Saul Dibb's London based drama Bullet Boy arrived at the BBFC with no category request. Trailers for the film, which were intense and included sight of a small child with a gun and some implied threat and (unseen) violence, had been passed 12A.
It was perceived as a ‘serious’ film with a naturalistic style and some clearly worthy points to make about contemporary issues such as gun crime and other criminal activities. The work was also considered one with significant ‘educational merit’ and appeal to younger audiences. The key classification issues were language, violence, sex, sex references, drugs references and drug use.
Of these, the defining issues, which indicated that the work should be passed 15, were language, violence and sex.
The language included around 20 uses of 'strong language ("f**k") and some use of more mild and moderate swear words. These levels took the work beyond the BBFC Guidelines at 12A, which only allow infrequent strong language.
At 12A sexual activity can only be implied while at 15 the guidelines allow for sex to be portrayed 'but without strong detail'. In Bullet Boy there is only one sex scene. Though it is relatively brief, it is sufficiently strong and detailed (there is clear rear nudity and thrusting) to also suggest 15 as it is actually portrayed, rather than merely implied.
The film contains several scenes of gun-related violence. Though there is some threat and tension the BBFC would describe this violence as moderate rather than strong - there is no focus on bloody process (eg sight of bullet impact) and in some of the strongest scenes the violence occurs off screen (such as the murder of Ricky's friend Wisdom or Ricky's execution by a rival gang) with only the aftermath of violence seen (such as bodies on the floor or small flecks of blood on the floor/wall).
At 12A the guidelines state that: 'Violence must not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood'. It is worth considering whether, in the absence of other issues, the violence alone in this film would have taken it to 15. At the BBFC it was decided that the intensity and the frequency of the moderate violence was worth flagging to viewers in the BBFCinsight. Examiners also take into account the context in which violence appears, and Bullet Boy was perceived as a work which did not condone, glamorise or glorify violence.
Another classification issue noted was the drug referencing and scenes of drug use. For example, early on in the film an examiner noted "two men pass a joint which is seen several more times in close up as it is inhaled and exhaled slowly". Other scenes involved younger children (Ricky's brother Curtis and his friend) smoking and talking about drugs, and references such as "I'd rather be a mummy's boy than a crack head.." and " It’s not crack, it's puff ".
Though there is some sight of drugs misuse it was felt that there was no glamorisation, particularly strong focus or instructional detail - it would be unlikely that audience members would learn about or be encouraged to take drugs as a result of watching the film. The examiner considered that, given the strength of some of the other issues, the drugs featured did not define the film's classification. For this reason drugs references were not noted in the film's Consumer Advice.
The film was rated 15 and the BBFCinsight read 'Contains strong language and sex and moderate violence'. The film was selected for National Schools Film Week in 2005.