Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jason has some comments on the Ann Arbor Film Festival and Censorship

So I heard about Michigan pulling funding for AAFF on NPR last night, and I was appalled at the supposed censorship. For the reverse view, check out this essay (also linked on the AAFF page). Now, a few thoughts I had:
  1. Although AAFF will continue without state funding, this is a de facto censorship attempt.
  2. I applaud the AAFF for rejecting state funding rather than limit their programming.
  3. The opposing argument is ignorant on many levels, the foremost of which is that by inspiring people (and bringing people to town) the film festival (and art in general) creates economic and social benefits for the greater community, not just the small segment of the population that actually views it.
  4. AAFF has been around for 45 years, and only used state funds for the last 10. Although they might not be able to maintain the scope they'd like, I'm confident they'll survive.
  5. The use of the word "pornography" is misleading and a distraction from the debate.
  6. On NPR, one of the arguments the pro-AAFF interviewee made (and I didn't hear the whole story, as I had to catch the BART for Asianfest) was that an extremely passionate kiss might fit the definition of "sex acts" that Michigan refuses to fund.
  7. However, of the movies listed in the opposing essay, the one feature I've seen, "What Is It?" goes far beyond passionate kissing. On the opposite side, "Boobie Girl" is an award winning animated short and it's only sexual content is the word "boobie" in the title. I haven't seen the other films mentioned.
  8. Finally, AAFF bills itself as "the oldest festival in North America that showcases independent and experimental film." I will ponder that as I attend the 50th SF International Film Festival next month. Seriously, it sounds like they're playing a little fast and loose with the whole "showcases independent and experimental film" designation. Perhaps SFIFF hasn't always shown independent and experimental film? I haven't been around for it's whole history. Or perhaps SFIFF's programming has too many mainstream or international films for AAFF's definition? I don't know.

Okay, that is all. Gotta go back to writing up Asianfest now.


baceman007 said...

I actually read up on censorship quite a bit over the last few days. The best overall review of laws by country that I found was actually on Wikipedia. At any rate I thought it was pretty hilarious that Israel has basically no censorship. I mean now I get the Futurama joke, "who goes to Jerusalem and doesn't visit the sexeteria", it's just sad that so much turmoil has happened over "the holy land" and they actually have less censorship than we do. I mean I don't think most censorship is cool, but isn't that kind of hypocritical. It's almost as hypocritical for a religious country to have little or no censorship as it is for the US to have it. The argument to this is of course that Israelis have the right to choose, but then what was the point of fighting for 10 thousand years over it and using the might of the allied nations after WW 2 to secure a land for one religious group of people if it's not a religious state. Sigh... if I ever fully understood people I guess I'd be a millionaire.

puppymeat said...

Interesting. Of course, I hate censorship, and hate religious states, so I'm happy that the "Jewish homeland" is actually a very secular state with very loose censorship laws.

Of course, the issue of Jewish identity and religion is complicated and an entire blog can (and probably has) been devoted to it. I know I'm not the only person who considers myself a Jewish atheist (although I consider myself a half-Jewish atheist).

baceman007 said...

All I'm saying is that if you're going to go to all of that trouble than maybe you should practice what you preach, etc. Kind of like if the South ran the whole US. Then again many of those guys have a gun in one hand a bible in the other, so I guess the point of religion is to pick the parts that you like, enforce them on other people, and forget the rest when they're inconvenient. "Nixon is pro war and pro family." - Futurama

puppymeat said...

I guess all I'm saying is that Judaism is as much a culture and a heritage as it is a religion, and that Israel was founded as a secular Jewish state, not a theocracy. Being a Jewish atheist is feasible in a way that a Christian atheist isn't.

So I'd say that "practice what you preach" doesn't really apply, since secular Jews don't preach much of anything (at least, from a religious point of view, they still have opinions which they're happy to share). Of course, that in itself can be seen as hypocrisy, but I don't count it as such because...I do it, so it can't be hypocrisy!

baceman007 said...

Hmmm... good points all. I'll still reserve judgment as to whether you're not doing something means that it is not hypocritical :). Hmmm that is a poorly constructed sentence. There is actually a political party in the US, called the constitution party, that tries to argue that the US was founded as a Christian state.... sigh. I think one of the coolest things about the US is that we have religious freedom, or we're supposed to anyway.
At any rate at some point no one had any religion so I just don't see religion as a basis of heritage, but now we're talking about thousands of years of groups growing up around specific belief systems so others would argue that I'm wrong. In the end I'd say that most of us would be better off without nations, religions, etc. No flag or cause to die for. No identification with heritage. I am such a mutt that I've never really identified with any of my nationalities other than American. Anyway, then we would have some real interesting problems with censorship. Kind of like how the Spartans didn't approve of the Athenians although they were both from Greece. Don't think that I just have problems with any one nation. I'm kind of fed up with all of them for one reason or another. I spread my frustrations equally from place to place.

puppymeat said...

Rest assured, baceman, that I didn't think you were just picking on Israel. Whatever your thoughts are about it, I assumed you were approving of it's anti-censorship stance, and I also assumed you are (like me) anti-theocracy, and so you approved of Israel being a secular state (even if it's hypocritical, although I'd use the word "ironic" instead).

As for people banding together by nations, religions, ethnicity, culture, heritage...I see it as an evolutionary survival tool. As humans, our greatest survival skill is cooperation--working in teams. Or, to put it a more cynical way, to play favorites. A key survival skill is to convince others to play favorites with you, and an easy way to do that is to play favorites with them. Of course, this has its good points and bad points, but the alternative is much less productive. So we should work towards grouping people well, into productive groups that make the world on a whole better.

I guess to put it another way, no matter how frustrating our arbitrary divisions can be, when John Lennon asks me to "imagine no countries", rather than imagining everyone living in peace and love, I imagine at worst an anarchic hell and at best billions of spastic idiots clawing at the ground hoping to find something to eat.

end rant.

baceman007 said...

My best survival tool has always been my ability to be self sufficient, including being able to think on my own, etc. Personal responsibility before groups. Groups often lead to one person doing all of the work and the others mooching off of them. Groups can be productive, but people need to be strong individuals first.
Actually, my best survival tools are my huge muscles. I actually turned down the lead roll in 300 because my muscles were too big for the CGI rendering farms to deal with. I was outraged, so I walked off of the set. Of course I got stuck in the doorway on my way out becase my arms were just too big. Also, my muscles are so big and efficient that they burned the tanning oil off instantly when the costumers tried to apply it. We tried 30 weight oil after that, but with almost the same results. In fact most of the time I'm just really impressed with how huge I am and how puny everyone else is. Because the point of life is not to think. It's to get really, really huge so you can get an lame action film part or be an idiot basketball player that says you can't feed your kids on 10 million a year. By the way a tip to all of the roid taking actors out there, take your shots in the butt. Even skimpy underwear covers up the track marks there. (Wink, and thumbs up.) Who cares if your wang falls off at age 40, at least you'll get to star as some guy no one will remember is some "awesome" film like 300. I mean as some guy everyone will remember....

puppymeat said...

baceman, in response to your comment:

Hahahahahahahahahahahaaaa!!!! :)

Just looking for a substitute for "LOL" or "ROTFL". Those have started to annoy me. Don't even get me started on "ROTFLMAO".