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The Independent Culture
Shootings, lethal injections, gassings, stonings, electrocutions - you'd think that any video with a dramatic roll-call like that would be a dead cert for a run-in with BBFC head James Ferman. After all, this is the man who got hot under the collar about the use of nunchaku in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and stuck by his guns when those "nunchaku" turned out to be a string of sausages). But the new video Executions has passed with an '18' certificate. Why? Because it's comprised of real-life executions. You see, if the blood is fake and the screams are polished in overdubs, we are forbidden to see it. But if it's real living bodies having the life hacked out of them, then Ferman has no qualms.

This is surely the controversy that will finally see the great tyrant taken to task. His remark that children would be put off viewing the tape because of its documentary tone assumes that no child will have heard about the controversy. What better way to appear tough in the playground than to boast about having watched Executions? Ferman has demonstrated considerable naivety in the past, but even he can't be that stupid. The distributors - Barrie Goulding's EduVision - can quack all they like about the title's moral value, but it is surely no coincidence that the label also made a great deal of money out of last year's Police Stop! video of high-speed police car chases. You'd have to be kidding yourself if you thought that the two titles weren't going to share the same audience. Nobody convinced by the horror of capital punishment would buy it - what would be the point?So who exactly is the audience? James Ferman knows the answer, but don't expect him to budge an inch. He's far too busy with more pressing matters, like blocking the release of Bare Behind Bars, a steamy spoof of prison movies described as a sexed-up Prisoner: Cell Block H. The title is owned by Redemption Films, and was submitted to the BBFC with cuts already made. They rejected it, only to have their decision contested by Nigel Wingrove, the managing director of Redemption. He has lodged an appeal with the Video Appeals Committee, which is currently deliberating on the case, the first of its kind for five years. "The Government that derided the nanny state seems to have overlooked the BBFC," Wingrove says, "who think that if you're too old to watch with mother, then watch what we watch or you can't watch at all." Now if Redemption could argue that the sex in Bare Behind Bars was real, and that the movie had educational qualities, I'm sure Ferman would be delighted to take another look at it.

It's a packed month for rentals, but the ones you can't afford to miss are: Threesome (Columbia), in which, by an unbelievable contrivance, two boys and one girl end up sharing a college room and stumble towards the inevitable sexual complications. It's nowhere near as lurid as it sounds; instead, it's a refreshingly mature and generous portrait of adolescent confusion, which never patronises its characters or its audience. Amateur (Artificial Eye) is Hal Hartley's darkest work yet, but still has the same edgy, brittle humour that we're used to from him, plus a sparkling performance by Isabelle Huppert. You needn't expect too much of Captives (PolyGram), a pedestrian love story about a prison dentist and the con she falls for, although Julia Ormond and Tim Roth are transfixing in the leads. It comes to video very quickly after its cinema release, as does the towering Hoop Dreams (Feature Film Company; also available to buy at pounds 12.99), which trails two black kids on the route to professional basketball. Profound, riveting, sensitive, it has none of the qualities which the words "three-hour documentary about basketball" might suggest.

The Scottish director Bill Forsyth made his name with a series of modest, finely detailed comedies, but when he began filming Being Human (released this month by Warner Video), he seems to have come unstuck. The movie, which cost $20m to make and reaped just $2m, has that air of existentialist despair that rarely makes for box-office bullion.

It stars Robin Williams as five different characters all existing in various corners of history, from prehistoric Scotland to latterday New York. They are linked by name (Hector) and by the common experience of having to negotiate life's highwire. In his first incarnation, Hector is a caveman whose daughter is stolen by wandering nomads, while the concluding chapter concerns a divorced father becoming reacquainted with his estranged children during a beach-house holiday.

How it all differs from Forsyth's version, before the studio waded in with the scythes, is open to conjecture. But watching the finished two- hour film, it's hard to disagree with the studio brass, who considered the picture unshowable. The humour is tissue thin, while the philosophising wouldn't look out of place inside a fortune cookie.

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