This page explains results from a recent Censor for a Day event and goes through the criteria used by students to classify the film.
The Term 1, 2017 Censor for a Day event was held in Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, and Dunedin at the Roxy, Suter Theatre, Hoyts Riccarton and Reading Cinemas respectively. Over 400 students and 32 teachers from 20 schools attended.
Censor for a Day has three key purposes:
High school students form a significant group in terms of cinematic film, online film and DVD/Blu-ray audiences, and are directly affected by age-restricted film classifications in a way that adults are not.
Students were given a presentation about New Zealand’s censorship system by Henry Talbot, Senior Advisor in our Information Unit, including an overview of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. They also learned about the process followed by Classification Officers ('censors') when classifying films, video games, and other publications.
Students were asked to evaluate the film Get Out using the classification criteria.
The film had been classified but not yet released in New Zealand. After watching the film, the students completed a classification form with guidance from one of our Classification Officers and decided on an appropriate classification. Henry then led a discussion about how they applied the classification criteria to the film, and the reasons behind their individual classification choices. There was also opportunity for students to ask Classification Office staff questions about the New Zealand classification system.
In order to ensure that the Classification Office performs its role effectively, it is important to be aware of the public's views on our classification decisions, and on the classification system as a whole. Censor for a Day is not only about teaching young people about the classification system. It's about hearing their views on the role of censorship in our society, especially as it relates to children and young people as they are generally the groups most affected by the decisions we make. As always, the views of participating students were thoughtful, constructive, and sometimes challenging. We are grateful for the chance to hear them.
Get Out is classified R16 in New Zealand with the descriptive note 'Violence, offensive language and horror'. It is the directorial debut of comedian Jordan Peele (MadTV, Key & Peele) and stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris and Allison Williams as Rose. The narrative follows photographer Chris and his girlfriend Rose as they spend the weekend with her parents, who live on a rural estate. Despite Rose's assurances that her parents would be fine with her dating an African American man, racial tensions rise to the surface over the weekend.
Awkwardness and avant-garde approaches to the genre and the general terror of the story's unspooling make Get Out an at times, queasily paranoid watch.
However, you'd do wisely to believe the hype, as this is one of 2017's best and smartest films - and as such, it's more than worth at least one visit to the cinema - if not more.Darren Bevan, Newsroom
Please note that this report contains spoilers for people who have not seen the film!
Due to the extent, degree and manner in which Get Out deals with violence, offensive language, sex, cruelty and imitable or disturbing content, most students (97%) thought that the film should have an age restriction assigned. These ranged from RP13 (restricted to people 13 years and over unless accompanied by a parent or guardian) to R18 (restricted to people 18 years and over).
A vast majority (77%) of the students decided the film should be classified R16, followed by R15 and RP16 (7% each). Just two percent of students opted for the unrestricted M classification (suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over).
Students filled out the classification form, a pared down version of a 21-page consideration sheet that Classification Officers use when classifying a film.
The exercise involved students answering questions that relate to specific sections in the Classification Act. When deciding on a classification, students had to consider the potential for the film to be harmful to young people, while also considering New Zealanders' right to freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, 1990, "including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind".
The students were asked to decide on a suitable classification and descriptive note in order to prevent any likelihood of injury to the public good from the availability of the film, while balancing the right to freedom of expression provided by the Bill of Rights Act.
Only nine students chose the R18 classification:
The horror, cruelty and main idea is very intense and could be taken and radicalised. It could easily be harmful.Student from Queen Margaret College
A majority (77%) of students classified the film R16. Students who chose R16 did so for a variety of reasons. The most common concerns were the depictions of violence and concerns that the film may normalise racism for younger viewers:
I think the film's depiction of cruelty and violence could be harmful to young people as the ideas and imagery could potentially be quite traumatic. Though the film has artistic merit I believe its message is more likely to be appreciated by an older/more mature audience.Student from Newlands College
The merit of the message is strong, however due to the risk of showing black people as inferior the film requires a high level of maturity to process and understand why they are shown that way.Student from Waimea College
[I chose R16] because the film focusses a lot on conflicts caused by racism and imperialism, which would be quite offensive and would affect young children's mind-set on interracial relationships/issues. There are gory and graphic scenes which will scare and might traumatise children who can't handle this.Student from Logan Park High School
Because it has strong violence and cruelty. Younger people may view it as normal even though it is fiction and could take ideas/views raised in this film as their own.Student from Christchurch Girls High School
A younger audience may not understand that what was happening was wrong and it could encourage a negative reaction for someone who was not mature. The violence was also very graphic which could normalise it.Student from Taieri College
This film has much merit and importance for young people developing morals and ideas to do with racism but it could also cause harm like nightmares and anxiety.Student from Kāpiti College
Use of the R15 classification by the Classification Office is uncommon, but was chosen by 7% of students. The reasons given by students who chose to classify Get Out R15 were almost identical to those who classified it at an R15:
Racism, sexual innuendos, racial slurs and swearing may rub off on people younger than this; gore and violence was pretty controlled and censored.Student from Rongotai College
There were elements of violence, horror and cruelty, but these were not bad enough for it to be R16. People should be exposed to these themes at the age of 15 to prepare for the harsh brutalities of the world.Student from Christ’s College
R13 was chosen by just 3% of students. Those classifying the film R13 were mostly concerned that children were likely to be shocked and disturbed by the material, but some noted the Bill of Rights Act 1990 in their decisions:
The violence, horror and themes are very mature. However, it does not deal too heavily in themes that the 13 year old audiences won't understand. Anyone under 13 will not understand the film's merit.Student from Burnside High School
Could be of harm to children under 13. The violence is graphic but did not find it to be a shocking level of violence. I contemplated R15 but thought of freedom of speech and the positive effect on teenagers.Student from Newlands College
I believe that this film might shock young audiences. I was tossing up between R15 and R13 so gave an R13 rating as per the Bill of Rights. The type of violence and the inclusion of crimes such as murder makes me believe that this rating will protect individuals who are not mature enough to deal with these topics.Student from Onslow College
It could give little kids nightmares and if they don't understand it they could get the wrong idea about who is good and bad in this film.Student from Otago Boys High School
RP16 was chosen by 7% of students. Students acknowledged that some content in the film could be harmful to younger people but that having a parent or guardian present would lessen this harm. Many felt this partial restriction was warranted because of the film’s discussion of racism:
Could be harmful to anyone younger. 16 is a good mature age. Parental guidance could be needed due to the amount of violence and psychological issue which could be confusing and scary for anyone watching.Student from Waimea College
If a 14 year old would watch it with a parent I think it would be ok as long as the caregiver believed the child under 16 was mature enough to watch it.Student from Avonside Girls High
I would give it an R16 rating due to its mature themes with things like violence, torture, language etc. However, I think the film has many merits and should be shown to a slightly younger audience if their parents deem them mature enough as it confronts the topic of racism, a topic that needs to be taught from an age below 16 as it's that age that people start to form opinions on these types of topics. Getting them to see this film would most likely guide them in a more positive attitude if shown and talked about directly.Student from Rongotai College
Only three students chose the RP13 classification. These students generally thought the film’s content was not inherently harmful to children, so long as they had adult supervision:
While this film has - to an extent - levels of violence and language I believe it does not go as far as to glorify either of them. However, I do believe that the content could potentially be disturbing for persons under the age of 13 and they should watch it with a parent.Otago Boys High School
The educational value and sometimes light-hearted comedic tone of the film were noted by some of the 2% of students who opted for the unrestricted M classification. However others wrote down a number of classifications other than M alongside it, and seemed uncertain about whether it should be restricted or unrestricted. There were concerns from some that age was not a good marker of maturity:
Someone may be 16 but not mature enough to take all that is seen into account and react appropriately. If you are more mature then it would be a good movie if you can handle things and take it all in.Student from Papanui High School
Very violent and in some parts is relatively disturbing, viewers should be prepared for what is in film and after being prepared watch it at their own risk.Student from St Hilda’s Collegiate School
Has violence, offensive language and scenes in the film. However, the film has a comedic side and should be suitable for mature audiences.Student from Rongotai College
A trend we have noticed in previous Censor For A Day events is that male students tended to assign more restrictive classifications overall. At this event we did not find such a result. More female students (58%) attended the events than males (39%). Some students did not identify as male or female, and some did not answer this question.
The majority of participants were 17 years old (67%). There were no significant differences in classifications chosen according to the age of participants.
Students were asked if the film contained potentially restricted material such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, violence, or highly offensive language. The students were also asked to describe how this material is depicted or otherwise dealt with in the film. Almost all students agreed that Get Out contained violence and offensive language, and most thought that the film contained all classification criteria.
The Classification Office restricted the film to people 16 years and over due to its treatment of violence, offensive language and horror. Most students agreed that these criteria were present in the film. In the summary of reasons for its classification decision the Classification Office said that:
It is a film with high artistic, literary and cinematic merit. The erudite social commentary adds social merit particularly because it is the heart of the film.
The film’s unrestricted availability is likely to be injurious to the public good because of its depictions of horror and violence. The sometimes bloody and gory deaths are likely to shock and disturb younger viewers. The horror elements of unease, menace, fear and terror are strong, as is the dénouement. The themes of racism require some maturity to interpret.
Older teenagers and adults are likely to have the knowledge and experience to understand the racial satire within a context of horror. The use of highly offensive language and the strong sexual references add to the need for a restriction. The film is therefore classified as objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 16 years. This classification is a reasonable limitation on the right to freedom of expression in the preventing injury to the public good.Classification Office written decision, March 2017
All students thought the film contained violence. Some students described the violence as mild and low impact while others considered it graphic and high impact. Many commented that the manner of the depictions of violence was quite realistic, while not being gratuitous. Students generally agreed that violence became stronger in the end of the film, but that overall there were few depictions.
Most students (72%) identified that there were elements of sex in the film but didn’t feel like it was strong or graphic and, in almost all cases, didn’t think it affected the classification.
Almost all students (98%) thought the film contained offensive language. This language was used throughout the film, however the tone was not considered to be particularly harmful.
95% of students thought the film contained horror. Some considered the level of violence to be horrific; some referred to an explicit (but brief) depiction of a surgical procedure. Others noted the film techniques designed to heighten fear and tension in the audience.
Again, almost all students (94%) thought the film contained cruelty. Physical cruelty was mentioned by some, but most focused on the psychological cruelty committed by Rose’s family in the film.
Descriptive notes inform the public about content within a film which may concern them. The descriptive note for Get Out informs potential viewers that the film contains 'violence, offensive language, and horror'. When students were asked what descriptive note they thought the film should have, most noted 'violence' (88%), followed by 'offensive language' (77%), and 'horror' (39%).
Students were asked who they thought was the intended or likely audience for the film. The majority of students thought that adults (particularly young adults) and older teenagers were the target audience for Get Out. Most thought the film was aimed at both genders, however some thought it was aimed more at males. Many also identified fans of horror films as being the intended audience, and some recognised that fans of Jordan Peele's other work would also be interested in Get Out.
Students were asked about the dominant effect of the film as a whole on its likely audience: what type of film was it and how would it make viewers feel? Many students identified the film as a horror film with moments of comedy. Students were likely to think the film would leave the audience more aware of racism in the present day, considering the themes dealt with in the film and wanting to discuss these with friends. Overall, students tended to think the film would leave an audience feeling shocked, disturbed or confused but ultimately entertained and thoughtful:
It can have multiple effects – happy, sad, confused, scared, tense… the genre is a thriller.Student from Hillmorton High School
Shock factor, i.e., thoughts about violence towards groups of people.Student from Nelson Girls College
Makes the viewer consider casual racism in the modern day and how this is so ingrained in society, it isn't questioned enough. Horror fans will be enamoured in all likelihood as it isn't a cheap slasher and keeps you guessing on the ending. It scares the audience but keeps them excited and satisfied upon leaving.Student from Onslow College
When deciding on a film's classification, the Classification Office must consider if it has any merit, value or importance - such as artistic merit or cultural significance. In some cases this could lead to a lighter classification.
Most students (83%) thought the film had merit. When asked to specify what kind of merit or value the film had, students often referred to the film's thematic merit (social and educational), as well as the production values of the film (artistic):
Socially conscious – it was very well done with a clever narrative, technical aspects, good acting and editing.Student from Papanui High School
Very important as it addresses the attitudes and types of racism. Also a very well-directed film. Can also be educational as it deals with racism which is a topic that many people need education on. It has important cultural and social merit.Student from Rongotai College
Culture; it shows (in a surreal way) how racism and slavery are still apparent in today’s society.Student from Columba College
Original storyline/story that hasn’t been told – a different look on slaveryStudent from Motueka High School
Students were asked to think about the impact of viewing Get Out in a cinema, and whether the impact would be different if watching the film at home either on Blu-ray/DVD or online. The majority (88%) felt that the film would have a different impact at a cinema. Most felt that the impact would be stronger at the cinema:
The film has more of an impact in the cinema but the thriller aspects of the movie are quite strong so it would still have a great impact on the audience [at home].Student from Burnside High School
It would have a different impact because the sound won’t fit into where you’re watching from – scary scenes won’t be scary because your light is turned on. The scenery isn’t right; it must be watched in the dark.Student from Nelson College for Girls
But others felt that watching the film at home might have a greater impact:
The reactions of the whole cinema lightened some of the darker and more intense moments of the film.Student from Nelson College for Girls
I would still have the same reaction but it would last longer because I would it and think about it more at home.Student from Avonside Girls High School
Other students (15%) felt that how and where people watched the film would make little or no difference, or that certain aspects of the film would have more impact in different settings:
I think it would have a similar effect because it did not need the theatre’s technology to be impactful. Definitely something I was excited to see anyway when it is released.Student from Queen Margaret College
No, I don’t think it would because I was zoned into my own world of thoughts of the movie and the movie itself. I didn’t try to worry about anyone else.Student from Taieri College
We would like to thank Paramount Pictures. Without distributors' generosity in lending us a pre-release film, Censor for a Day would not be possible.
We would also like to thank the cinema managers, projectionists and caterers at the Roxy Wellington, Suter Theatre Nelson, Hoyts Riccarton, and Reading Cinemas Dunedin, who provided us with excellent service and ensured the events ran smoothly.
Lastly we would like to thank the students and teachers from all the regions we visited who made the event another success, and who gave us valuable feedback in the process. We hope to see some of you at a future event!
To call it the most important movie of the year so far makes it sound possibly rather worthy. That’s not true at all. Get Out is a comment on a highly complex situation that’s also a total blast.Olly Richards, Empire