Irish Film Classification Office

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Irish Film Classification Office
Oifig Aicmithe Scannán na hÉireann
Formation1923;100 years ago (1923)
Purpose Film ratings
Headquarters Dublin, Ireland
Director of film classification
George Sinclair
Website www.ifco.ie

The Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) (Irish : Oifig Aicmithe Scannán na hÉireann, OASÉ) is the organisation responsible for films, television programmes, and some video game classification and censorship within Ireland. Where restrictions are placed by the IFCO, they are legally binding.

Contents

Prior to 21 July 2008, the office was branded as the Irish Film Censor's Office, and was previously known as simply the Film Censor's Office, or, in legal references, the office of the Official Censor of Films, which was the official title of the head of the office prior to that date. The head of the office is the Director of Film Classification.

Background

1965 envelope sent to local office of 20th Century Fox with certifying cachet of the Film Censor's Office IFCO 1962cover.jpg
1965 envelope sent to local office of 20th Century Fox with certifying cachet of the Film Censor's Office

The Irish Film Censor's Office was set up in 1923, in accordance with the Censorship of Films Act, 1923. This law was amended in 1925, 1930, 1970, and 1992; and a substantial revision of the law occurred in the Video Recordings Act, 1989 which extended the remit of the office to the regulation of the video importation and supply industry. On 21 July 2008 the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008 came into force. Section 70 changes some of the provisions with regard censorship of films in the State. Section 71 renames the Film Censor as the Director of Film Classification and consequent to this, the Irish Film Censor's Office became the Irish Film Classification Office.

Staff

The office consists of 21 staff members:

The 10 assistant classifiers are paid €168 per day and are entitled to claim expenses on top of this. According to a freedom of information request granted to the Irish edition of the Sunday Times the assistant classifiers claimed €306,683 in fees and €52,569 of expenses in 2007; €339,608 in fees and €49,898 of expenses in 2008; and €162,263 in fees and €21,401 of expenses for the first half of 2009. This equates to a payment of approximately €60 per film rated. [1]

Certificates

Introduction and early history

Before 1965, there were no certificates and all films were tailored for a general audience, resulting in several bans and cuts (no doubt also due to extremely conservative societal standards). As of 2004, 2,500 theatrical films had been banned and about 11,000 cut, largely from before the overhaul. [2]

Public controversy over the office's harsh methods came to a head in late 1964 - in 1963 alone, 31 films were rejected and 156 were cut. [3] Critically acclaimed hits were no exception - Dr. Strangelove was cut, including Ripper's reference to Communists trying to "sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids" with fluoridated water, and Irish-shot medical drama Of Human Bondage was banned due to the heroine dying of syphilis. [4] Even after the ban was overturned the following year, [5] it still received an over-18's certificate [6] with cuts [7] [8] - nude sculptures made by Auguste Rodin were removed from the background of the title sequence. [9]

The appointment of a new Justice Minister, Brian Lenihan, in October 1964 coincided with this outrage. He met with the Cinema and Theatre Association in November to consider their views [10] and even proposed to view recently banned films, including Of Human Bondage. [11] [12] On 28 November, Lenihan announced he'd be appointing a new Film Appeals Board and would be able to reform censorship without changing existing legislation [11] - film correspondent Fergus Linehan pointed out that the 1923 Act explicitly supported age certification: [4]

If the Official Censor is of opinion that any picture in respect of which an application is made to him under this section is not fit for general exhibition in public but is fit for exhibition in public in certain places in Saorstát Eireann or under special conditions or in the presence of certain classes of persons, he shall grant a certificate that such picture is fit for exhibition in public subject to such restrictions and conditions (which shall be expressed on the certificate) in regard to the places at which or the special conditions under which the picture may be exhibited or the classes of persons who may be admitted to an exhibition of the picture as in the opinion of the Official Censor are necessary to prevent the exhibition of the picture in public being subversive of public morality.

Censorship of Films Act 1923, Section 7, Part 3

Lenihan announced the new Appeals board in January 1965, which came into effect on 18 January. [13] Their main task was to begin enforcing limited certificates (alongside the general certificate), [14] which were as follows, according to the Appeals Board chairman: [15]

All bar the last are still enforced today under different names.

Cinematic certificates

An official cinema certificate from 1999, which would've directly preceded the film. The World is Not Enough - Irish Film Censor's Office age certificate PG 1999.jpg
An official cinema certificate from 1999, which would've directly preceded the film.

The current cinematic certificates were announced in December 2004 at the European Conference of Film Classifiers in Paris and introduced on 1 January 2005. [17] In November 2005, a public campaign was launched to raise awareness of them, including booklets, posters, stickers and an animated certificate produced by Brown Bag Films which drew attention to their relatively new website. [18] [19] [20] [21]

General cinema.png Pg cinema.png 12 cinema.png 15 cinema.png 16 cinema.png 18 cinema.png
IFCO - 12PG certificate.png IFCO - 15PG certificate.png

Home video certificates

These were introduced on 1 September 1994: [22]

From that date it was an offence to trade uncertified videos, which carried fines of up to £1000 and a maximum sentence of three years. [23] Additional rates came in at £180 per rental title, £80 per sale title and £20 per advert/trailer. This limited the market, especially for London distributors whose releases previously went to Ireland automatically. [24]

In 1996, the 12RA certificate was officially replaced by PG and 12, [25] although releases still used it into the 2000s. [26]

The current certificates for home video formats such as DVD and Blu-ray that are issued are:

General home video.png PG home video.png IFCO 12.png 15 home video.png 18 home video.png

A retired certificate only used on home video is:

IFCO - 12RA video certificate.png

Standard cinematic-home video certification crossover

This is the crossover, or change, in a certificate that will happen when a film which has been shown in cinemas, is released on home video, but this only applies if:

The standard crossovers are as follows:

Cinema certificateHome video certificate
GG
PGPG
12A12
15A15
1615/18
1818

Note: The certificate "12RA" did not have a corresponding cinematic certificate, and thus, did not have a standard crossover (certain 12A films received the certificate before it was withdrawn in the mid-2000s).

If the two rules above apply to a film's home video release, then, generally, it will be re-rated completely, but this does not mean certificates will always coincide for all formats, as occasionally (usually the DVD or Blu-ray) one edition will contain extra features while the other does not, causing one to be re-rated, and the other to take a Standard Crossover (for instance, a film which received a 15A certificate in cinemas may have received a 15 certificate on VHS but an 18 certificate on DVD; usually DVDs in these circumstances would carry a label on the reverse, informing viewers of this).

Home video

A censor's stamp on a 2004 DVD Irish film censor dvd stamp.jpg
A censor's stamp on a 2004 DVD

Until February 2009, the home video certificates were always the certificate surrounded by an octagon, followed by the words "FILM CENSOR'S OFFICE" and "OIFIG SCRÚDÓIR NA SCANNÁN", which were then surrounded by another, larger, octagon. The colours were cyan and white, but the order they appear in varied. Although the Office was renamed in July 2008, these continued to bear the old name until February 2009, when they were altered to read "IRISH FILM CLASSIFICATION OFFICE" and its Irish equivalent.

Video games

Unlike the BBFC in the UK, which prior to PEGI ratings becoming legally enforceable in the UK on 30 July 2012 rated video games that met certain criteria (such as very graphic violence), the Irish Film Censor's Office does not usually rate video games, leaving ratings to PEGI, unless the game's content is deemed prohibitable under section 3 (1) of the Act.

IFCO ratings for video games were introduced in 2001 and retired in 2003. Although the Silent Hill Collection was released in 2006, it contained re-releases of the second and third games, which were rated and released in 2001 and 2003 respectively.

Only 9 games have ever been submitted to and rated by the IFCO:

TitleYearCertificate
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty [28] 200115
Silent Hill 2 [28] 200115
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City [29] 200218
Mafia [28] 200215
Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance [28] 200215
Grand Theft Auto III ( Xbox version) [29] 200318
Rockstar Games Double Pack: Grand Theft Auto (inc. Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City ) [29] 200318
Manhunt [29] 200318
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne [28] 200315
Silent Hill 3 [29] 200318
The Silent Hill Collection (inc. Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 ) [29] 200618 (overall)

Despite the lack of legally binding ratings, most (if not all) video game retailers attempt to prohibit the sale of PEGI 18+ rated games to people under the age of 18, and prior to PEGI ratings the same was done with BBFC 18 ratings on games (the same packaging is usually used in games sold in Ireland as in the UK).

The only prohibition notice for a video game was issued for Manhunt 2 in 2007. [30]

Appeals

All decisions made with regard to certification, may be appealed for up to 6 months after the certificate is initially issued. An appeal is issued to the Classification of Films Appeal Board.

Works may also be submitted for re-classification after seven years since the original certification have passed (not an appeal per se, but rather seen as an update of classification based on current standards).

The most recent example of a (failed) appeal is The First Purge , which received an 18 certificate for strong bloody violence, sustained threat and disturbing scenes. [31] The distributor (Universal Pictures) argued the case for a 16 certificate:

We would contend that the last two films in the franchise, in particular, are similar in tone and viscerality to the current film. A

The First Purge is a thematic continuation of how a group of people must fight to survive a night of government-sanctioned mayhem. Similar to Anarchy and Election Year, The First Purge features intensely depicted violence and some gory imagery but has contextual justification. There are sustained scenes of threat in which the characters are terrorised by masked killers but the guidelines for a 16 classification on the IFCO suggest that strong horror and sustained threat may be acceptable in this category.

The violence is presented in an extremely stylised way in an equivalent manner to the earlier films in the franchise as well as similar titles like Atomic Blonde (16), John Wick (16) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (16).

Direct correspondence between Universal Pictures and the IFCO

A. ^ The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year both received 16 certificates, for "frequent strong bloody violence, disturbing sequences, strong threat of sexual violence" [32] and "strong bloody violence throughout" [33] respectively. The distributor also mentioned the film's 15 certificate in the UK, [34] which is consistent throughout the franchise. [35]

After first being viewed on 15 June, it was re-viewed on 21 June when the Appeal Board stuck by the original decision.

Ger Connolly wrote back, explaining the decision in greater detail:

This is the fourth film of this particular franchise. As can sometimes be the case with long-running horror franchises, in evolution they become more violent and explicit to maintain the interest of their audience. This is, in my opinion, the case with The Purge series of films. The first instalment, essentially a 'home invasion' thriller, was classified 15A. The next two (The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year) broadened out the story and intensified in terms of body count and the graphic way in which some of the violence was depicted. Both were classified 16 on cinema release. The Purge: Election Year was classified 18 on DVD release. In most cases films classified 16 theatrically are classified 15 on DVD release. This classification is more restrictive than 15A. In rarer cases the DVD classification is increased to 18 to reflect the level of content.

The First Purge intensifies the extremely graphic violence - the violence here is brutal and sustained. It also contained a scene of sexual assault as well as scenes of very overt brutal racist violence against African Americans with the attackers in full Ku Klux Klan regalia. These were not present in the other instalments.

I suggest that the context here is not sufficient to warrant a 16 classification due to the extremely brutal and frenzied acts of violence combined with racial hatred and that The First Purge is appropriately classified at 18.

Ger Connolly, in direct correspondence with Universal Pictures

[36]

Previous appeals (excluding bans)

YearTitleOriginal certificateContent guidance/DetailsAppeal resultsRevised certificateCurrent certificate
1989 The Karate Kid Part III 15"Very, very violent" and "an evil influence for young audiences" according to head censor Sheamus Smith.

A spokesperson for Columbia TriStar said, "The first two Karate Kid films had 'under 12' certificates here and the new one has similar certificates in Britain and America. The films are very popular with young audiences".

The appeal viewing took place on 26 July and the decision, which was decided by a 4:1 ratio, pushed the release date back from mid-July to 4 August. [37]

UpheldUnder 12's accompaniedPG [38]
1989 Ghostbusters II Under 12's accompaniedColumbia Tri-Star requested a General certificate. [39] FailedPG [40]
1990 Look Who's Talking 15Smith objected to the opening, showing sperm swimming in a womb, followed by the mother disclosing an affair with her married boss and that she was artificially inseminated.

The appeal viewing took place on 26 January. [39]

UpheldUnder 12's accompanied15 [41]
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch 15Smith objected to the violence, including a gremlin being killed when pushed into a paper shredder. [42] Failed12 [43]
1990 Rocky V 15Smith objected to the "extreme violence" of the final street fight.

UIP requested an Under 12's accompanied certificate and the decision was made unanimously. [44]

Failed15 [45]
1991 Thelma & Louise 18Due to "frequent violence". [46] Failed15 [47]
1991 Dead Again 18 [48] [49] Upheld1518 [50]
1991 Toy Soldiers 18Viewed twice by the Appeal Board. [51] Upheld1515 [52]
1991 Boyz n the Hood 18 [49] Failed18 [53]
1992 Wayne's World 15Had to release as a 15 because the new Appeals Board hadn't been appointed at the time. As soon as they were, it was submitted for review. [54] [55] UpheldUnder 12's accompaniedPG [56]
1994 Heaven & Earth 18After the uncut version received an 18 certificate, Warner Bros. submitted the cut British version, and although Smith initially gave it an 18 too, his decision was overturned.

The appeal viewing took place on 16 February. [57] [58]

The British version was cut by 55s to reduce scenes of torture and sexual violence involving a female prisoner, which "left the emphasis on the tragic implications rather than the infliction of pain and degradation", and lowered the certificate from 18 to 15. [59]

Upheld1518 (cut British version) [60]
1994 Blown Away 18Due to violence.

The appeal viewing took place on 10 August. [58]

Failed1818 [61]
1996 Some Mother's Son 18 [62] Upheld1515 [63]
1999 Wild Wild West 15 [64] Upheld1212 [65]
2004 Closer 18 [66] Intense, explicit sexual dialogue, strong language, mild nudity.Failed [67]
2008 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 12A [68] Sustained battle sequences, with killing and injury, which while not gory, may still upset younger viewers.UpheldPG
2008 Inkheart 12A [69] Moderate threat/frights and scary fantasy violence, some of which may disturb younger children.Failed [70]
2009 Watchmen 18 [69] Contains strong, visceral hyper-realistic violence, including one brutal sexual assault.Upheld16
2009 Orphan 18 [71] Disturbing theme and content, depicted with underlying menace. Strong, gory horror violence.Upheld16
2009 Law Abiding Citizen 18 [72] Vengeance thriller with strong, brutal, sadistic, bloody violence.Upheld16
2009 The Lovely Bones 15A [73] Child abduction and murder. Strong scenes of violence and its aftermath.Upheld12A
2010 The Hole 15A [73] Horror involved with confronting fear.Failed [74]
2012 ParaNorman 12A [75] Frequent moderate frightening scenes.UpheldPG
2012 Lawless 18 [76] Brutal gory violence.Upheld16
2012 Taken 2 15A [77] Sustained strong violence and sequences of intense threat.Upheld12A
2013 Safe Haven 15A [78] Scenes of strong spousal violence. Brief moderate sex scene.Upheld12A
2017 Free Fire 18 [79] Relentless bloody violence. Strong drugs use.Failed
2018 The First Purge 18 [80] Strong bloody violence, sustained threat and disturbing scenes.Failed
2018 Bumblebee 12A [81] Moderate violence.Failed
2019 Mid90s 18 [82] Strong drugs use. Disturbing scenes and situations. Strong sex references.Upheld16
2019 Downton Abbey 12A [83] Brief homophobic reference.UpheldPG

Refusals and bans

Films may be refused a certificate, e.g. on grounds of obscenity. Such films may not be shown in public cinemas or sold in shops, but are not ipso facto banned and have been shown at film festivals and art house clubs such as the Irish Film Theatre and Irish Film Institute. These may also show films which have not been submitted for certification, as the submission fee may be prohibitive if a film is screened only a few times at a small venue.

Prohibitions and revocations, with justification, are listed in the official gazette, Iris Oifigiúil, under the headings of PROHIBITION ORDER and REVOCATION ORDER.

Despite the recommendations in the 2000 review of certification that no further films be banned, bans are still occasionally issued, although usually overturned on appeal. Boy Eats Girl , a 2005 movie, was initially banned, with the option of a cut being provided to the producers. On appeal, the film was passed uncut, and granted a 15A rating, [84] although the video certificate was raised to 18. [85]

Movies which are never submitted for cinema release in Ireland are occasionally banned on attempted video releases, although only one such order was made in 2004, banning the pornographic Anabolic Initiations 5, with the appeals board upholding the censor's order. One order was issued in 2005, reiterating the ban on Deep Throat . The only order in 2006 banned the pornographic film Steal Runaway.

Films and videos prohibited by the Classifier/Censor include:[ citation needed ]

Titletypeyearlifted
I Spit on Your Grave film2010
Manhunt 2 [86] video game2007
I Love to Fantasizefilm2007
Love @ First Bytefilm2007
Wild Cardsfilm2007
From Dusk Til Pornfilm2007
Sizzling Sex Starsfilm2003
Swingers Vacation 2: Secret Gamesfilm2003
Vampire Vixensfilm2003
Blue Hotel: Caught in the Actfilm2003
Blue Matrixfilm2003
Bad Lieutenant film2003
Dracula's Dirty Daughtersfilm2003
Baise-moi film2002
Better Sex III: How To Give a Woman Pleasurefilm2002
Dark Gardenfilm2002
Showgirls film1995lifted 2017
Natural Born Killers film1994lifted 2001
Man Bites Dog film1992
Meet the Feebles film1989
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life film1983lifted 1990
Porky's film1982lifted
The Evil Dead film1981lifted 2010 [87]
Monty Python's Life of Brian film1979lifted 1987
Debbie Does Dallas film1978
Emmanuelle film1974lifted
Deep Throat film1972
A Clockwork Orange film1971lifted 1999
Get Carter film1971lifted
Brief Encounter film1945lifted
The Great Dictator film1940lifted

For a more detailed list with dates and justification, see Film censorship in the Republic of Ireland#Notable banned or cut films

Criticism

Like many systems of entertainment classification, the IFCO has received criticism for several decisions they have made in the past. The board has been described as too zealous and conservative. Many titles that receive 15 certificates from the BBFC are rated 18 by the IFCO. DVD examples include Kick-Ass [88] and Black Swan . [89] Rarer cinema examples (which bypass the 16 rating) include Free Fire [79] and You Were Never Really Here . [90]

However, the IFCO are more lenient with strong language than the BBFC are, especially with very strong language (e.g. 'cunt'). Examples include Frost/Nixon and The Visitor receiving 15 certificates in the UK [91] [92] but PG's in Ireland [93] [94] despite the use of the stronger term 'motherfucker', and Gone Girl receiving an 18 in the UK [95] but a 15 (on video) in Ireland [96] despite four aggressive uses of 'cunt'. The 2014 documentary Red Army received a 15 in the UK [97] but a 12A in Ireland [98] for a single use of 'cocksucker' (although the video rating was upgraded to 15). [99]

Three titles in particular drew criticism of the board: Election , [100] But I'm a Cheerleader [101] and Brokeback Mountain . [102] All three were rated 18 in Ireland and 15 in the UK, although Brokeback Mountain was rated 16 for cinema release because the system is different than for video releases (it was only an 18 on video) - But I'm a Cheerleader was re-rated 15 in 2021. [103]

The IFCO is established on a statutory basis and thus the appeals procedure is final. Thus, when a film or video game is banned, there can be no further appeal, but the work may be resubmitted after seven years.

See also

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