“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.” – Don Quixote
Like Miguel de Cervantes’ famous protagonist Don Quixote, the Cayman Islands government sees itself on the side of righteousness. One way it intends to demonstrate this is by the chivalrous passage of The Film Exhibition Control Bill, 2015, the stated goal of which is “protecting children from exposure to harmful film content.”
Don Quixote could be excused for preparing to do battle with windmills because he was, after all, insane. We don’t believe the Cayman government suffers from the same affliction, but we do think it is ill-advised in attempting to regulate an art form, particularly when the medium targeted is but the very tip of a proverbial, very large, iceberg.
The three-person Film Control Board the new law would require will have wide censorship powers when it comes to films aired publicly in the Cayman Islands, including assigning a rating to an unrated film; assigning a different rating to a film that has already been rated by a board of internationally recognized film censors; and prohibiting a film from being shown at all.
Among the criteria the Film Control Board can consider when making its judgments on any particular film is the use of discriminatory, offensive, obscene or vulgar language; the exhibition of violent and graphic conduct; references to illegal drugs or drug misuse; the portrayal of dangerous or antisocial behavior; scenes of nudity, display of sexual activity, obscene displays and other forms of pornography; content displaying horror, blood and gore; and whether the film is in the public interest.
We have to wonder if the film “Haven” by Cayman’s own Frank E. Flowers would pass muster with the Film Control Board because of its content depicting illegal drug use – right here on our shores – sexual content, violence and, prudes might contend, an obscene amount of vulgar language.
How about John Grisham’s famous flick, “The Firm,” which portrayed Grand Cayman as a Mecca for money laundering, not to mention lusty sex on Seven Mile Beach? Would that get a thumbs up – or down – from our new arbiters of public morality?
If today’s children want to find film content containing sex, nudity, drugs, violence, vulgarity, blood and gore, they have only to turn on the television to see what the local cable or satellite television company is offering. And if they can’t find it there, it’s just a click away on the Internet. (Our government might be surprised to learn that pornography is a multi-billion dollar business on the Net, and a wide variety of films, lurid and otherwise, can simply be streamed or downloaded from online services such as Netflix to computers, iPads, smartphones and other devices.)
Regardless, protecting children from the potential harm of seeing such images should not be the role of a government, but of parents.
The fact the government thinks it should or could protect children with The Film Exhibition Control Bill shows how out of touch – like our delusional hero Don Quixote – it is with reality.
Cinema-goers are accustomed to being in the dark when watching films; we don’t expect our government to be equally in the dark with its futile attempts to censor them.