Italy Abolishes Film Censorship Law

Italy has abolished a 1913 censorship law which allowed the government to ban films based on moral and religious grounds. This landmark change will see filmmakers now effectively self-regulating their work, providing an age rating for each film in line with the 2016 Cinema Law.

These ratings will be monitored by a commission of 49 industry professionals to ensure consistency across the board. The panel will also include educators and animal rights activists, amongst others; moral and humanitarian concerns will still be important factors in how films are rated.

Concerns have already been raised over the construction of the commission, with some questioning the low representation of those with a strictly cinematographic background. This faction will be the second smallest, with only four representatives (the largest being legal professionals, with 14 representatives).

Although the official recension of the law marks a historical moment for Italy’s relationship with cinema, governmental censorship has been less intrusive in recent years. The most recent major incident occurred in 1998 with the film Toto Who Lived Twice, the restriction of which prompted lively debate over the role of the government in regulating artistic expression.

Since 1944 over 10,000 films have been altered in some way as a result of the 1913 law, with over 700 being banned outright. With the government no longer being able to prevent a film’s release, or demand elements be edited out, these can now be screened without modifications.

Whilst the overturning of this law has been broadly welcomed, some have suggested that the presence of censorship acted as a draw for audiences, with banned films gaining cult followings. However, most agree with the change and acknowledge the artistic freedoms that it will grant filmmakers, with the head of the country’s distributors calling it “an epochal change that the industry was strongly pushing for”.

Words by Lucy Carter

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