This hard-hitting British film explores the social experience of being an inner city teenager in London, with bullying, drugs, sexual activity and fighting presented as a daily norm. These issues became key classification issues for the film when examiners considered the most appropriate age rating.
The film was submitted for classification in December 2005 and released in March 2006. The examiners who viewed the film noted a whole range of classification issues, including language, sex/sex references, violence and drug use.
The film was seen by a second team of examiners, to confirm the first team’s 15 recommendation. It was clear that the film was not suitable at the lower categories (U, PG, 12A) as it contained strong and very strong language ('f**k' and 'c**t' expletives), some strong images of violence, a strong scene of oral sex and a couple of scenes of drug use – all from the teenage characters in the story.
The question was whether the film could actually be contained at the 15 category, or whether the issues were so strong that an 18 category would be the most suitable classification. In terms of language and the BBFC Guidelines, the use of the strongest language would only be acceptable at 15 if the context justified it. Having picked up on infrequent uses of the word 'c**t', it was felt that the use didn’t have a sufficiently pronounced impact that would offend viewers at the 15 level.
Notably, the film contained a scene of implied and masked oral sex, as one of the lead female teenage characters knelt down to fellate a local drug supplier. As the act itself was masked, examiners felt that this could also be contained at 15, where strong sex is allowed but without ‘strong sexual detail’.
In terms of drug use, there were scenes in the film which showed teenage characters snorting cocaine, as well as characters smoking cannabis joints.
Although these scenes showed the normalisation of drug use amongst teenagers, it didn’t provide any instructive or appealing detail which would be harmful to viewers or promote drug use. The drug Guidelines at 15 state that ‘the film as a whole must not encourage or promote drug misuse’.
Finally, there was also the question of whether the violence in the film could be contained at 15. A particularly brutal act of violent bullying and a scene of torture with a blade both provided strong impact, but neither ‘dwelt on the infliction of pain or injury’ that would make the film an 18 category under the violence Guidelines. The violence was infrequent, and although strong, was never really the focal point of each sequence in the film.
This film aimed to deal with issues surrounding disenfranchised teenagers in London and in doing so was naturally aimed at that age group. Had the BBFC passed this film 18, that mid-teen audience would have been denied access to the film and the lessons to be drawn from it.
The film was also passed 15 on video and was selected for the National Schools Film Week 2006/2007.