Whether you loved it, hated it, or lacked the capacity to deal with the emotions that it invoked, the chances are pretty good that if you were lucky enough to see “A Serbian Film” that it’s left some kind of lasting impression. “ASF” is inarguably the most notorious, heavily discussed film of 2010. The story follows an ex-porn star as he struggles to make ends meet and provide for his family. A meeting with a former colleague presents an opportunity that’s too lucrative to even consider turning down. Soon it becomes clear that the film he is working on is not something he wants to be a part of, so he tries to flee. This results in being captured, drugged, and forced to do things that the human brain should never have to imagine.
The film was screened in October of 2010 at the Spanish Sitges Film Festival, one of the most recognizable festivals in all of Europe. Now, almost six months after the event, the city of Barcelona has brought charges against the festival’s program director, Angel Sala. The city particularly objects to to the two scenes in the film that depict the rape of children, one of which a freshly born infant. While it’s true that these scenes may have gone too far in the eyes of some viewers, it’s important to point out the fact that this is a fictional horror/revenge film, and not a documentary. On paper, the scenes sound absolutely deplorable, and perhaps they are, but if you’ve actually seen the film, you know that not only were the scenes in no way meant to be enjoyed, but they’re also way over-the-top. The infant rape scene in particular is so cartoonish that it almost distracts the viewer from the shocking content of the scene.
Sala faces up to a year in jail if he is prosecuted. A year of imprisonment for signing a piece of paper that allowed an artist’s piece of work to be displayed alongside other various pieces of artistic expression. This type of suppression cannot be allowed. A petition has been circulating, that will allow you to condemn this ridiculous act of censorship, and you can, and MUST sign that petition here. Spread the word to all of your friends via whatever your preferred choice of social networking may be. A group of Spanish festival directors have put together their own letter condemning the acts, and you can find that below.
We, the undersigned, directors of Spanish film festivals, wish, in view of the leak to the press published this weekend, to state our surprise at the legal action taken against Ángel Sala, director of the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia, for having included in the 2010 programme of the said event, at sessions for adults only, A Serbian Film, which it is claimed contains violent, pornographic scenes conflicting with the rights of the child.
Over and above our surprise at pinning responsibility of this kind on a cultural programmer, and not on those theoretically responsible for the content in question (the director and the producers, if anyone at all), we wish to recall, in addition to our support of Ángel Sala, that the film has been screened over the last twelve months in festivals in Brussels, Montreal, London, Oporto, Austin, San Francisco, Toronto, Sofia, Hamburg, Helsinki, Puchon (South Korea), Ravenna and Stockholm, among others. A Serbian Film has also enjoyed screening at the two most prestigious film markets in the world: Cannes, and the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. All of this without anyone, to date, having taken legal steps of any kind against the film, those responsible for it or its programmers.
We must also add that the film has won prestigious awards including three at Montreal (Best Film; Gold Award for Best European Film and Most Innovative Film); the Audience Award at the Fantasporto Festival in Oporto (less than a week ago); and the Best Screenplay Award at the FIPRESCI Festival in Serbia.
We also condemn the fact that behaviour such as that shown by the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Barcelona appears to be taking us back to times of censorship limitations on freedom of expression and cultural programming that we sincerely believed belonged to the past.
Javier Angulo (Valladolid Festival)
Josetxo Cerdán Los Arcos (Punto de Vista / Pamplona)
José Luis Cienfuegos (Gijon Festival)
José Luis Rebordinos (San Sebastian Festival)
Carmelo Romero (Malaga Spanish Film Festival)
José Sánchez Montes (Granada Festival / Cines del Sur)
Claudio Utrera (Las Palmas Festival)
Javier Martín Domínguez (Seville Festival)
Eduardo Trías (Huelva Festival)
Josemi Beltrán (San Sebastian Horror & Fantasy Film Festival)