Howls of Protest Greet Ontario Ban of Grass Movie

Howls of Protest Greet Ontario Ban of Grass Movie
Posted by FoM on June 05, 2000 at 10:51:53 PT
By Adrian Humphreys, National Post 
Source: National Post
20-second scene offends: Film Review Board sees cruelty in monkeys smoking.While opening to warm reviews and standing ovations in the United States, the new documentary film by an Ontario filmmaker that lampoons the efforts of the U.S. government to weed out marijuana use has been banned in his home province. 
The Ontario Film Review Board will not allow the film Grass, by Toronto director Ron Mann, to be shown in any of the province's cinemas because of a 20-second scene of four monkeys smoking marijuana. The scene of the government-controlled science experiment is 30 years old and was culled from U.S. government archives. "It is just somebody's ideas of political correctness gone haywire," said Mr. Mann. Fifty-three minutes into Grass, the review board's report notes: "Monkeys (4) restrained in lab setting appear very frightened and uncomfortable." That, according to three film board reviewers -- who go by their first names only -- is a violation of "Subsection 2 of Section 14 of Regulation 1031" of the Theatres Act, which prohibits "a scene where an animal has been abused in making of the film." "The censor board's standards are outdated and obsolete," said Mr. Mann. "I think the board's action is pretty misguided and I don't believe that in a free country we should censor free expression." He said he will not cut the scene, because it is integral to the movie's themes. "I will take it to court if necessary. It is a political film and this is clearly suppression of free speech." Mr. Mann said he expected trouble from American politicians who might be uncomfortable with his film's pro-marijuana message and the poignant poking at American efforts to demonize a drug that more and more of its citizens -- including that nation's current president -- have used. It never occurred to him, however, that his film would be wiped from movie screens in his home town, where it is set to open next Saturday, followed by wider release later in the month. "I really did think I would get banned in the United States," he said. The film paints the history of the U.S. government's war against marijuana -- from the alarmist movie Reefer Madness to the slogan "Just say no" -- as poor attempts to quell anyone who threatened the comfortable status quo, first Mexicans in the southwest, then black jazz musicians, and later hippies. The film shows attempts made by neo-prohibitionists and politicians to link marijuana to insanity, communism, rape and poor marks in school. Narrated by Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson, a noted marijuana advocate, the film has caused a stir south of the border. But not the stir Mr. Mann expected. The New York Times called it "Ron Mann's punchy and enjoyable new documentary," "seductive," and "very smart." Newsday saw it as "fast, funny and ferocious." It is currently playing in New York, San Francisco and Seattle and opens in more than a dozen U.S. cities on June 16. It has even been shown in Singapore, a country famous for its strict law and order, said Mr. Mann. The offending scene was not made for Grass, but is an excerpt from an anti-drug film from the National Institute of Mental Health around 1970. It shows monkeys being wheeled into a laboratory in restraints. They are then seen sucking on a pipe. "They are not being harmed," said Mr. Mann. "They are probably enjoying themselves. "No harm was done to any animals -- or hippies -- in the making of this movie," he added. The film's distributor, Lions Gate Films, is appealing the decision and will appear before a review board committee today. Carm Bordonaro, co-owner of the Bloor Cinema, where Grass is scheduled for a week's run starting on June 16, said banning the film could bankrupt his cinema. "The Ontario Film Review Board is going to look like chimps smoking pot," he said. "This is going to make them look very silly. You can show people killing people, you can show all kinds of things, but you can't show chimps smoking? You kick a real person in the head 20 times on screen and they say it's fantastic -- you can do it to people, but don't do it to an animated character or chimps? What's with that?"Published: June 5, 2000Copyright  Southam Inc.Related Articles & Web Site:Grass The Movie - A Ron Mann Film Banned For Showing Pot-Smoking Chimps : Madness! Communism! Indolence! The Works! Makes Voice Heard on History of Hemp 
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