The process that filmmakers must go through for their art is daunting to say the least. They have to coordinate so many elements, from food for the actors to the minute details of set dressing. After all that stress and fretting comes the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system. The MPAA screens the movie, counts up the profanity, violence, and sexual content and issues a rating to the film.
The rating determines what audience will view the film. G and PG ratings are not a real problem, it's the R and NC-17, which used to be X before the adult film industry embraced it (as far as I know, the MPAA never used XXX, and there's no film ratings association that does). Many theaters and video stores will not show or sell NC-17 films. If the dreaded NC-17 is attained, the filmmaker must then edit the presumed bad bits out. The problem is that, in many cases, the MPAA doesn't reveal what parts put it over the top. The director must make an educated guess. They can appeal the decision, but they can't cite any other films in their appeal.
This Film is Not Yet Rated shows many of the scenes that got their films in trouble (I don't think they were hoping to get an R), and shows the submission process for a film... this film. Many independent film directors, including Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Kimberly Pierce, and Allison Anders, are interviewed about their experiences with the MPAA. They make fine subjects, as independent films are given a shorter list of notes for corrections than studio films.
Director Kirby Dick hires a private investigator to discover the identity of the anonymous screeners and uncovers the fact that their qualifications are suspect. While the information culled from the investigations is valuable, the scenes would be better left on the cutting room floor (not that it would help the rating) in favor of a more thorough history of the ratings themselves.
All-in-all an entertaining film, telling us what many have known for years: the MPAA's ratings system is flawed and needs to be revamped. It's not what I'd hoped for, but it's worth seeing.
Since the release of the film, the MPAA's CEO Jack Valenti has retired, and changes are in the works. Directors will be allowed to cite other films in their appeals, and independent filmmakers may even be allowed on the appeals board (no promises).
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