The public prosecutor in Barcelona has charged the Sitges film festival of horror and fantasy films and its director, Angel Sala, with the exhibition of child pornography for their screening of A Serbian Film in an uncut version.
The penal code in question gives this possible sentence (as passed through Google Translate):
A penalty of imprisonment of three months to a year or a fine of six months to two years if he produces, sells, distributes, exhibited to or facilitate by any means pornographic material not having been used directly or disabled children, use of their voice or image altered or modified.
Maybe a Spanish member of the Bleeding Cool forums can clarify some of the more confusing elements of el artículo 189.7 del código penal? Google has let us down a little, I think.
There’s no denying that Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film does portray scenes of child rape. They are not explicit and the actions are committed off-screen, but they do occur, and it would be hard for a mature audience to misunderstand what is occurring. The question is in whether or not this makes the film pornographic.
If this case is found against Sala and the Sitges festival, it would set a precedent in Spain that says dramatising child rape constitutes pornography. Clearly, this is an absurd notion – though more akin to saying dramatised, consensual sex between adults constitutes pornography* than to saying dramatised murder constitutes snuff. I have met plenty of people in my life who would agree with this allegation.
And I have also met plenty who would find this entire case preposterous and immediately raise up in Sala’s defense.
It is worth noting that child rape is only part of the story here. The film goes far beyond that single transgression (and takes that single transgression far further than most would imagine). The combination of a child and sexual violence is, however, the thing to have caught the fire here. It wouldn’t be hard for those of us who know what other terrible things happen in the film, and how far these terrible things are taken, to see the singling out of child rape as a strange, disturbing form of cultural double standards.
I’ve spoken to very few who have seen the film uncut. I have myself, and while I’m glad I did, I don’t think it’s an experience I’ll ever repeat. The film’s rewatchability mileage falls rather short of its impact as a visceral disturbance. But I can honestly say that none of us would call for the film to be cut, let alone banned.
This debate can also be seen as another iteration of the eternal Free Speech argument. The ins and outs there are so well rehearsed that I needn’t repeat them. I’m sure you can apply them to the situation in hand for yourself.
*Some people use this as the very definition of soft pornography.