An appeal results in a re-classification from R16 to R13.
8 Mile was submitted to the Office of Film and Literature Classification by the Film and Video Labelling Body on behalf of United International Pictures (the distributor for the film in New Zealand). The film had been classified as restricted to people 15 years and over by the British Board of Film Classification. It was likely to require restriction and had to be classified by the Classification Office.
The film is loosely based on the life of the musician Eminem.
8 Mile is an American production starring well-known rapper Eminem. It is a semi-autobiographical drama: Eminem plays a young white man, Jimmy Smith Jnr, living on the wrong side of Detroit's black/white divide, Eight Mile Road. Jimmy is known to his friends as Rabbit. He has a 'trailer trash' mother, a dead end job, and ambitions. He wants to succeed in the world of hip hop, a genre dominated by African Americans. He is supported by a group of friends, mainly young black men.
There is opposition from other young black people in the neighbourhood who object to a white boy succeeding in a black domain. Key scenes take place at a rap club called the Shelter, where rappers compete one-on-one in 'battles'. A strong theme throughout is the overcoming of adversity through belief in yourself, but there is also considerable footage showing other themes such as the importance of friends.
The Office classified 8 Mile as R16.
The written decision notes that the extent and degree of violent and sexual material, and the depictions of drug use, guided the classification. While the film featured extensive use of offensive language, this was not part of the classification criteria in 2002. It was not until the 2005 amendments to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 that highly offensive language became a criterion under which films could be restricted.
The Classification Office noted that the dominant effect of the film was its focus on the life of an angry young rapper played by Eminem. The decision mentions that the depiction of violence, sex and cannabis use as an acceptable part of the lifestyle of the characters could cause injury to the public good if the publication was avaliable to a young audience, who could not understand the wider context of these factors.
8 Mile was classified R16 with the descriptive note 'contains violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes'.
On 13 January 2003 Peter Garner, the Managing Director for United Pictures (the film's distributor) applied for a review by the Film and Literature Board of Review. The application for review was made under section 47 of the Classification Act.
United Pictures noted that after the film had been classified in New Zealand, the Australian Classification Board had classified it M with the descriptive note 'contains medium level coarse language, adult themes, medium level sex scenes, medium level violence'.
United Pictures wrote in its submission to the Board of Review that it believed the New Zealand R16 classification of 8 Mile was too high, and did not take account of the 'good news' story that motivated this movie to be made:
...we ask the Film and Literature Board of Review to reconsider the current classification of R16 and give fair consideration to the overall theme and good news message 8 Mile is sending our youth. We believe that if this balance test is applied you will conclude that R16 is in reality too harsh and unreasonable.United International Pictures (NZ)
The Classification Office's written submission to the Film and Literature Board of Review noted the sexual, violent and criminal content in the film.
An R16 classification is a remedy that is sufficent to remove the injury likely to remain with a lower restriction, and is also therefore a reasonable limitation on the freedom of expression that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.Office of Film and Literature Classification written submission to the Board of Review
The Board of Review is required to classify a film using the same legal criteria as the Classification Office. The decision of the Board of Review on 8 Mile summarises the submissions made by United Pictures and the Classification Office, and the legal guidelines set out in the Act that the Board must follow.
In relation to sexual content the Board's decision noted that:
The sexual activity in 8 Mile is perhaps no more graphic than some television programmes which are freely avaliable for viewing by even pre-teen children... however ...[it] is explicit enough to be unacceptable for pre-teen children to view and process in a manner appropriate for their age.
The Board's decision also mentions criminal and violent elements in the film. Both submissions had discussed offensive language in the film. The Board noted that the teenagers, the likely audience, would know that the language in the film is not acceptable in a lot of situations.
The Board of review changed the classification from R16 to R13.
The Film and Literature Board of Review classified 8 Mile as R13 with the descriptive note 'contains violence, offensive language, drug use, and sex scenes'.
RP16: graphic content may disturb.
20th Century Fox Film Distribution disagreed with the 'R16 content that may disturb' classification given to the film by the Classification Office and applied to have the decision reviewed. Find out more about 127 Hours
M: contains content that may disturb.
Originally cross-rated PG, we received complaints from parents that their children were frightened by the film. They asked the Chief Censor for permission to have the film assessed using our criteria. Find out more about Disney's A Christmas Carol
PG: some scenes may scare very young children.
Originally cross-rated G, we received complaints from parents that their young children were frightened by the film. As a result, the Chief Censor called the film in to be examined by the Classification Office. Find out more about Happy Feet
M: contains offensive language and sexual references.
This film had received its PG rating through the cross-rating process. After complaints from the public, the Chief Censor called the film in to be classified. Find out more about Land of the Lost
RP13: contains violence, drug use and offensive language.
The unusual RP classification is used where a film presents ideas or issues that could challenge younger viewers but might still be valuable to them if they have support while watching. Find out more about Matariki
R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
RP16: contains graphic violence (video).
Different versions of the film have different classifications as the law changed between the release of the film and the subsequent video. Find out more about Once Were Warriors
R15: contains violence and content that may disturb.
The film is about the massacre of 13 people at Aramoana - a tragic event in New Zealand's history - and this depiction of real life events required special consideration by the Classification Office. Find out more about Out of the Blue
R16: contains horror scenes and offensive language.
Members of the public complained to the Classification Office about the film's unrestricted M rating. They felt that the film was very frightening and contained extremely disturbing themes. Find out more about Paranormal Activity
R13: contains violence, offensive language and sexual references.
The "highly offensive language, much of it sexual in nature" in the film contributed to the R13 classification, as did the film's "crassly homophobic sentiments". Find out more about Paul
R15: depicts graphic and realistic war scenes.
This film generated much debate and became a benchmark for NZ film classification. It contains depictions of serious physical harm which are lengthy, frequent, and of a very graphic nature. Find out more about Saving Private Ryan
R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
R16: contains violence, offensive language and content that may disturb (Blu-ray).
The Blu-ray edition has a higher rating as it also includes a short film, Manjha, that has the theme of sexual abuse.
Find out more about Slumdog Millionaire
R16: contains horror scenes.
Members of the public raised concerns about the M rating on the film as anyone, including young children, could potentially watch it. They felt an age restriction would be more appropriate. The Chief Censor called it in for examination. Find out more about The Grudge
R15: prolonged sequences of brutal violence, torture and cruelty.
The Office was inundated with letters of complaint and support over its R16 classification, which had included public consultation. On appeal, it was re-classified by the Board of Review. Find out more about The Passion of the Christ
Take away the napalm spread of profanity, impromptu scenes of steamy sex and the myriad joints that get smoked, and 8 Mile is basically a Disney sports movie with rap as the athletics of choice.Nick Rogers, Springfield State Journal-Register