The Classification Board has refused exemption for two films in the program for the Mardi Gras Film Festival.

The films, Community Action Centre and In Their Room: Berlin, contain some unsimulated sexual activity. The Board has refused the exemption from classification on the grounds that should the films undergo the classification process in Australia they would be granted an X classification. X-rated films are not allowed to be screened publicly in New South Wales.

The decision follows a media fracas earlier in the month about the issue of sex in films, prompted when The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Queer Screen wanted to screen “gay sex movies” as part of the festival.

Festival director Lex Lindsay expressed his disappointment at the decision to members in an email.

“Obviously I am astoundingly disappointed with this decision and didn’t expect the Board to use such a stringent interpretation of the 20-year-old Classification Act in assessing these films,” he wrote.

“I believe these films are not only appropriate for public viewing, but strongly deserving of festival screenings to an informed and sympathetic audience who have chosen to see them. Regrettably, I believed the Classification Board might agree with me.

“To contextualise my decision, Community Action Centre, bringing together the work of a number of video artists responding to the simple idea that our bodies are art, has just been purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and has exhibited at the Tate Modern, London. It will now not be screening in Australia.

“As a curator of the world’s most important new screen images of queer people, life and art, I wanted to bring you this film, but unfortunately our classification system has made that impossible.”

With the Australian classification system currently under review by the Australian Law Reform Commission, Lindsay encouraged festival patrons to express their opinions directly to the Commission’s board via post, fax, or email.
Ticket-holders for the two films will be contacted in the coming days to re-allocate or refund their tickets.

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