expert jury what price censorship?

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The Independent Online
Should the `Executions' video be banned?

Jim White

Independent TV reviewer

"This film should shock because the truth hurts" runs the coverline of the video Executions. Which is true. Not many truths shock more than the one on show here, as the producers seek to disguise their cynical attempt to make commercial gain from what is no more than a snuff movie by borrowing the clothing of liberal film-making.

Of course there is a legitimate film to be made about the ghastly inhumanity that is capital punishment. But this is not it. Producers of a legitimate film would seek to have it screened on TV, to reach a wider audience, rather than putting it on the video shelves, where, projected by bucket- loads of free notoriety, it would make far more money. Instead of dashing on in pursuit of the next death, a legitimate film-maker would have developed the film's one good sequence, in which US prison staff dispassionately explain the workings of the electric chair. Because this is what the film is about: death, graphic and real, shown in unsparing detail. This is not challenging, it is gratuitous.

Besides, many of the deaths are not executions at all, but are mob murders culled from news footage of Rwanda, Bosnia or Liberia. This fundamentally undermines the alleged purpose of the enterprise, to expose legal killing by government.

John Beyer

General Secretary, National Viewers and Listeners Association

I think this 18 certificate is not in keeping with the concern in parliament and amongst the public about home entertainment. I don't see why shops should feel obliged to sell it - just because these people make it doesn't mean they have any right to see it sold.

The human rights argument is tosh. This is sensationalist, and I'm sure the people who made it will do very well out of it.

Nigel Evans MP

MP for Ribble Valley

I have written to the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) and the Home Secretary about this video. I can't understand why it was given an 18 certificate, which essentially means for general release. I have watched this film, and it's just sequence after sequence of executions. The whole concept is extremely sordid. Its makers hide behind the argument that it is educational. It's a documentary format, but that could be used to justify any string of horrific images.

I think it should be banned from general sale. The BBFC has completely failed to address the precedent that might be set for future videos of sordid and distasteful subjects. I mean, the final shot is of a man being repeatedly shot in the face. If you allow that, what won't you allow?

Philip Dodd

Editor, British Film Institute magazine, Sight and Sound

No, I don't think it should be banned. But really, the big question is, why do some videos - like this one - get noticed by the media when others don't? Frankly, if you're really looking for the violent stuff in videos today, you don't look at feature films, you look at stuff like this.

But it's important to remember that there's a long tradition of this kind of ghoulish fascination with death in society - the Elizabethans used to go on outings to see public hangings - so this doesn't reflect the decline of civilisation as we know it.

With the advent of new technology, I think banning anything on a national level will become very difficult in the future.

Graham Allen MP

Labour Media Spokesman

We have to be careful not to over-react. We would wish to be against censorship in all its forms, but this video does go very close to the line. It is not produced by a human rights organisation, it is a commercial venture. Perhaps if Amnesty had produced it, I would have commended it, but I'm not yet convinced of the credentials of the people involved.

We have the video here in the office, but I have chosen not to watch it. I don't want to be on the side of the hangers and floggers, but it seems a bit like those videos of people on motorways doing stupid things - we don't want this to be just for prurient interest.