Posted on Monday, March 7th, 2011 by Germain Lussier
At last year’s South by Southwest, one of the most talked about films was A Serbian Film. Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic, it’s about a former Serbian porn star who is seduced back into the business but gets in way over his head. From there, the film goes to some of the deepest, darkest places imaginable: pedophilia, necrophilia and worse. It’s sadistic, incredibly offensive and, looked at in a certain light, highly provocative.
Since the premiere at SXSW, A Serbian Film has been labeled unreleasable in many countries and thereby remained on the festival circuit, mostly in late night programs where it has actually garnered some acclaim. However, the October 2010 screening of the film at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain took the controversy over the top. Subsequent to the screening, a Barcelona prosecutor filed a complaint against festival director Angel Sala accusing him of exhibiting child pornography, and the details of the suit are now emerging.
According to Variety, there’s no indication if the suit has, or will be, accepted by the court, but that doesn’t mean its existence doesn’t stir up even more controversy both about the film, artistic expression and censorship.
A Serbian Film faced problems before this suit was filed; when it was scheduled to play FrightFest in London last Summer, the film was pulled after the British Board of Film Classification demanded 49 cuts from the film amounting to over four minutes. The fallout from the lawsuit had the film cut from the program of the San Sebastian Fantasy and Terror Film Week in November.
Several members of the film community have come to Sala’s defense. For example, director David Trueba wrote the following in the El Pais:
If we believe that everything shown on a screen is real, Christopher Lee will be arrested one day accused of biting young virgins’ jugular veins.
It’s true. As horrific as the images are in A Serbian Film, where is the line between it and mass murder or brutal sex seen in innumerable other movies? I’ve seen A Serbian Film and the images will never be erased from my mind. And while I feel like the film’s subtext, about the Serbian government and their control over their people, is completely and totally lost because of the diagetic action, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be seen. Do I think the film is a failure? Yes. But if I was a festival director, of course I’d try to show the movie. It’s an instant, controversial conversation starter. Also, it’s not like the film was shown in the middle of the afternoon to a room full of children. It played late night in adults-only sessions. Precautions were taken.
Odds are this lawsuit won’t come to fruition, simply because Sala had nothing to do with the production. However, the fact that it was even considered is an atrocity and opens a danger door of censorship.
You can watch the trailer for the film by clicking here. What do you think about all of this?