Adult Film Censorship: Dreamquest (2000)


 

 

 

 

Dreamquest

Directed by Brad Armstrong / 2000 / USA / IMDb

In October 2000, a DVD of DREAMQUEST was banned by the OFLC.

AXIS (Adultshop.com) was the applicant.

 

Board Report T00/3137

REASONS FOR THE DECISION:

When making classification decisions the Classification Board (the Board) is required to follow the procedure set out in the Classification (Publications. Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act). The Board is required to apply the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines, while taking into account the matters set out in section 11 of the Act. In arriving at this decision the Classification Board assessed the film in accordance with the statutory requirements set out in the Act.

The National Classification Code (the Code) states in the Films Table that: 
(1) Films that:

a) depict. express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction. crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency or propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified are to be classified 'RC'-

 In the Board's majority opinion under Section 1(a) of the Film Table in the Classification Act this film deals with matters of violence in a way that offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults. Under the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videos, material containing consensual sexually explicit activity cannot contain depictions of violence. sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion. In the Board's view this film contains depictions of violence which warrant an "'RC" classification.

The scenes which warrant the "RC" classification are as follows;

1. 98mins - This sequence commences with the heroine (Sarah) and another woman, who is her guide, riding on a horse up to a statue on which there is a warning about venturing any further. The guide tells Sarah to ride off, saying that she will take care of any difficulties regarding the warning. The statue then comes to life. In the Board's majority opinion the.: clashing of  their swords that ensues constitutes a depiction of violence as the swords are weapons and they are used with an intent to harm, This is further indicated by the dialogue exchange between them which refers to, for example, "it would be a. shame to slay one so magnificent" and the fact that one of them will "not live to see the dawn". In the Board's minority opinion this interaction does not constitute violence but rather a joust involving a test of skill in which the woman is trying to stop the statue from impeding Sarah's progress.

2. 102mins - In this sequence Vladimir tries to convince Sarah to stay with him. offering to set Fantasy free if she agrees. She vows never to give in to his request and is taken away protesting "no!" repeatedly as Vladimir tells her that she and Fantasy will both remain his prisoners forever. In the Board's majority opinion her protestations combined with the two guard pulling her towards a cell constitute violence as there is force used against an unwilling participant with the threat of further force if she does not accede to Vladimir's .wishes.  In the Board's minority opinion the exclamation of "no" and her struggle against the guards is a rejection of imprisonment and that the guards are merely guiding her towards her cell, an act in and of itself not inherently violent.

3. 1O3mins - Feet are seen walking in the darkened corridors of the dungeon cells as a male walks up to a. guard and implicitly hits him on the head from, behind, rendering him unconscious. He takes the guard's keys and goes in to rescue Sarah. In the Board's unanimous opinion the hit on the head constitutes an act of violence which is not permissible in a film containing consensual sexually explicit activity and thus warrants an "RC" classification.

 

 

New guidelines for X18+

Stricter guidelines were introduced for the X18+ rating in September 2000. This resulted in confusion between the OFLC and distributors as to what was now permitted. In November 2000, as a way of clarifying the new standards, appeals against nine RC-ratings were made to the Classification Review Board.

The titles and outcomes were:

 

 

The AXIS appeal against the DREAMQUEST ban

This appeal is against the decision of the Film Censorship Board to refuse to classify the above named film. The grounds for the appeal are that the decision makers:

 - did not take sufficient account of the tenets of adult films i.e.

- the implicit acceptance of fantasy content and the suspension of disbelief.

- failed to recognize the use of genre in contextually locating plot and narrative developments away from realism.

- railed to take full account of the wording and intent of the Classification Act and, in particular, of the Code attached to the legislation as a schedule; and

- did not reasonably apply the film classification guidelines as they relate to depictions of violence, sexualized violence.

 

In our opinion the film is not so offensive that it falls into the Refused Classification category, and should be given an X classification. It does not offend, in our view, against the stricture that X films should not contain violence or sexualized violence as the construction of plot, narrative, sets and filmic representation allows for the types of contretemps portrayed to fall within the visual lexicon of the reasonable adult with no suggestion of or incitement to violence or sexualized violence.

 

Synopsis 

Sarah, the heroine quests for romance and tender love in a modern world. Disappointed by her boyfriend's insensitivity, she is contemplating her lot in life when some fairies entreat her to go on a treacherous journey to find fantasy, stolen by an evil despot.

Along this journey, Sarah encounters many hazards in her quest for truth, but realizes the value in all things fantastic and erotic, including her own epiphany during her heroes journey about the projection of an essentialised 'romance' being a construct.

A truly beautiful film on all levels, capturing the essence of 'fantasy' as a human practice for sexual and erotic enjoyment, away from the potential disappointments reality often offers in relationships and the hazards when it is restricted or removed from society.

A salutary lesson for current political climates.

The setting transfers from modern times to the fantasy underworld as frequently depicted in mainstream films, where magic and morality battle good, evil and all in between. This film is representative of a new genre of adult films where the sex is incidental to the strong narrative development and merely adds an adult dimension to the title.

 

Factors supporting the appeal

The nature of the film

The film is wholly contained in the genre of fantasy. The costumes, language and plot are consistent throughout the lavish and beautiful construction of the film, allowing for no misunderstanding of the context in which all of the activity occurs. The treatment of the subject and specific generic conventions embedded within that, like swordfights, dungeons, heroes, evil despots etc more than adequately support and completely justify the appearance of the cited occurrences of conflict. It is inconceivable that most 10 to 15 year olds, let alone adults would mistake any of the so called violence that has Refused Classification in this morally driven tale for situations in which actual violence has occurred or has even been threatened. This is pure fantasy, presented as such to an audience that has extremely narrow opportunities for purchase and is wholly over the age of 18.

The guidelines which state that violence is disallowed in the X classification are referring to the violence that is endemic in a society that reifies the use of weapons, anger and violence in power and control, particularly where it impacts on the oppression and degradation of women and minorities within the communities it represents.

This is a well made fantasy film and such minimal 'violence' as occurs is so stylized and so completely removed from reality that to ban the film on the grounds of violence is an act of crass stupidity.

While on a literal interpretation of the guidelines and the code the scenes necessitating refusal may be described as violence. the context. its brevity. the total lack of impact and common sense dictate that to classify RC is completely inappropriate.

 

The Act and the Classification Code

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, Section 9, requires that films are to be classified in accordance with the Code and the classification guidelines.

Section 11(a) and (d) of the Act requires the classifier, in making a decision, to take account of:

(a) the standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;
and

(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or is likely to be published.

We are of the view that, in respect of S 11(a) no reasonable adult would see this as so offensive in relation to community standards that it should be refused classification.

In respect of S 11 (d) people who view this film will be well aware of the conventions attaching to sex films, particularly their function of fantasy and their role as specifically for sexual gratification, including the forms of a narrative or plot based work as well as realistically styled vignettes.

The National Classification Code (Amendment No.2) requires that:

Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:

(a) the standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;

(d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

(e) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed,

(f) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact

(g) sexual violence

We are of the view that an X classification for this film would give effect to these principles. (N.B. We believe that principles (b) and (c) are satisfied in this case by the restricted category into which the material is likely to fall.)

The Code further states within Amendment No 3 the following definition of the classification process with regard to this matter:

"The board makes classification decisions based on the impact of individual elements and their cumulative effect. The content and treatment of such elements contributes to the impact. The board takes into account factors such as tone. duration frequency and the amount of visual or verbal detail. The relationship of classifiable elements to the narrative also contributes to the impact of the film and therefore its classification." (My emphasis)

The 3 occurrences in "Dream Ouest" of so-called stylized violence are tenuous examples at the best of times, as exemplified by the minority view of the board.  The instance where the guard is knocked out does not even show the actual impact, merely by implication of the unconscious body is it implicit. As viewers reared on a diet of western violence and fantasy from an early age, the well documented suspension of disbelief allows us as viewers of a fantasy narrative to know that the guard is merely acting and that the depiction of his unconsciousness in no way links sexual acts with violent acts in a valorized fashion.

 

Application of the classification guidelines

The guidelines for REFUSED CLASSIFICATION films, specifically the phraseology relating to the refusal of classification due to depictions of violence, state titles will be refused if they contain:

"violence or sexualized violence"

In our view the Classification Board did not reasonably apply the film classification guidelines as they relate to depictions of violent activity making a literal interpretation of the guidelines which in this case in highly inappropriate for the purpose of the new amendments removing aberrant sexual practices from this category.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion we would reiterate most emphatically that the film "Dream Quest.

To suggest that "Dream Ouest" is part of a greater narrative on violence is so laughable as to make a complete mockery of the classification process in trying  to unclassify offensive titles. As an industry great investment is being made to comply with the guidelines with little in the way of actual benchmarks or definitions, with severe financial detriment to the industry. In cases such as this where film of significant artistic and erotic merit are being released, providing the adult viewer with material that is wholly accessible to women, couples and singles which presents all parties in a decent and respectable fashion are being refused classification on such spurious terms, the board seems to be in breech of their charter of care to the community of reasonable adults they purport to represent.

The film therefore fits into the X classification as specified in the guidelines. We can only add to this conclusion that the board is urgently in need of a flexibility of their rigidly literal interpretation on a title-by-title basis.

 

 

DREAMQUEST: Review Board Report

33rd MEETING
9, 10,17 NOVEMBER 2000 
23-33 MARY STREET
SURRY HILLS NSW:
8 DECEMBER 2000 (BY TELECONFERENCE)

PRESENT: Ms Barbara Biggins (Convenor)
Mr Jonathan O'Dea (Deputy Convenor)
Ms Glenda Banks 
Ms Joan Yardley
Ms Robin Harvey
Mr Ross Tzannes

APPLICANT: AXIS, a division of Adultshop.com Limited

BUSINESS: To review the decision of the Classification Board to assign the classification 'RC' under the Classification {Publications, Films and Computer Games} Act 1995 to the film Dream Quest

 

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision

The Classification Review Board decided to confirm the decision of the Classification Board to classify the film Dream Quest RC Refused Classification.

 

2. Legislative provisions

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. The Act provides that films be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code and the classification guidelines.

Relevantly, section 11 of the Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a film include:

(a) the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;

(b) the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the film;

(c) the general character of the film, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

 

The National Classification Code (the Code) requires that Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:

a) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;

b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;

c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive; and

d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and

ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

 

Within the Code, paragraph 1 of the Table under the heading "Films" provides that films that "depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified" should be classified "RC."

Further, the Code provides that films may be classified "X" if they

a) contain real depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults in which there is no violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence, coercion, sexually assaultive language, or fetishes or depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; and

b) are unsuitable for a minor to see.

In addition, the Guidelines for the classification of films and videotapes (Amendment No.3, 18 September 2000) provide, in part that, "No depiction of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion is allowed in the category. It does not allow sexually assaultive language. Nor does it allow consensual depictions, which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers. Fetishes such as body piercing, application of substances such as candle wax, 'golden showers', bondage, spanking or fisting are not permitted.

 

3. Procedure

Six members of the Review Board viewed the film Dream Quest at its meeting on 9,10 & 17 November 2000.

 

4. Matters taken into account

In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:

(a) the applicant's Application for Review, including written submissions in support of that Application.

(b) the film Dream Quest.

(c) Written and oral arguments made by Ms Elvis Caneers-Barnes and Mr John Davey on behalf of the applicant

(d) the relevant provisions in the Act.

(e) the relevant provisions in the National Classification Code as amended in accordance with Section 6 of the Act, and as endorsed by the Censorship Ministers.

(f) the current Classification Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videotapes determined under Section 12 of the Act.

 

5. Findings on material questions of fact

5.1 Dream Quest is a film presented almost totally as a fantasy. It contains real depictions of actual sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between consenting adults.

5.2 The Review Board considered the three scenes cited by the Classification Board as leading to an RC classification. These were at 98, 102 and 103 minutes. In reviewing these scenes, the Review Board was mindful that the new Guidelines prohibit depictions of violence in the X category.

5.3 At 98 minutes the scene commences with the heroine (Sarah) and another women (her guide) riding up to a statue on a horse. There is a warning on the statue not to proceed further. The statue comes to life and a stylised sword fight follows between the statue and guide and Sarah is told to ride off. Dialogue includes reference that it would be "a shame to slay one so magnificent" and that one of the fighters will "not live to see the dawn". A majority of the Review Board found this not to constitute a depiction of violence. A minority thought that the combination of action and words did amount to violence, albeit mild.

5.4 At 102 minutes there is a sequence where Sarah clashes and has a somewhat heated essentially verbal exchange with the evil Vladimir. This results in Sarah being escorted to prison. The Review Board unanimously found that this sequence did not constitute violence.

5.5 At 103 minutes there is a scene where feet are seen walking in the prison cell corridor as a male walks up behind a guard, raises a club. A thump is heard, and the guard falls having been rendered unconscious. The assailant then takes the guard's keys to rescue Sarah.

The Classification Review Board agreed with the decision of the Classification Board in that it found violence to be present in the scene at 103 minutes of the film. The Guidelines for the X category do not permit depictions of violence. The Review Board considered that it was therefore bound to classify Dream Quest RC.

 

6. Reasons for the Decision

6.1 The Review Board based its decision to classify the film "RC" on its content as described in 5.1 and 5.5. above.

6.2 The Applicant argued that the Classification Board failed to:

a) take sufficient account of the tenets of adult films, ie the implicit acceptance of fantasy content and the suspension of disbelief.

b) recognise the genre in contextually locating plot and narrative developments away from reality.

c) take full account of the wording of the Classification Act and the National Classification Code.

d) reasonably apply the Film Classification Guidelines as they related to depictions of violence and sexualised violence.

6.3 The Review Board found that these arguments had some validity with respect to the scenes at 98 and 102mins but not in regard to the scene at 1O3mins.

6.4 The recently revised Film Classification Guidelines prohibit depictions of violence in the X classification category. In seeking to establish whether the depictions were of acts of violence, the Review Board consulted the glossary of terms covering "violence", which state that it "includes not only acts of violence, but also the threat or result of violence."

In the absence of a clearer or more expansive definition of the term, the Review Board sought to clarify what might reasonably constitute violence, within the meaning of the Code and Guidelines, while remaining consistent with the substance and intent of the regulatory framework. It agreed that violence could be recognised as an overt depiction of a credible threat of physical force, or the actual use of such force, intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings, in a way that a reasonable person would actually categorise as a depiction of violence. Violence would also include certain depictions of physical consequences against an animate being or group that occurs as a result of unseen violent means.

6.5 Regarding the first scene at 98 minutes, a majority of the Review Board found that the display and threats of force were not really credible in communicating an intention to harm. The scene was also highly stylised and conveyed in a way that a reasonable person would not categorise the series of events as violent or a portrayal of violence.

6.6 Regarding the second scene at 102 minutes, the Board found that a reasonable person would not categorise the series of events as violent or a portrayal of violence. The conflict in the scene had a low impact and there was a lack of any real force displayed when Sarah was being escorted to prison. Denial of liberty is not sufficient of itself to constitute violence.

6.7 Unlike the first two scenes, the Review Board found that the third scene at 103 minutes did constitute violence, and therefore could not be accommodated within the X classification.

While the hitting of the guard over the head is not clearly shown, the lead up (including lifting of club) and the consequences of the implicit impact are clearly evident. The Review Board was of the opinion that the scene as a whole would be viewed by a reasonable person as a depiction of violence, despite the level of violence being significantly less than that contained in many films which are classified M, MA or R, because they do not contain actual depictions of real sexual activity.

The fact that the film is contained almost wholly within the genre of fantasy does not excuse violence within an individual scene. In some films, fantasy has the potential to make violence seem more terrifying. While this is not the case in Dream Quest, the Review Board does not believe that a reasonable person would dismiss an otherwise violent scene simply because it exists in the context of a fantasy.

6.8 The Review Board concluded that as the recently revised Guidelines prohibit depictions of violence in a film which contains real depictions of actual sexual activity, the film cannot be classified X, and is accordingly classified "RC".

 

7 . Summary

The Review Board's decision is to classify the Dream Quest "RC" Refused Classification.

This decision is taken after full consideration of the applicant's submission, and after assessing the film as a whole against the relevant legislative criteria, including those contained in the Code and in the current Classification Guidelines for Films and Videotapes determined under Section 12 of the Act.

Barbara Biggins
Convenor

 

 

Censored hardcore DREAMQUEST banned

Following the failure of the Review Board appeal, Adultshop.com censored DREAMQUEST, and resubmitted it to the Classification Board.

Date: January 2001
Rating:
RC
Time:
111m
Format:
VHS
Applicant:
Adultshop.com
Comments: Censored by unknown time

 

Board Report T00/3137

SYNOPSIS:
A female takes a mystical journey through a magical land in order to learn some lessons of life.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION:

When making classification decisions the Classification Board (the Board) is required to follow the procedure set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act). The Board is required to apply the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines, while taking into account the matters set out in section 11 of the Act. In arriving at this decision the Classification Board assessed the film in accordance with the statutory requirements set out in the Act.

The National Classification Code (the Code) states in the Films Table that: (1) Films that: (a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency or propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified are to be classified 'RC.' ,
In the Board's majority opinion under Section 1(a) of the Film Table in the Classification Act this film deals with matters of violence in a way that offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults.

Under the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videos, material containing consensual sexually explicit activity cannot contain depictions of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion. In the Board's view this film contains depictions of violence which warrant an "RC" classification.

Scenes that contain explicit sexual activity can be found at approximately 12 minutes, 41 minutes, 50 minutes, 52 minutes and 75 minutes.
The scene which warrants the "RC" classification is outlined:

At approximately 90mins - Feet are seen walking in the darkened corridors of the dungeon cells as a male walks up to a guard and implicitly hits him on the head from behind, rendering him unconscious. He takes the guard's keys and goes in to rescue Sarah. In the Board's unanimous opinion the hit on the head constitutes an act of violence which is not permissible in a film containing consensual sexually explicit activity and thus warrants an "RC" classification.

In summary the Board is of the view the film is appropriately classified RC' as it contains a depiction of violence within a film that shows actual depictions of sexual activity.

 

 

Twice censored DREAMQUEST passed by OFLC

Date: February 2001
Rating:
X18+ (Contains sexually explicit material)
Time:
127m
Format:
VHS
Applicant:
Adultshop.com
Comments: it is unknown why this submission runs 127m, while the previous banned submission ran 111m.

 

Board Report T00/3137

SYNOPSIS:

A young female having problems with her boyfriend is drawn into a make believe world so she may find her true self.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION:

In the Boards view the film warrants an X classification for depictions of actual sexual intercourse and sexual activity between consenting adults.

As set out in the National Classification Code for Films clause 2. Films (except RC films) that: (a) contain real depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults in which there is no violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence, coercion, sexually assaultive language, or fetishes or depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; and (b) are unsuitable for a minor to see are classified X.

The Board notes the previous classification of the film of 'RC' and notes the modifications in the film. The Board is of the view the video can now be accommodated within the X category.

In summary the Board is of the view the film is appropriately located within the X classification as it contains actual depictions of sexual activity.

 

 

DREAMQUEST: The search for an R18+ rating

It is common practice for X18+ rated films to be censored of all hardcore content so they can receive an R18+ rating. This allows the film to be more widely seen. Adult Distributors are quite skilled at knowing what they can get away with in R18+. As such, usually there appeared to be little conflict with the Classification Board.

However, with an R18+ DREAMQUEST, AXIS decided to try to push the boundaries. This was a direct consequence of the art film ROMANCE (1999) being passed with an R18+ rating, despite it containing hardcore sequences. The OFLC obviously did not agree, as the R18+ version (aka Modified Version No. 1) was Refused Classification.

In early 2001, AXIS applied to have this, and several other decisions reviewed. Despite the applications being outside the normal time provision, it was hoped that the Review Board would agree to examine them. PLEASE and the R18+ version of DREAMQUEST were accepted, while TRAUME VON LUST, CAR WASH, CODENAME ECSTASY and PRIVATE SUPERFUCKERS 7 were turned down.

The eventual DREAMQUEST appeal to the Review Board proved to be unsuccessful.

 

Date: January 2001
Rating:
RC
Time:
Unknown
Format:
DVD
Applicant:
AXIS (A Division of Adultshop.com)
Comment: Censored by unknown time

 

 

Adultshop.com's appeal to the Review Board

DREAM QUEST

This title is being appealed on the grounds that the OFLC have in a number of well-publicised decisions allowed material which is far more graphic in nature to be given an R rating. The instances in Dreamquest which we assume (we can only assume due to the very unspecific nature of the documentation accompanying the refusal) were responsible for the Refused Classification decision have been previously passed by members of the board in other contemporary R rated films primarily concerned with sex. Dreamquest was one of the titles previously appealed, and was delayed in its application as a result of all the other titles we were preparing to go to appeal, as we desired to have them all dealt with at the same time and represented by the company during the appeal.

 

Dream Quest R Rated

This appeal is against the decision of the Film Censorship Board to refuse to classify the above named film. The grounds for the appeal are that the decision makers:

- failed to apply continuity to the classification decision across a number of adult films which depict simulated sexual activity in relation to the Refused Classification of Dream Ouest.

- failed to take full account of the wording and intent of the Classification Act and, in particular, of the Code attached to the legislation as a schedule; and

- did not reasonably apply the film classification guidelines as they relate to depictions of sexual activity.

In our opinion the film is not so offensive that it falls into the Refused Classification category, and should be given an R classification. It does not offend, in our view, against the stricture that R films should not contain explicit sex scenes

 

Synopsis

Sarah, the heroine quests for romance and tender love in a modern world. Disappointed by her boyfriend's insensitivity, she is contemplating her lot in life when some fairies entreat her to go on a treacherous journey to find fantasy, stolen by an evil despot.

Along this journey, Sarah encounters many hazards in her quest for truth, but realizes the value in all things fantastic and erotic, including her own epiphany during her hero's journey about the projection of an essentialised 'romance' being a construct.

A truly beautiful film on all levels, capturing the essence of 'fantasy' as a human practice for sexual and erotic enjoyment, away from the potential disappointments reality often offers in relationships and the hazards when it is restricted or removed from society.

A salutary lesson for current political climates. The setting transfers from modern times to the fantasy underworld as frequently depicted in mainstream films, where magic and morality battle good, evil and all in between. This film is representative of a new genre of adult films where the sex is incidental to the strong narrative development and merely adds an adult dimension to the title.

 

Factors supporting the appeal

As an R rated adult film, Dream Quest has a strong narrative based around sex. The sex is not gratuitous, and is justified in relation to the text. The guidelines state that sex permissible in this category is sex which is:

a) realistically simulated; the general role is "simulation yes- the real thing no"

b) Nudity in a sexual context should not include obvious genital contact.

c) Verbal references may be more detailed than depictions.

Dream Ouest not only has sex that is subtle but also complies with all of these guidelines, when interpreted with an adult understanding of simulation and genital contact. Any adult that is qualified to view an R rated film, by virtue of their age and assumed conceptual framework for dealing with matters which "require an adult perspective" will grasp that in R rated adult film, the main focus of the title is going to be sex, at a comparatively high frequency. The only sex that is able to be realistically seen as un-simulated is that which is actually contains penetrative sex, for which an entire classification is available. R rated or simulated sex is anything that can be realistically simulated, i.e. oral sex, digital penetration, intercourse where the genital of the participants are covered or shot in such a way as to be unclear in their contact.

To suggest that one simulated cunnilingus differs from another simulated cunnilingus when it is a case of a mouth being placed on or near female genitals in a facsimile of oral sex begs a modicum of sense in the classifier. To describe the scenes in Dream Ouest as being 'sexually explicit' is to make a definition of simulation that cannot be substantiated.

This usage of 'explicit' in a film where there is frequent sex makes the definition of explicit fall within the parameters of clear sexual activity, not the occurrence of the sex itself. A male and female simulating vigorous rear-entry sex would be described by most reasonable adults as explicit - i.e. the practice and intention of the users is overt. Therefore without the OFLC guidelines being at all detailed or specific, the industry has regulated along an understanding of what is permissible in R, a category which hasn't changed its guidelines for content in the recent amendments.

All attempts are made by AXIS to submit films that comply with guidelines, and in the light of recent decisions on films such as 'Romance' which contain very explicit sex to be housed in the R category, the denial of Dream Quest with its partially clothed and art house style filmic techniques to be denied this rating smacks of hypocrisy and discrimination.

 

The Act and the Classification Code

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, Section 9, requires that films are to be classified in accordance with the Code and the classification guidelines.

Section 11(a) and (d) of the Act requires the classifier, in making a decision, to take account of:

(a) the standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;

and

(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or is likely to be published.

We are of the view that, in respect of S 11(a) no reasonable adult would see this as so offensive in relation to community standards that it should be refused classification, especially as the scene that ultimately refused classification is entirely appropriate within an R category, hence its inclusion after lengthy prior debate with the OFLC on this title and that the sex shown in Dream Ouest is concomitant with OFLC and industry understandings of the R category in the guidelines as it has been previously dealt with.

In respect of S 11(d) people who view this film will be well aware of the conventions attached to sex films, and be actively seeking to see realistic simulated sexual activity between consenting adults

 

The National Classification Code (Amendment No.2) requires that:

Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:

(a) the standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;.

(d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

(e) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed,

(f) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact

(g) sexualized violence

 

We are of the view that an R classification for this film would give effect to these principles. (N.B. We believe that principles (b) and (c) are satisfied in this case by the restricted category into which the material is likely to fall.)

The Code further states within Amendment No 3 the following definition of the classification process with regard to this matter:

"The board makes classification decisions based on the impact of individual elements and their cumulative effect. The content and treatment of such elements contributes to the impact. The board takes into account factors such as tone duration frequency and the amount of visual or verbal detail. The relationship of classifiable elements to the narrative also contributes to the impact of a film and therefore its classification." (My emphasis)

The 5 occurrences in "Dream Ouest" of so-called explicit sexual activity are tenuous examples at the best of times when held up against so many decisions on R rated adult films historically permitting the same kind of visuals.

 

Application of the classification guidelines

The guidelines for R classified films states that sexual activity may be realistically simulated and nudity in a sexual context should not include obvious genital contact,

In our view the Classification Board did not reasonably apply the film classification guidelines as they relate to depictions of explicit sexual activity making a literal interpretation of the guidelines which in this case in highly inappropriate for a film which falls directly within the guidelines on all matters relating to sexual activity.

In conclusion we would reiterate most emphatically that the film "Dream Ouest" in no way conveys images contrary to those appropriate within the R category as stated in the classification guidelines. It blatantly depicts consenting adults partaking in simulated sexual activity.

To suggest that "Dream Ouest" is any different to a slew of comparable titles which have been classified recently is to make a complete mockery of the classification process in trying to limit offensive depictions and images. As an industry, great investment is being made to comply with the guidelines with little in the way of actual solid benchmarks or definitions. In cases such as this where films of significant artistic and erotic merit are being released, providing the adult viewer with material that is wholly accessible to women, couples and singles which presents all parties in a decent and respectable fashion are being refused classification on such spurious terms, the board seems to be in breech of their charter of care to the community of reasonable adults they purport to represent

The film therefore fits into the R classification as specified in the guidelines. We can only add to this conclusion that the board is urgently in need of a flexibility of their rigidly literal interpretation on a title-by-title basis, paying some heed to the consistency of their decision making it is used by necessity to guide content editing decisions. While the goal posts are so frequently shifted, the onus of responsibility is grossly unfairly placed on the industry to second-guess the compliance and then be forced into lengthy and extremely costly appeal procedures for want of a more flexible and user-friendly system.

 

The premise for Dream Quest's appeal is much more far reaching than the contested vision housed in this title alone.
It is a synecdoche for some very alarming trends in repressive and backward classification for R rated video's, removing all but the most basic sexual moves, a trend that in no way reflects the wants and needs of the viewers, the changing attitudes to sexual imagery across the mainstream and more importantly, previous decisions made by the appeals board.

If the refusal of long shot, simulated cunnilingus and hazy hand movements over a vagina are being interpreted by the board as the hallmarks of explicit hardcore which need to be housed in the X 18+ rated category for the good of society, we are really making some retrograde steps in the literal interpretations and understandings of the board.
Particularly in the light of decisions made by the review board in respect of Romance, an R rated title that shows absolutely explicit footage with no simulation which was given an R classification despite its content.

According to the guidelines, 'the board makes classification decisions based on the impact of individual elements and their cumulative effect. The content and treatment of elements contribute to the impact. The board takes into account factors such as tone, duration, frequency and the amount of visual or verbal detail. The relationship of classifiable elements to the narrative also contributes to the impact of a film, and therefore its classification' .

The board report for Romance advises that this title has high-level sex scenes, and yet Dream Quest returns an RC classification.
I put it to the board that the title Dream Quest has significant artistic merit, contains simulated and non explicit sex scenes as should be viewed by an 18 year old or over, but has every right to be classified as an R rated film.
As there have been no changes to the R classifications, Dream Quest complies with the new benchmarks set by the board in explicit material that is accommodated in Romance and justifiably needs to be awarded an R18+ classification.

Dream Quest is a hoary old chestnut of classification controversy. To suggest that the scenes in Dream Quest are too explicit is insulting to the intelligence and intellect of society. In R rated film's we can see a man eating another mans brains out of his skull, but we can't see a woman eating another women's pussy, albeit discreetly, simulated or from a distance. We can see an art film that depicts visually and graphically the erect penis and gratuitous penetration of a woman by a man, but we are unable to see the flat handed and superficial rubbing of a woman's genitals.

If the rule is simulated yes, real no for classifying R, then I would pose the question that if a man and woman are engaged in what appears to be actual sex, it stands to reason that a viewer happening across the scene may actually interpret that scene as a graphic representation of consensual sex.

It is not that they know the couple on the screen are doing it, it is rather that they have no proof that they are not doing it except their understandings of the classifications such as they are. The simulation is then really for the benefit of the OFLC's peace of mind and moral code, not the viewers

Sex is a part of our society, on every level, it has become the essential commodity of our time, for better or for worse.
Films like the R rated version of Dream Quest are so tame, so nice, so vanilla as to make the RC classification totally laughable.

I vehemently argue that this film is well and truly housed within the R 18+ guidelines, and to refresh your memories on the recent benchmarks, I have for you some shots from Romance juxtaposed with the supposedly offending material from Dream Quest.

Not only are the scenes in Dream Quest ethereal and shot so as the sexual contact could easily be simulated, the scenes and the film is so wholly stylised as to be firmly in the realms of fantasy at all times. It is a film that focuses on sex yes, that is not in doubt, that it is explicit however is a highly contestable decision and again one that I would propose to the board has a lot more to do with various other agendas.

Whether it is discrimination, ignorance or just incompetence, the fact that I am able to show you these images is disturbing to say the least. The board's notable inconsistencies both in decisions and in their haphazard reporting style is something which will undoubtedly become an albatross when forced to be substantiated in a court of law.

Cannibalism, penetration but no oral please, we're censors. It is a pathetic joke that the industry which is treated like pariahs is more accountable and dedicated to benchmarking and sanitising unsafe images than the bureaucrats who condemn us.

Romance is a film that portrays sex as a dark, dirty and violating experience that is tantamount to rape and abuse. Dream Quest portrays sex as an experience that is fun, sensual, uplifting and liberating. The brief snatches of what I argue are just as easily simulated scenes are nowhere near as explicit as others that the board has classified with an R.

The board and the adult industry need to urgently reach a position of mutual training and agreed definitions, as well as making sure that their decisions and board reports have some kind of continuity for ongoing relationships and communication between themselves and the industry to be strengthened and productive.

 

 

2006: Adultshop.com fight again to hardcore into R18+

In October 2006, Adultshop.com tried again for R18+ rated hardcore with the submission of the Vivid compilation VIVA EROTICA (2006). This time they fought all the way to the Federal Court, but ultimately lost.

The full case is covered in the VIVA EROTICA (2006) entry in our Adult Film Censorship database.

 

 

Dreamquest (2000) - Directed by Brad Armstrong


 

 

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