Anthony's Film Review
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)
A jaw-dropping and engaging documentary about an all-too-familiar movie ratings board...
Anyone who watches movies released in the United States is familiar with the age-appropriateness ratings issued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA): G for General Audiences (all ages admitted), PG for Parental Guidance Suggested (some material may not be suitable for children), PG-13 for Parents Strongly Cautioned (some material may be inappropriate for children under 13), R for Restricted (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian), and NC-17 for No One 17 and Under Admitted that replaces the former X rating. It's one of those things that are practically tradition and, therefore, left unquestioned. At least, that's what the general public might assume. The 2006 documentary film titled This Film Is Not Yet Rated, directed by Kirby Dick, shows us that there are actually plenty of people who question the validity of the MPAA.
Like most documentaries, this one presents interviews with a variety of people, which include mostly directors, but also feature film critics, authors, movie industry officials, and even an attorney specializing in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As diverse as their roles are, their comments all point to one similar sentiment: the MPAA often goes too far in what they do. One interviewee even goes as far as to say that the MPAA is fascist. This is interesting, given how, as a movie watcher, I've understood the rationale of MPAA movie ratings for most films, but never knew that people in the film industry have had gripes about the MPAA. This film really does paint the MPAA, and its longtime president Jack Valenti, as sort of villainous.
To illustrate, consider this shocking fact. One segment of the film presents a list of filmmakers who have had at least one film that was rated X or NC-17 or had to cut their film to avoid that dreaded rating whose power can end studio and distributor deals. You would think that it's a short list with just a handful of directors, like John Waters. It's actually a much longer list that includes plenty of familiar names, like Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, and even Peter Jackson (yeah, I also find that hard to believe). Now check out this other shocking fact mentioned in the film. The MPAA is the only movie ratings board worldwide that does not disclose who its members are.
This is where the film begins to deliver content that no other documentary has ever presented. Kirby Dick hires two private investigators to snoop around and find out who the film-rating members of the MPAA are. First, they scout the building in Encino, California, that houses the MPAA, which one could easily describe as a fortress. Then they take notes of the people going in and out of that building. Later, they do some real snooping around using equipment from a spy shop. Overall, the investigation is a painstaking process, but it's one that reveals a whole lot. It is worth waiting to see the results.
Overall, roughly two-thirds of this film is devoted to interviews and archival footage, and the remaining one-third centers on the private investigators' risky mission of uncovering the identities of the MPAA raters. All of it is fascinating. Plenty of it is surprising because there are things I never knew. For example, the MPAA is focused much more on sex than violence, whereas movie ratings boards in Europe have it the other way around. Also, we may not see that many NC-17 films, but the MPAA has initially proposed that rating to more films than we realize. We don't really know about that because those films were trimmed down to get the R rating, something we see a whole lot. On top of this, one can even say that this film is somewhat erotic, because clips of graphic sex scenes from various movies are shown in montages. (Due to graphic sexual content, This Film Is Not Yet Rated is rated NC-17. Yes, by the MPAA itself!)
This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a film I definitely enjoyed, for its insight, provocativeness, and humor. It sheds light on the topic of film censorship and, to a certain extent, connects it with more general societal issues. After seeing this film, I don't think I can look at the MPAA the same way again. While I will still pay attention to the ratings it gives to films, I imagine that I will also be skeptical at times. With that, I have my own rating for this movie. Not a content rating, but a quality rating. It's an 8 out of 10, which means it's an enjoyable film for anyone who is looking for just that.
For more information about This Film Is Not Yet Rated, visit the Internet Movie Database.