FILM CENSORSHIP AND BANS: THE ROLE OF KENYA FILM CLASSIFICATION BOARD
The internet and social media is buzzing with comments on the recent ban of the American film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ by the Kenya Film Classification Board. Before I proceed with the crucial matter at hand, I would like to clarify a confusion that I have noted on social media on the difference in mandates of the Kenya Film Commission and Kenya Film Classification Board.
The Kenya Film Commission is a state corporation under the Ministry of Information and Communication whose mandate and core functions are:
1. To advise the Government and other relevant stakeholders on matters relating to development, coordination, regulation and promotion of the film industry in Kenya;
2. To facilitate the provision of content development, funding and investment for film projects;
3. To market Kenya as a Film destination
4. To facilitate proper systems of film archives in Kenya
5. To facilitate investment in the development of infrastructure in the film industry.
In a nutshell, KFC plays the role of marketing Kenya as a film destination and development of infrastructure and promoting the film industry in Kenya as well as facilitating investments in film projects.
On the other hand, the Kenya Film Classification Board is also a state corporation under the same ministry whose mandate is:
1. To ensure that all films and posters in the country are examined and classified before being displayed, exhibited, hired, sold or broadcast to the public by video libraries, video shows, cinema theaters, video vendors or broadcast stations.
2. To coordinate all issues related to film classification and exhibition in the country.
3. To ensure that certificates of approval are issued for films which have been presented to it for classification
4. To formulate necessary policy guidelines for the government on film exhibition in the county.
5. To carry out and encourage research in classification catalogs are issued to premises that interest of all the stakeholders.
6. To ensure that periodical classification catalogs are issued to premises dealing in videos.
7. To inspect and license cinema shows, video sheathes and video libraries in the country.
8. To ensure that an infringement of any provision in the act is prospected.
Now that I have set the record straight, we proceed with our discussion. Remember back in 2009 when the Kenyan Horror Film “Otto:The Blood Bath” was banned? Some of the reasons cited were that it showed dead bloody characters for too long making it too horrific for the Kenyan audience to view. I found this reason rather funny because the horror films that have been released and viewed prior to the release of Otto are far too many. And some I am sure far more gruesome and more scary than Otto.Some have become so successful and lead to recreation of them through video games which I am sure some of or our children have played. This move by the KFCB in my view has stifled creativity in our film industries and continues to. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Kenyan film resulting to a video game as well?
Since the ban, there has been no attempt that I am aware of by any of our local film productions to create a horror film. If we can create our own and tell our stories our way, we help create employment and generate revenue for ourselves and for the Government.
Fast forward to January 2014, the KFCB now bans the Hollywood film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street”. Why? Because it has scenes of nudity, sex and alcohol. This movie is one of the biggest in the Entertainment world right now. It has been nominated for five Academy Awards, four British Academy Film and Television Awards (BFTAs) and two Golden Globe Awards. In my view just as many have also expressed in social media the ban has just made the movie more attractive and in this day and age of advanced technology the public including our children are likely to find ways and means to watch it. You know what they say, “The forbidden fruit always tastes sweetest.” In addition, how many thousands of films have we watched on TV that contain sex, nudity, alcohol and drug or substance abuse? I would like to know what is so special about this movie and the several others that have been banned.
Under Section 10 of the KFCB 2012 Guidelines, it is stated that KFCB will review its guidelines upon change in lifestyle, public expectations and concerns. This being the 21st Century, it is my humble view and submission that indeed the lifestyle, public expectations and concerns of the Kenyan Public have changed. We are now an exposed society and what was viewed as taboo in the 80s and earlier years is no longer taboo. Things have changed and values too as we exercise our Constitutional right to freedom of choice. What was wrong with the usual rating approach? It should have been rated 18 or Adults Only? I guess it is an answer that can only be given by the KFCB.
This debate has become one of a moral issue; interpreting what is moral and what is not. This is a futile debate because morality varies with individuals as well as with societies. However, what is law is law. All we can do is complain and bicker about it but the law prevails at the end of the day.
What this means for the intellectual property and entertainment realms is that it stifles creativity and creation of IP assets that help in economic growth, hindering creation of employment as well as generation of income. Which is one of the things as a Nation we want to achieve as part of Vision 2030 as well as part of the Millennium Development Goals.
Unfortunately, with violations of laws come penalties. So any person or broadcasting entity that will dare contravene this ban shall:
a) Have their licenses revoked by Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) under Section 46J of the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act of 2008.
b) Be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both under Section 44 of The Kenya Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations. 2009
What are your views on these penalties? Share your views by commenting on this blog, I would like to hear from you.