A quixotic approach to censorship

“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.


  1. Normally I agree with the majority of editorials, however not this one. Whilst I agree that "protecting children from the potential harm of seeing such images should not be the role of a government, but of parents." there clearly needs to be a body that sets the rating for independent unrated movies.
    It is fantastic that we are having more independent movies produced in Cayman and it stands to reason that these movies will need to be rated by a body to give cinema goers and parents/guardians advice on who should be viewing these movies.
    Clearly whilst it would be within the board”s remit to change an already rated film, one would hope that there would need to be an exceptional reason for this. It stands to reason then that the members of the board would need to be carefully selected to ensure that we do not see a puritanical regime of film censorship.

  2. Government for the sake of government.
    Has anyone thought this through?
    A pizza restaurant on island used to show "The Voice," "The X-Factor," and so on. It is not rated, so would NBC have to send a pre-release recording to the censor board?
    I have a 5-hour documentary called "Victory at Sea" which includes restored historical footage and documents naval action in WW2. It is unrated, though some of the footage is quite graphic. Having three people watch that – 15 man-hours – seems a waste of time because any prospective audience would be quite aware of the likely content.
    What next, could I not import a DVD box set of HBO’s Game of Thrones (not rated, but includes brief nudity and violence) in case I were to show it publicly – though of course many would have seen it live on HBO?
    Not rated does not mean it should be rated; it means a viewer (or parent) should exercise THEIR OWN discretion.
    Furthermore, a forbidden rating can be counterproductive, creating extra desire. When at school, most of my 15- and 16-year-old classmates had also seen a well-known 18 rated horror film, but the feeling of getting away with something was actually better than the film. I suspect that had it carried a 15 rating, there would have been fewer customers.
    How about protecting everyone from exposure to harmful OVER-GOVERNMENT?

  3. This reminds me of the board in Oxford, MS in the 1970s. My constitutional law prof. was on it and said it ended only after the rest of the panel got tired of watching nudie movies together.
    Harper Valley PTA, eh?

  4. I wonder how many films might be available in Cayman. I suspect that they number in the hundreds. Ergo, will the three purity police have to watch them all, or would they split up the job so that each one of them could evaluate a third of the flix according to his/her understanding of what is acceptable, resulting in a diminished number per judge, say, only having to rate two or three movies a day. On the other hand, as others have posted, perhaps the idea should be shelved.