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Cronenberg slams C-10 at Senate hearings

Director recalls his own censorship battles

WHY OH WHY? Director David Cronenberg questions why Canada needs more film guidelines, when funding bodies already have to adhere to the Criminal Code. Credit: (Caitlin Cronenberg photo)

At May 14 Senate hearings, director David Cronenberg panned Bill C-10 — a bill that would allow the government to revoke tax credits from controversial films.

Cronenberg recalled his own fights with government censors. His 1979 science-fiction film The Brood contained a scene in which a character with “external womb” (click for a picture, from cinetudes.com) gives birth to a child and licks it clean.

The scene was censored, even though it wasn’t sexual or violent, he says. According to Cronenberg, the official in charge of censoring films had his own subjective reasons for cutting the scene — he found it “repulsive.”

“He did not feel the slightest impulse to apologize for imposing a personal subjective response to a moment in a film, and I’m afraid that’s what always happens.”

Cronenberg says the tax credit provision of C-10 should be removed. If it passes, it will generate uncertainty about what exactly qualifies as “contrary to public policy.”

That uncertainty will lead artists to self-censor, he says, because films that are too controversial would not receive tax credits. Banks have already said that C-10 will force them to give out loans to non-controversial films only.

“Government funding is the solid, secure platform upon which all of those productions are built,” says Cronenberg. “This clause would make that platform earthquake prone.”

The Senate banking committee has heard from over 40 witnesses, including representatives from arts groups and financial institutions. Most have spoken against the proposed law.

One of the supporters of C-10 — Canada Family Action Coalition president Charles McVety — spoke at the Senate’s banking committee in April. He spoke out against funding of “pornographic” films, even though no pornographic film has ever received a federal tax credit. He also said that gay films like Breakfast With Scot should not receive tax credits.