By Indiewire | Indiewire July 24, 2001 at 2:00AM
DAILY NEWS: Solondz Changes New Film; Outfest Winners; Jackson Heads to USA
by Eugene Hernandez, Anthony Kaufman and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
>> The Scarlet Box: Solondz Alters "Storytelling" to Secure "R" Rating
(indieWIRE/07.24.01) -- Director Todd Solondz, no stranger to ratings and
distribution controversy, has taken steps to avert the alteration of his
latest film, "Storytelling." In order to receive an R rating for the film's
U.S. release, the acclaimed director of "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and
"Happiness" has placed a large red box, covering most of the screen, over a
scene that the director says was dubbed "pornographic" by the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA). Solondz is contractually obligated to deliver
an R-rated version to the AOL Time Warner owned Fine Line Features,
which will distribute the film theatrically in October.
"I knew going in that I had a scene that I was very skeptical would get an
'R' rating," Solondz told indieWIRE. "So to safeguard myself, early in the
negotiations, I made sure that I would be able to put in bars and beeps, as
needed, to protect myself from having scenes or shots removed from the
The scene in question focuses on an African American college professor
(Robert Wisdom) having sex with one of his female students (Selma Blair)
from behind, as he repeatedly says to her, "Say, 'Nigger fuck me hard.'" The
red box is visible in the new version of the film that is currently
screening for the media, while an unaltered version was shown at the Cannes
Film Festival in May. The MPAA did not require changes to other scenes.
"I just didn't want to be a victim of censorship; I'd rather take it by the
cajones and say this is what it is," Solondz said, explaining his reasons
for inserting the large red box, rather than more subtle techniques like
digital blurring or small black boxes.
"The one thing I didn't want," continued Solondz, "was what happened to
Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut,' where everything was so elegantly removed
digitally, so the audience never knew what it never saw. And I want the
audience to know what it's not allowed to see."
This sort of finagling is nothing new to Solondz. October Films (the now
defunct distributor) dropped "Happiness," Solondz's acclaimed 1998 film,
when parent companies Seagrams and Universal found the film too provocative. "Happiness" was released uncut and unrated by its film's producer Good
Solondz finds solace in the fact that "Storyelling" will be released all
over the world and available on DVD without "the scarlet box imprinted on
it." "I knew that the U.S. would be the only place -- except for Iran and
Iraq -- that I would have this problem," he says. "That was a sacrifice I
was willing to make in order to get the money I needed to make the movie."
Adding insult to injury, the MPAA recently censored Solondz's proposed
trailer for the film, rejecting submitted text that described the big red
box and explained the filmmakers' reasoning for including it: to get the R
rating. "The MPAA didn't approve it," Solondz told indieWIRE, "because it
suggested they would be censors. While, strictly speaking, it's unfair to
say that the red box is censorship, this is one irrefutable example of
censorship in the trailer: they're not letting us state the facts about why
there's a big red box in the movie."
With now two movies that have come up against the Indiewood rigmarole,
Solondz is wise not to point fingers simply at the MPAA. "It's not just the
MPAA," he said. "The studios are complicit and the whole country has issues
that you don't have to deal with abroad. And that's the way it is, and I'm
just calling attention to that reality."
"I wish that I didn't have these obstacles," Solondz admitted. "On the other
hand, perhaps on some unconscious level, that's what spurs me on." [Anthony
RELATED ARTICLE @ indieWIRE.com:
+ (indieWIRE/07.21.98) -- October Loses its "Happiness" and its Autonomy:
Distribution, Ratings, and Repression:
>> "L.I.E.," "Princesa," and "Trembling" Win Outies at L.A. Gay-fest
(indieWIRE/07.24.01) -- The Outie Awards for Outfest 2001: The 19th Los
Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival were presented over the weekend in
Hollywood's outdoor John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. Michael Cuesta's dark coming-of-age, "L.I.E." took the Grand Jury Award for American Narrative
Feature while "Princesa," about a Brazilian transsexual sex worker in Milan,
won the International Narrative Feature prize. The ceremony, touted by the
Festival as "the largest awards program of any gay and lesbian film festival
in the world," was held prior to the 12-day event's final "Outfest Under the
Stars" presentation which included the L.A. premiere of "Gaudi Afternoon" by
Additional Grand Jury Award winners were Sandi Simcha Dubowski's "Trembling Before G-D" taking the Documentary Feature award for its look at gay and lesbians in the Orthodox Jewish community as well as "By Hook or by Crook,"
which garnered the Screenwriting prize for writers Silas Flipper and Harriet
Dodge. Actors Kett Turton ("Gypsy 83") and Paul Franklin Dano ("L.I.E.") tied for the Best Actor in a Feature Film award while Courtney Love won the Actress award for her role in "Julie Johnson."
Cheryl Dunye's "Stranger Inside," centered on a woman's journey to reunite with her mother and Dodge's "By Hook or by Crook" described in a press
release as a "gritty butch-noir tale of an unlikely duo, embarking on a life
of petty crime" shared the Audience Award for Narrative Feature. The
Audience Award for Documentary Feature went to "Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc's
Adventure in Plastic," a doc about the popular folk singer.
In addition to awards presented to films that screened during Outfest, Rich
Burns and David Mixner were awarded the Oufest Screenwriting Competition
prize for their script, "The Dunes of Overveen." The award, first presented
in 1997 and sponsored by MTV, recognizes quality gay-themed screenplays that
are yet to be produced.
This year's Festival, which boasted 231 films from 23 countries and over 100
filmmakers in attendance, had a record box-office attendance. It closed
Monday night with the L.A. premiere of Julie Davis' "All Over the Guy"
(Lions Gate). [Brian Brooks]
>> Jackson Leaves Channel Four to Join Diller at USA
(indieWIRE/07.24.01) -- The Chief Executive of Channel Four Television,
Michael Jackson, is leaving the British broadcaster to head USA
Entertainment, the company announced yesterday. Jackson, who served in the
post since 1997, will become the President and CEO of the group, a part of
USA Networks. The executive will oversee USA Cable, Studios USA and USA Films. He will answer to USA Chairman and CEO Barry Diller.
"For some time now, I've tried to induce Michael Jackson to join
USA... finally, and at a definitive juncture in the life of our entertainment
assets, this remarkable executive has agreed to lead our entertainment
businesses," Barry Diller said in a prepared statement yesterday. "He has
had great success in building up Channel 4 into a major force in Britain. He
is a genuinely creative programmer and in the end, and for us something of
the beginning, that's what will distinguish our production and distribution
of television programs and theatrical motion pictures." [Eugene Hernandez]