1 min

Censors back off

But problems remain with FCO

Credit: Robin Perelle

BC’s film classification office (FCO) seems to be taking a step back from its earlier thrust into tighter regulations. And the director of Vancouver’s queer film festival, Out On Screen (OOS), is breathing a little easier as a result. But that doesn’t mean everything has been resolved, Drew Dennis says.

FCO officials first made headlines in August when they tried to interfere with several OOS films, demanding unnecessary permits and pre-screenings. They agreed to meet with OOS in September to address the matter. But that meeting raised more doubts than it settled.

Dennis’ red flags went up when FCO representatives indicated they might increase, rather than cut, regulations next year.

It looks like the government is moving towards a more “heavy-handed” approach, Dennis told Xtra West after FCO officials suggested they may ask film festivals to re-apply annually for exemption from the usual government screening process. In the past, film societies have only had to apply once for exemption, provided they promised to only show their films to their members.

At the time, FCO director Elaine Ivancic dismissed Dennis’ concerns as premature. Now, Ivancic says the FCO is officially abandoning that route, though she insists it was never more than a suggestion in the first place.

Rather than forcing film festivals to re-apply for exemption every year, Ivancic says the FCO will only check on their status every three years. And even then, officials will only confirm that the film society is still in good standing as a society. Its film presentations will have no bearing on the renewal of its exemption status, Ivancic promises.

After obtaining legal counsel, the FCO has also backed off its earlier suggestion to require special licences for film societies’ screening venues.

As long as the society can control the venue, and ensure that only their members get access to it, Ivancic says no extra permits will be required. When asked if that applies equally to erotica and porn screenings, Ivancic says yes. As long as societies like OOS can control their venue, they won’t need any special licences or licence upgrades, she repeats.

“It simplifies everything,” Ivancic says. “In a large way, what we are entering into is a quasi self-regulatory model for film societies.”

Dennis is relieved, but says the battle is not over yet.

OOS is still thinking about filing an official complaint about the FCO’s interference in August.