So, my radio show producer Matt Holzman just got off the phone with Joan Graves, head of the MPAA ratings board.
Something had been troubling Matt and I about Kirby Dick‘s new documentary, “This Film is Not Yet Rated.” The film – which screened at Sundance last night – touts itself as a breathtaking expose on the fecklessness of the MPAA – one so shocking, it got an NC-17. It also contends the ratings process is biased against indies.
But is it? The MPAA’s ratings appeal stats tend to suggest otherwise.
You see, Graves told us some interesting things: For one, Dick’s documentary hasn’t gotten an NC-17 – it’s fate is not yet known, since Dick is recutting it for resubmission.
For another, she points out that of the 900 plus movies that were rated by the MPAA last year, only eight appealed their ratings. Of those eight films that appealed, two were successful – a studio picture, and an indie.
This isn’t to say Dick doesn’t make some good points in his thoughtful if bombastic doc – but to say the MPAA is biased against indies is to overlook it’s fundamental mission: To rate movies based on what the average American parent might think is acceptable for kids to see. Given that most indies deal with topics studio films don’t want to touch, its a given that they’re frequently outside the mainstream of what Puritanical American parents might like to see.
In other words, the MPAA is biased against indies the way that Delta Airlines is biased against elephants who want to fly. It’s just not set up for that.
Of course, the solution here would be for all films to be qualitatively rated, with the MPAA offering descriptions of what’s in the movie, and parents deciding if they want their children to see a film based on that.
But for that, people would need to become more responsible, something which I plan to do – right after I start eating right, flossing and exercising every day.
(You can read the Hollywood Reporter‘s review of the dochere.)