Italy Officially Abolishes Government Film Censorship

Italy is bringing to an end a century-long policy of film censorship. The country has abolished state censorship of films by scrapping legislation that has been in place since 1913, which allowed the government to censor and ban movies such as Pasolini's Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom and Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris.

It's the final curtain for government film censorship in Italy. Legislation which allowed the government to censor scenes and ban movies based on "moral" and political reasons has been scrapped in a symbolic move that ends more than a century's worth of state film censorship, though it hasn't been in practice for some time now, Variety reports.

"Film censorship has been abolished," culture minister Dario Franceschini announced in a statement late on Monday. "The system of controls and interventions that still allow the state to intervene in the freedom of artists has been definitively ended."

In its place will be a process of self-regulation, in which film distributors will self-classify their own movies based on existing audience age brackets such as "over 14 (or aged 12+ if accompanied by a parent)" and "over 18 (or 16+ accompanied by adults)." A new commission of 49 film industry figures, such as education experts and animal rights activists, will also review the film's classification.

"It's an epochal change that the industry was strongly pushing for and will usher in self-regulation," said 01 Distribution chief Luigi Lonigro, who is head of Italy's distributors, in a statement.

Hundreds of films from all over the world have been censored in Italy in the past century, for political, "moral," and religious reasons. According to a survey by Cinecensura, a permanent online exhibition promoted by the Italian Culture Ministry, 247 Italian films, 130 American films, and 321 movies from other countries have been banned in Italy since 1944, while more than 10,000 were modified or trimmed in some way, the latter including the works of directors like Federico Fellini.

The most famous cases of censorship is Pasolini's controversial 1974 film about torture and degradation in fascist Italy, Salo, which had a brief theatrical run in Italy before being banned in January 1976; and Bertolucci's erotic drama Last Tango in Paris, which was banned in the country before it was even released in 1972, with most of its prints destroyed.

The last major case of Italian censorship, per Variety, was in 1998 with the comedy Toto Who Lived Twice, which earned the ire of Italian Catholics over depictions of zoophilia, rape, sodomy, and religious references, and was initially blocked by censorship and then restricted to 18 years or older after the directors appeal. It sparked a debate over censorship which led to the official abolishment of film censorship today.