The Sitges Festival And Director Angel Sala Charged With Exhibition Of Child Pornography For Screening A SERBIAN FILM

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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The Sitges Festival And Director Angel Sala Charged With Exhibition Of Child Pornography For Screening A SERBIAN FILM
Some disturbing news out of Barcelona today with word that the Sitges Film Festival - one of the oldest, largest and most respected genre film events in the world - and its director, Angel Sala, have been charged with the exhibition of child pornography in connection with a screening of A Serbian Film at the 2010 edition of the festival.

Now, don't get me wrong, A Serbian Film is shocking and extreme cinema and designed to be so. But child porn? That is absolutely ridiculous - the scene that tends to get people worked up occurring entirely offscreen with the violence implied and not actually depicted - and I can only hope that the courts recognize it as such and throw the case out.

There have been rumblings that something was coming down the line after subsequent screenings of the film were banned in Spain but this is excessive in the extreme. Sala and the festival could be facing jail time and / or a fine if convicted.
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For any Spanish speakers out there, here's a story about the affair in El Pais

More about A Serbian Film

arturoMarch 6, 2011 10:06 AM

That is shocking news, i saw the uncut version of the film, and yes it was shocking but child porn??? No chance, first of all no child was harmed or exposed to any sexual imagery in the film.. The Lovely Bones dealt with the rape and murder of a child, would you call that child porn?? Of course not... The case should be thrown out of court..

CashBaileyMarch 6, 2011 10:22 AM

I thought this movie was pretentious tosh, but it sure as hell ain't child porn.

Sean "The Butcher" SmithsonMarch 6, 2011 12:31 PM

This is very fucked up news. Hopefully this case is indeed tossed out on it's ass.

gasfireMarch 6, 2011 1:14 PM

If that the case, then technically A Serbian Film is the most accomplished piece of pornography ever filmed - 'kiddy' or otherwise.

callieatomMarch 6, 2011 2:08 PM

Wow...I didn't find it particularly good and it seemed rather misguided but surely there aren't actual grounds to prosecute...Depressing!

nikjc1March 6, 2011 4:19 PM

While I'm in no way condoning censorship for the sake of censorship, I think we do actually have quite a liberal censorship climate when it comes to films, compare today with the 80's FFS! I mean, The Life of Brian was Banned in certain boroughs in the UK!
Having only seen the trailer for this film I can't actually say either way that the censorship of the uncut version is unjust or not, the trailer was bad enough, and wasn't what I would call entertainment.
What I will say however is that when it comes to children, society has a duty to protect them, and when it comes to film they are the last taboo, I can understand why certain authorities have reacted in this way.
A Serbian Film, is extreme cinema, pushing at the very limits (from what I've seen and read) so, some people will obviously be aghast at that scene, and if that person is in a position of power and influence, well.... you know the rest.

Shelagh M. Rowan-LeggMarch 6, 2011 4:43 PM

I had an interesting conversation about this tonight with a friend who works at the British Board of Film Classification. The BBFC would only allow A Serbian Film to be shown if 4 minutes were cut (the minutes containing the scenes in question), which is something the BBFC rarely does. The reason was, the exact nature of the laws regarding exhibition of child pornography can vary from country to country. In that, a film that even suggests (as this film seems to rather explicitly) the rape of a child would be considered illegal. While I am not suggesting this kind of censorship is allowable, it would be interesting and important to know what the laws are, as it is possible the festival has technically broken the law through the exhibition of the film. Even if that law is ridiculous.

jwalk415March 6, 2011 5:57 PM

This is why no normal person anywhere should download this movie online. It would make them targets for BS charges like this and even though they shouldn't stick, it's still unnecessary trouble.

jwalk415March 6, 2011 6:19 PM

Don't get me wrong. I thought this was a really good film but to avoid unnecessary trouble, people shouldn't download it.

Todd BrownMarch 6, 2011 6:23 PM

I would go with 'copyright infringement' as a reason people shouldn't download this online but, yes, this would be a concern also.

jwalk415March 6, 2011 7:06 PM

the 'copywright infringement' rationale doesn't go over well with the internet community. If they see it, and don't think their computer will get a virus off it, they'll download it. But this, will make them think twice.

Julio SánchezMarch 7, 2011 5:00 AM

The spanish law says about child porn that it can't be used real footage or sound of children edited to simulate any kind of graphic sex scene with children.

"A Serbian film" uses the sound of a crying baby and what it's clearly a muppet or something like that to emulate a baby. Until this point the film would be breaking spanish laws. But the scene is not totally shown, is not explicit by any means. So, the charges are really absurd.

I want to show my total support to Angel Sala and the people of Sitges Fest. You can support them too, here:

Stop Censorship.

Shelagh M. Rowan-LeggMarch 7, 2011 7:26 AM

thanks for the information! Then indeed the festival did not break the law. Hopefully that will be clear in court.

jens.thomsenMarch 7, 2011 10:32 AM

As depressing as this is, it's not even a first. Last year an American collector and a Swedish translator were both sentenced in their respective countries for owning 'lolicon' manga - a genre that features drawings of childlike figures in sexual situations. Both said they had acquired the Japanese comics for the sake of completion and had no idea the drawings were illegal.

Though I can see that the argument of sexual content is much more valid regarding the manga, it's really only a small step to new the case against the Sitges director. All are about representations without any real victims. While I find the Japanese cartoons somewhat dubious, I think highly of 'A Serbian Film' and I fear where this is going to end?

sammysinMarch 7, 2011 7:06 PM

Totally stupid and sure to dampen the spirits of film makers who have been inspired by this type of movie.

Todd BrownMarch 7, 2011 10:16 PM

Hate to point out the obvious but that's absolutely a major point of doing it. No question.

Romain RollMarch 8, 2011 3:17 AM

As the General Coordinator of the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation (EFFFF) - we already sent an official statement last year to the Sitges Film Festival (Please read below) when the problems started and the Federation will still support Sitges in this matter
Romain Roll
General Coordinator EFFFF

Brussels Nov 16th, 2010 
To Whom it May Concern, 
The European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation strongly support its members artistic point of view, their programming ambition and their eclectic and multi cultural programming. It is important that there 
is no outside interference or censorship of films that are programmed for film festivals. One of the main aims of the Federation is to promote European genre cinema and as such also pushing the boundaries of 
 The Federation supports all its members, and in this particular case Sigtes International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia for programming A Serbian Film. A film which has played many of our member 
festivals, but also outside the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation at venues like Marche du Film during the Cannes Film Festival and various other festivals, and it has also won numerous awards.  
 Sitges is one of the most important fantastic film festivals in Europe, and also one of the founding members of the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation. For 43 years Sitges has always pushed the 
envelope, screening the best, and most interesting films out there to a Catalonian and to a world audience. 
All genre film festivals look to Sitges as a great example of a film festival that premieres some of the most exciting fantastic films of the year. 
 A Serbian Film is an important film, and it is part of a new wave of films from the Balkan by a new breed of filmmakers making ferocious, untainted, brutal, naked, violent and uncompromising films in a post war era. It is important that these films are being screened to an audience, and film festivals around the world  are a key factor to this.  
Yours Truly, 
 Romain Roll 

Kurt HalfyardMarch 9, 2011 2:20 PM

PRESS NOTE regarding charges against Ángel Sala, Festival Director, for the screening of A Serbian Film in 2010

SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia wishes to show its complete support for Ángel Sala and, by extension, the decisions that he has made while exercising his role as Director of the Festival.

Regarding the recent statements concerning the screening of A Serbian Film, the Festival wants to state that the above mentioned title is not a pornographic film, but, in fact, a fictional horror film, and is not meant as an attack or humiliation against the sexual dignity of minors.

SITGES wants to thank all the support it has received from its audience, other film festivals (1) and important cultural figures.

A Serbian Film was screened after carrying out all necessary informative and control measures in order to prevent any minors from accessing the screening. These measures consisted of information placed in the Festival media to guarantee awareness about the content of the film to the audience before its viewing, as well as demanding proof of age from viewers entering the theatre.

The path this film has followed has been the standard one within the conventional commercial circuit, having been screened, amongst many others, in the following international festivals and markets: Brussels, Montreal (Fantasia), San Francisco, Toronto, Austin, Porto, Sofia, Hamburg, Helsinki, Puchon (South Korea), Ravenna and Stockholm.

It is also worth mentioning that the film has been awarded several times, thrice in Montreal (Best Film, Best European Film, and the Innovation Award), the Special Jury Award at Fantasporto Festival in Porto (less than a week ago) and the Best Script Award at FIPRESCI Festival in Serbia.

A Serbian Film has also been screened at the two most prestigious markets in the world, the Cannes Film Market and Film Festival and the American Film Market in Santa Mónica, California, and will be commercially distributed in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

SITGES wants to thank again all support shown, as well as to express its respect to all the criticism that has given room to a necessary debate about the importance of freedom of speech and creation in the programming of film festivals.

SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia considers that it has acted rigorously in providing the audience with all the information it might require beforehand. Nevertheless, the rise of critical voices will make the Festival reflect on their communication mechanisms in the future, emphasizing child protection, and defending freedom of speech and creation as it has done from the beginning.


We, the undersigned, directors of Spanish film festivals, wish, in view of the leak to the press published this weekend, to state our surprise at the legal action taken against Ángel Sala, director of the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia, for having included in the 2010 programme of the said event, at sessions for adults only, A Serbian Film, which it is claimed contains violent, pornographic scenes conflicting with the rights of the child.

Over and above our surprise at pinning responsibility of this kind on a cultural programmer, and not on those theoretically responsible for the content in question (the director and the producers, if anyone at all), we wish to recall, in addition to our support of Ángel Sala, that the film has been screened over the last twelve months in festivals in Brussels, Montreal, London, Oporto, Austin, San Francisco, Toronto, Sofia, Hamburg, Helsinki, Puchon (South Korea), Ravenna and Stockholm, among others. A Serbian Film has also enjoyed screening at the two most prestigious film markets in the world: Cannes, and the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. All of this without anyone, to date, having taken legal steps of any kind against the film, those responsible for it or its programmers.

We must also add that the film has won prestigious awards including three at Montreal (Best Film; Gold Award for Best European Film and Most Innovative Film); the Audience Award at the Fantasporto Festival in Oporto (less than a week ago); and the Best Screenplay Award at the FIPRESCI Festival in Serbia.

We also condemn the fact that behaviour such as that shown by the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Barcelona appears to be taking us back to times of censorship limitations on freedom of expression and cultural programming that we sincerely believed belonged to the past.

Signed by:

* Javier Angulo (Festival de Valladolid)
* Josetxo Cerdán Los Arcos (Punto de Vista / Pamplona)
* José Luis Cienfuegos (Festival de Gijón)
* José Luis Rebordinos (Festival de San Sebastián)
* Carmelo Romero (Festival de Cine Español de Málaga)
* José Sánchez Montes (Festival de Granada / Cines del Sur)
* Claudio Utrera (Festival de Las Palmas)
* Javier Martín Domínguez (Festival de Sevilla)
* Eduardo Trías (Festival de Huelva)
* Josemi Beltrán (Semana de Cine Fantástico y de Terror de San Sebastián)