DAMNED IN THE U.S.A. (1991) [Feature]

UK (MIFF 1992 , Documentaries)
Director: Paul Yule

This ambitious British documentary takes an unusual and refined look at the most recent and controversial cases of censorship in the United States. A number of senators are seen on their crusade against 'state financed' pornography and blasphemy, among them the notorious Jesse Helms.

Paul Yule's motivation to make the docu­mentary is the recent developments in censor­ship in the USA, where Christian fundamentalists have successfully lobbied to have works of 'obscene art' removed from public exhibits. At the centre of this controver­sy are photographs by the recently deceased Robert Mapplethorpe, works of Andres Serra­no ('Piss Christ), as well as rap songs by 2 Live Crew and Madonna's video 'Like A Prayer1.

Featured in the film is the Reverend Don Wildmon, head of the American Family Asso­ciation, which has subsequently demanded from the filmmakers $5 million punitive dam­ages. Wildmon has claimed that any American release requires his contractual approval. Yule believes that Wildmon merely wants to hold up screenings of the film because of the graph­ic images it contains. But with the threat of liti­gation, screenings of the film have been cancelled, as has a scheduled screening on American public television. Ironically, this examination of censorship is itself being cen­sored.

Making a welcomed appearance in the film is stand-up comedian Jimmy Tingle, who light­ens the tone with his hilarious yet insightful sketch that illuminates the double-standards and contradictions of the current controversy.

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