Yesterday Shane Meadow's latest This Is England was released, and please go to see it. It's brilliant.
The one thing wrong with it is that it's rated certificate 18 by the BBFC, which several people are strongly opposed to. These people include me, Mark Kermode and Shane Meadows himself. The film contains a lot of swearing and a bit of violence, yes, but definitely no more than the 15-rated Shaun of the Dead. What the BBFC are worried about are the racial swear words used frequently throughout the film, and how they might be misinterpreted by a younger audience.
And this irks me. The thing which I liked most about This Is England is its challenging portrayal of racism - it neither glorified it or shyed away from the allure of it for people without a community. It takes a neo-Nazi character and turns him into a complex, difficult character, who is brutal, caring, vulnerable, hateful and pathetic all at once. The BBFC are probably worried that anyone younger than 18 won't understand these complicated issues and simply hear the racism and latch onto that.
Okay, I turned 18 3 months ago after watching films commissioned by the BBFC for the majority of my life. So, to my surprise, I didn't suddenly become more intelligent and manly overnight. Okay, most 18 year olds are more mature than most 15 year olds, but to suggest that 15 year olds are so blindly succeptible that they can't understand an exploration of racist behaviour is just patronising. As well as being intellectually challenging, the film has a weighty emtional punch as well - but if this is the BBFC's reasoning, then they're suggesting that no one reaches emotional maturity until they're an adult.
This film isn't for kids. In fact, one of the first things I thought after walking out of the cinema was 'I wouldn't show that to my pre-teen kid' - and that's something I rarely think. But the film IS for teenagers, as well as being about teenagers and from the perspective of teenagers. Meadows captures youth culture incredibly well, and I throughout the film I was struck by the realism and believability of the characters. This just makes the fact that it's censored so much worse. If I saw this film 3 months ago, or 3 years ago, I wouldn't have turned into a racist skinhead because it looked like fun in the film. The purpose of this film is to challenge a 2007 audience in what skinhead culture means to them; it explores the motivations behind racism instead of simply condemning it.
I have to say, thank goodness for Bristol, where the film IS being shown with a 15 certificate. Damn the man, etc.
If you're still a minor and you want to see this film, go to your local Cineworld, where it's generally quite easy to sneak into a screen.