“A Serbian Film” resuscitates with a bang the debate of censorship in the arts

One year after its world premiere at SXSW, the horror-themed magazine Fangoria revealed in an exclusive last week that the controversial movie “A Serbian Film” finally has a U.S. release date: an edited version of the movie will be shown in selected theaters across North America since May 13th.

For those unfamiliar with this movie, which it’s indeed Serbian, it tells the story of a retired porn star looking to make a departure from his past career by starring in a supposedly art film. Once he is embarked in the project, he discovers that he has been deceived into making a pedophilia and necrophilia themed snuff film. Before anyone asks, yes, it’s very explicit, and yes, it contains sex scenes involving children and corpses, although most of them set in a dream-like context.

What’s really newsy about this film it that it has stirred the debate of censorship in the arts like no other art creation had in many time. In the UK, the British Board of Film Classification decided to cut over four minutes of the movie, making it the most censored film in Great Britain in the last 16 years.

In Spain, things got way more serious when the Barcelona public prosecutor filed earlier this month a child pornography lawsuit against Sitges Film Festival Director Angel Sala for screening the film during the festival – Sala could be facing one year in jail.

The Barcelona prosecutor’s decision was widely condemned by Spain’s cultural figures. “The office of the Public Prosecutor in Barcelona appears to be taking us back to times of censorship limitations on freedom of expression and cultural programming that we sincerely believed belonged to the past,” an open letter signed by the directors of the other Spain’s top film festivals said.

In the U.S., Eli Roth, also director of (less) controversial movies like “Hostel”, defended Sala using his Twitter account: “If Angel Sala does in fact go to jail festivals will stop showing any controversial or edgy films and censorship will win… It sends a terrifying message to festivals,” said Roth.

On the other hand, “A Serbian Film” was screened without any problems in other top film festivals like Cannes and it even won the top Sarajevo festival award.

Sala’s lawsuit, though, will still compromise the North American release of the film, according to what Flixfling CEO Tom Ashley told Fangoria about the digital distribution of the movie: ““It was always our intention to release this film uncut, but given the recent charges against Sitges director Angel Sala, we have decided to release an edited version.”

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