COMMERCIAL CENSORSHIP AND TRAILER FATIGUE
Now that Caveh Zahedi’s I am a Sex Addict is out of New York, I need to keep reminding myself to continue to go to Zahedi’s blog, which he is keeping up with great posts on any number of topics. Here he is at the Wellington Film festival recounting his thoughts following a meeting with the great Iranian director Jafar Panahi:
We are exactly the same age. His English isn’t very good, and my Persian is even worse, so we communicated by means of a translator (note to self: learn Persian). But it was fascinating to hear him talk about the difficulties Iranian directors have in trying to get their films past the censors, and it made me appreciate the straightforwardness of the American system in which the rules are at least democratic and clear: only films that are commercially viable will be greenlit. In Iran, the rules are much more nebulous, and open to the vagaries and whims of bureaucrats and clerics.
The irony here is that the international interest in films from Iran (and especially banned ones) translates into a kind of commercial viability, whereas independent American films that eschew blatant commercialism are invariably relegated to a lower rung on the hierarchical ladder of cinematic esteem. Panahi, a director of international repute, was arguably the Wellington Film Festival’s most famous guest, and his films are profitable enough to allow him to finance them himself, despite the fact that his last three films have all been banned in his own country. I couldn’t help wishing that my films had been banned as well.
Earlier he posts on one of my pet peeves — when you but a DVD because it’s a great art movie that you want in your collection and everytime you see it you have to suffer through a bunch of trailers from crummy films before you get to the menu. It’s the home video equivalent of commercials in front of the movies in theaters, except that with trailers in front of the DVD menu, you have to suffer through the same crummy clips over and over again if you want to rewatch the movie you bought. Zahedi is bummed (rightfully so, in my opinion) that the Weinstein Company’s DVD release of his I am a Sex Addict is afflicted with this curse:
Today, I found out that the DVD of “I Am A Sex Addict” will have trailers for other films at the beginning of it. I was assured by the Weinstein Company that the viewer would have the option of clicking to the main menu and obviating the trailers, but still, the experience will be one of immediate marketing assault.
The upside of going with The Weinstein Company is that the DVD will be in more stores than it would be otherwise, and in fact they have been very accomodating. But the downside is that the DVD will bear less and less resemblance to the product that I myself would have wanted to put out into the world.