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Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

This sounds awesome. Kirby Dick is one of the most consistently engaging and interesting documentarians working right now, as anyone who saw TWIST OF FAITH this year can attest. Today, I got the following in my inbox:

NEW YORK, NY, December 7, 2005 – IFC, the first and largest network dedicated to independent film, announced today that the IFC Original Documentary, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” from Academy Award-nominated director Kirby Dick and producer Eddie Schmidt, will premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and air on IFC in Fall 2006. The documentary, a breakthrough investigation into the MPAA film ratings system and its profound effect on American culture, is executive produced by IFC’s Alison Palmer Bourke and Evan Shapiro.

On November 30, the ratings board, an anonymous group whose mandate is to classify films for the MPAA from the perspective of “the average American parent,” screened this documentary and gave it an NC-17 rating for “some graphic sexual content.” An NC-17 rating generally limits a film’s avenues of exhibition: many theater chains will not show it, media outlets will not run its advertisements and video store chains will not stock it.

IFC, however, will present the film uncensored and uninterrupted. Alison Palmer Bourke, IFC’s VP of Documentaries and Features states: “Kirby’s film is a natural for IFC. Our 'tv, uncut.' mandate is to give filmmakers a platform for free expression, and we let our viewers decide for themselves what is appropriate and of interest to them."

Kirby Dick agrees, “It is important that this film be seen by as many people as possible, as it deals with an insidious form of censorship resulting from a ratings process that has been kept secret for more than 30 years.”

The documentary asks whether Hollywood movies and independent films are rated equally for comparable content; whether sexual content in gay-themed movies is given harsher ratings penalties than their heterosexual counterparts; whether it makes sense that extreme violence is given an R rating while sexuality is banished to the cutting room floor; whether Hollywood studios receive detailed directions as to how to change an NC-17 film into an R, while independent film producers are left guessing; and finally, whether keeping the raters and the rating process secret leaves the MPAA entirely unaccountable for its decisions.

The MPAA has established itself as the lobbying arm of the American motion picture, home video and television industries in the US since its inception in 1922. On its board of directors are the Chairmen and Presidents of the seven major producers and distributors of motion picture and television programs in the United States - Sony, WB, Paramount, MGM, Fox, Disney and Universal. When Jack Valenti became president of the MPAA in 1966, he created a rating system to replace the old Hays code, first adopted in 1930. Valenti’s voluntary rating system, modified only slightly over the years, has become an icon in American culture, with its letter ratings of G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 (formerly X) used to classify films according to age-based appropriateness.

Until today’s announcement, the subject matter of “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” was kept under wraps by the filmmakers during more than a year of research into the MPAA’s rating practices. Director Kirby Dick (“Twist of Faith,” “Derrida”) interviews filmmakers, critics, attorneys, authors and educators. Ultimately, Dick tries to uncover Hollywood's best kept secret -- the identities of the ratings board members themselves.

Filmmakers who speak candidly in “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” include John Waters (“A Dirty Shame”), Kevin Smith (“Clerks”), Matt Stone (“South Park”), Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”), Atom Egoyan (“Where the Truth Lies”), Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream”), Mary Harron (“American Psycho”), actress Maria Bello (“The Cooler”) and distributor Bingham Ray (co-founder, October Films and former President, United Artists).

When Jack Valenti stepped down in September 2004, Dan Glickman succeeded him as president and CEO. However, Valenti continued to supervise the ratings process until September 2005, when the MPAA announced that it would be splitting its leadership duties between Los Angeles-based president and COO, Bob Pisano, and Glickman, who has been appointed the Washington DC-based CEO and chairman and now oversees the ratings system.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that the ratings board is one of the most reviled and misunderstood things about Hollywood, and the idea of this filmmaker taking on this subject is exciting. I’m not going to be at Sundance this year, but for anyone who is, pleasepleaseplease send us a report about this one. Thanks.

"Moriarty" out.

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