Film board faces change

The organisation that has censorship powers over films shown in the Cayman Islands will be changed from an authority dominated by politicians to a board that consists solely of political appointees.

Right now, the Cinematograph Authority consists of five members including; the governor, three elected members of the Legislative Assembly and an appointee of the Governor.

UCCI President Hassan Syed holds that appointed post. Governor Stuart Jack is the chairman of the authority.

A proposed amendment to the Cinematograph Law would change the composition of the authority entirely.

Under the change, all five members of the newly formed Cinematograph Board would be appointed by Cayman Islands Cabinet members. At least one of the five Cinematograph Board members would have to be a minister of religion, according to the proposal.

The amendment would also give the board even more leeway than it now has to rule on what films can be shown on island.

According to amendment section three, part four: ‘The board may adopt whatever procedure it considers appropriate in determining any matter before it.’

The Cinematographic Authority was dormant for a number of years after successive governments failed to nominate active members going back to 2002. The authority was reformed in December 2007 following a controversy surrounding the film The Golden Compass, which was shown at the Hollywood Theaters cinema in Camana Bay.

Communications Minister Arden McLean said at the time that the theatre’s decision to show the film was not the reason the board was reformed. Rather, Mr. McLean said it was because the law required the six theatre cinema to be licensed by the Cinematograph Authority.

The law that established the authority allows theatres that exhibit blasphemous, seditious or obscene material to be fined, and also provides for jail terms of up to six months for those responsible for the public viewing of such material.

Places where films are publicly shown can be inspected by police or members of the Cinematographic Authority. If they are given the court’s permission, police can seize the film reels of any offending movies and can order the theatre’s licence holder to appear before Magistrates Court to explain why the film should not be forfeited.

The Cayman Islands Ministers’ Association sent out a statement last year objecting to The Golden Compass being shown here because of what the group said was the film’s anti-Christian themes. The ministers’ association said those themes were derived from a trilogy of books written by atheist British author Philip Pullman.

‘No parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books,’ the statement read.

Mr. Pullman has repeatedly said that his writings do not denigrate Christianity.

The Cinematograph Authority met a few days before the new cinema opened and agreed to licence all six theatres. Mr. Syed, acting as the authority’s spokesman, said that all movies would be shown as long as they complied with British and American censorship association requirements.

The Golden Compass opened in the Cayman Islands on Friday, 7 December, 2007 and was shown without incident.