistic violence often rates an R, this is the film for you. The perfect capper to the film is that when This Film Is Not Yet Rated was submitted to the MPAA for a rating, it was given an NC-17. Poetic.