The Washington Post‘s Philip Kennicott reported yesterday that the Motion Picture Association of America has censored a lobby poster for Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross‘s The Road to Guantanamo, a highly praised film about the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Half-drama and half-doc, it’s scheduled to open in the U.S. on 6.23.
“The image that ran afoul of the MPAA is tame by the standards set by the amateur photographers of Abu Ghraib,” Kennicott wrote. “It shows a man hanging by his handcuffed wrists, with a burlap sack over his head and a blindfold tied around the hood. It has appeared in advertisements for Guantanamo, a documentary with some reenacted scenes, that follows the fate of three British men imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than two years before being released with no charges ever filed against them. U.S. distributor Roadside Attractions “submitted the poster to the MPAA, which must approve publicity materials for the films it rates, on 4.24. It was rejected the next day. ‘The reason given was that the burlap bag over the guy’s head was depicting torture, which wasn’t appropriate for children to see,’ said Roadsdie co-president Howard Cohen. The film will open on 6.23 with another poster, approved by the MPAA, which shows only a pair of shackled hands and arms. Gayle Osterberg, a spokesperson for the MPAA, said its standards for print advertising are particularly sensitive. ‘If it’s a poster that’s hanging in a theater, anyone who walks into that theater, regardless of what movie they’ve come to see, will be exposed to it,’ said Osterberg. While she wouldn’t comment on the particular reason for the poster’s rejection, and while MPAA guidelines for what is acceptable in advertising aren’t made public, she did list some of the things that are not allowed: ‘depictions of violence, blood, people in jeopardy, drugs, nudity, profanity, people in frightening situations, disturbing or frightening scenes.’ Cohen says he understands why the MPAA exercises control over advertising materials — he’s a father himself. But that doesn’t diminish his frustration with the decision. ‘This is a film with a serious purpose, and this is the subject of the film itself, and the marketing materials were appropriate to the subject,’ he said. And, he added, horror flicks and slasher movies are often advertised with images far more suggestive of graphic violence.”