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Tillman Story loses rating appeal

TheTillmanStory.jpgIt seems more and more that the studio are really trying to make some big conspiracy out of the MPAA rating ruling for The Tillman Story, suggesting that the belief that there's an anti-army/anti-war story in the film is what is driving the MPAA to give the R rating for the film and harm it at the box office.

Not really so when you read the rating description for the MPAA's R rating, excessive bad language means an R rating which is what the film has. I previously pointed out the real issue was with the distribution through the cinemas who might decide not to carry an R rated film, but there's another reason.

The reason that the BBFC, the British version of the MPAA, get the ratings so right and that there's no great furore over any of their decisions is that they do two things, they look at a film in context and also they aren't entirely made up of one biased demographic.

If anything is to blame it's one of these reasons, the cinema distribution model, the MPAA not looking at the context of a film, not actually understanding film, and above all not trying to force their own beliefs of religious morality down the entire nation, that's the problem.

However the rating's right by the MPAA rules, and it's those things they should be attacking, not some conspiracy that probably doesn't exist.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter after The Tillman Story was rejected for its rating appeal, producer John Battsek said:

"It comes as a very big disappointment...We set out three years ago to make a very truthful film working in tandem with the family. This is almost another mini-blow to the family. It's like they are being censored for their honesty in the film because the fact is Tillman used the F-word. It's a really big disappointment."

Well it's pretty simple, you guys make films all the time, you know how the MPAA works, and you can read the rating rules, why not simply remove all the swearing or bleep it out if you want that rating dropped so much, or even better just live with it?

After all, as I pointed out before, the rating just means that anyone under seventeen needs an adult with them to go and see the film, no one's being stopped from seeing the film unless their parents don't want to or the cinemas don't show it, so that's surely not the fault of the MPAA, their rating clearly shows that that parents should accompany under seventeen year olds to the film, not that they aren't allowed in.

The director of the film Amir Bar-Lev explains that the real problem is that he wants the true story of Pat Tillman taught in schools:

"Who Pat Tillman was should be taught in schools alongside other great Americans. This sends a message that he is somehow not appropriate for young people, who by the way are subject to ROTC visits in their high schools, but can't see the film about Pat Tillman."

I can't say whether the story of Pat Tillman should be taught in schools or not, after all I don't know who the man was, and I don't know what American individuals are being taught in schools, but does the story have to be told through this documentary, and does it have to be with swearing?

You see the story of what happened to Tillman wouldn't be diluted without the swearing, and on the flipside his story could so easily be told with reference materials other than this single documentary.

Bar-Lev goes on with his comments and says:

"This is not an anti-war film...We[']ve had very positive response from veterans. People who served in combat don't like us to celebrate a sanitized version of what they do. It diminishes their heroism."

Well come on now, no one's asking them to sanitise the film or censor it as it has been said elsewhere, if they want the film to be shown in schools then they can remove the swearing, and is that really a sanitised version of Tillman's story? The entire story of the man is still going to be told, just without him saying the 'F' word a few times. Come now, is that really going to affect the story being told or cause veterans to be upset?

Harvey Weinstein gets closer to the problem, although he does start off with the comment:

"I do not understand this decision,"

Well that's simple, read the rating rules, they are entirely clear, if you want to read what it says head over to the original story about the Tillman rating debate for the entire rating definition and it becomes clear.

"These ratings need to not only be based on content but also context."

Now he's entirely right with this comment, they do need to be viewed in content, but the rating would still be the same against the definition, context or not.

"This film needs to be viewed as a historical document that can serve as a learning tool in schools across the country."

Again it sounds rather arrogant that this film needs to be the sole historical document of the story of Pat Tillman and that it has to be told in school. Well if that is the case, edit the swearing out.

In another Hollywood Reporter article the line that is apparently in question is pointed out, as Tillman is dying he reportedly says "I'm Pat F***ing Tillman", but the real issue is that the line is repeated time and time again throughout the film.

Now we won't really know until we see it, but if this is the issue then surely if they took every occurrence of the word in question out and left it only with Tillman's final words then the MPAA would allow that, after all the MPAA may see that line in context.

All in all though it seems as though this is marketing making the most of the higher rating, and the use of the documentary as required teaching feels a little forced. It doesn't really feel as though it's about the rating any more, and what it should be about is the cinema distribution system, the MPAA viewing films in context, and Hollywood being scared of the ratings they receive.



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