Published: 26th August 2010

BBFC Cuts A Serbian Film and Remake of I Spit on Your Grave

The remake of the 1978 'rape and revenge' film, I Spit on Your Grave, has been cut by the BBFC to receive an '18' cinema rating. Cuts have been requested to A Serbian Film for DVD and Blu-ray release.

The original version of I Spit on Your Grave was at the centre of the concerns about children accessing violent and sexually violent videos and the unregulated availability of potentially obscene videos that led to the passing of the Video Recordings Act in 1984.  This remake, which has been submitted for cinema classification, broadly follows the plot of the original, telling the story of a young woman who is gang raped and who subsequently takes her revenge on the perpetrators.  While the rape sequence in the modern version places slightly less emphasis on the nudity of the victim than the original, there is more emphasis on threat and humiliation. The modern version also has higher production values.  The Board has required a total of 17 cuts (amounting to 43 seconds of changes) to the rape sequence for breaches of the Board's sexual violence policy. (The original remains cut, also for breaches to this policy.)

The BBFC has also required cuts to the DVD submission of A Serbian Film for an '18' rating.  This Serbian language film with subtitles is about a former Serbian porn star, who is lured out of early retirement by an offer of money to participate in an 'artistic' porn film for the 'foreign market'.  When he is forced to participate in abusive activities he tries to pull out but is drugged and is forced to continue with the filming.

The filmmakers have stated that A Serbian Film is intended as an allegory about Serbia itself.  The Board recognises that the images are intended to shock, but the sexual and sexualised violence goes beyond what is acceptable under current BBFC Guidelines at '18'.  The Board has therefore required 49 individual cuts to the work amounting to approximately three minutes 48 seconds. These include cuts to the juxtaposition of images of children with sexual and sexually violent material.  Although the Board does not regard these images as likely to contravene the Protection of Children Act 1978, the Guidelines state that intervention is most likely with, amongst other things, 'portrayals of children in a sexualised or abusive context'.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

"It is the Board's policy that at the adult category the Guideline concerns will not normally override the principle that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment.  However, there are cases where the Board will intervene, even at '18', where material or treatment appears to the BBFC to pose a credible potential harm risk to individuals or, through their behaviour, to society, and in particular where portrayals of sexual or sexualised violence might eroticise or endorse sexual assault or where children are portrayed in a sexualised context.

"The cuts to this version of I Spit on Your Grave, which the Board has required, remove elements that tend to eroticise sexual assault (for example, through the use of titillation), as well as other elements that tend to endorse sexual assault (for example, by encouraging viewer complicity by the use of camcorder footage, filmed by the rapists, during the various scenes of sexual assault).  With these cuts made, the film's scenes of very strong terrorisation and sexual violence remain potentially shocking, distressing or offensive to some adult viewers, but are also likely to be found essentially repugnant and aversive. The Board takes the view that, with these cuts, they are not credibly likely to encourage imitation.

"The cuts to A Serbian Film do not detract from the message of the film but remove the most problematic images of sexual and sexualised violence.  The section in the Board's Guidelines which lists the possible grounds for compulsory cuts also includes material which portrays children in a sexualised or abusive context.  Whilst the Board understands that these images are intended to make a political point, that does not remove the genuine harm risks to which they give rise."

Notes for Editors

  1. I Spit on Your Grave and A Serbian Film were seen by the President and Vice Presidents.
  2. The version of I Spit on Your Grave due to be premiered at the Frightfest Film Festival will be the cut version as classified by the BBFC.