Charges against Sitges Festival & director Ángel Sala dropped

Associate Editor (@bonnequin)
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Charges against Sitges Festival & director Ángel Sala dropped

In 2010, the Sitges Film Festival and its director Ángel Sala were charged with exihibiting child pornography in connection with the screening of A Serbian Film. Today, newspaper El País is reporting that the charges have been dropped. The charges were first laid in relation to two particular scenes in the film, which implied that minors were sexually assaulted. The charges were preceded by cancellations of screenings of the films at other locations in Spain. According to the article, authorities ruled that the film is not pornographic, falls within the "gore" genre, and that the film itself, even with its graphic content, was quite clearly speaking against such acts as it was depicting, or should it be said, pretending to depict.

This comes as a great relief not least to Sala, who if convicted might have faced jail time, but to the festival, its fans, and indeed, all those who promote and display art that stretches boundaries, both narratively and stylistically. Not that authorities should overlook any art that might fall into this category; but this clearly wasn't the case.

The following is a press release from the festival:

The direction team of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia would like to express its satisfaction for the dismissal of the case against Festival Director Angel Sala, for screening A Serbian Film in 2010's edition.

We would like to thank all the signs of support from every corner of the world during the past few months, and in particular the trust shown by the public institutions involved in the Festival (the Government of Catalonia, Sitges Town Hall, Spain's Ministry of Culture), as well as all Festival Foundation board members, sponsors, and collaborators that make the festival possible. We would also like to extend this gratitude to our lawyers and the legal assistance team in charge of the case.

The Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia takes on the events that have taken place with a positive spirit. Due to this entire situation and its outcome, its direction team is committed to continuing the debate that has emerged around the limits of film and freedom of expression in a responsible manner. We understand that this issue has been an experience that will allow us to produce the next editions of the Festival in an even more successful way.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not seen A Serbian Film, nor do I intend to. This is not a reflection on the quality of the film; but I have a limit, and from what I've heard, this movie passes it. But that shouldn't stop other people from seeing it. No festival of the caliber of Sitges would ever screen a film that in any way shape or form sought to glorify child sexual abuse, which deems the original charge ridiculous to say the least. The film only played once during the festival, at midnight, with plenty of public warning as to its graphic content. But more importantly, nothing was depicted onscreen, and thereby didn't break any laws.

In the wake of the firing of José Luis Cienfuegos from the Gijón Festival, and the new conservative government's threat of severe cuts to film funding, it's nice to see some good news in the Spanish film industry.

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More about A Serbian Film

arturoFebruary 22, 2012 1:20 PM

If you have a limit just watch the heavily censored version from the U.K.(you will be less offended). A real film critic should be able to view any film no matter what the subject is, as long as no actual person was harmed, adult or child..

Shelagh M. Rowan-LeggFebruary 22, 2012 4:22 PM

I respectfully disagree. A real & good film critic knows their limitations, be it a musical, a costume drama, or in my case, a graphically violent film. I know there are some things I just don't enjoy watching, and will not discredit a film that might be good because of my personal bias. So I don't review such films, and leave it to those who would do a better job.

Tom StoneFebruary 22, 2012 4:49 PM

But isn't 'personal bias' exactly what film criticism is?

Shelagh M. Rowan-LeggFebruary 22, 2012 4:58 PM

Yes, but I think it's best to keep a personal bias on the positive as oppose to the negative. A critic should always want to like a film.

Ard VijnFebruary 23, 2012 5:12 AM

"A real film critic should be able to view any film no matter what the subject is, as long as no actual person was harmed, adult or child..."

Beg pardon?
Whose rule is that?

Does having limits automatically disqualify someone from being a "real" film critic, whatever that means? And you have even placed this statement is in a sentence containing... a limit. One you yourself happen to agree with. Feel free to disregard someone's opinion if that person uses different limits than you do, but to chide them for it seems a bit silly.
Now if Shelagh had slammed the film because it didn't stay within her set of limits you MIGHT have had a point. But she didn't.

LuisFebruary 23, 2012 9:17 AM

The film was actually also screened at noon, not just at midnight. But I don't think that would make the accusation less ridiculous. I don't know the details of Spanish law, but some countries criminalise the plain *representation* (that is, someone over 18 that looks a minor, props, animation, etc.), not just the real participation of a minor.

As for what a critic could or should endure, well, I will not say that a "real" critic should watch just about everything, but in the context of a piece of news - which this is more than, I suppose, an opinion piece -, I think that that information (that the writer didn't see and didn't intend to see the film) was unnecessary. Because, well, the piece could have been written by someone that did watch the film to have an opinion about its content instead of being limited to a description.

TonyaFebruary 23, 2012 12:43 PM

i judge anyone that watches this. after reading the synopsis, i felt sick for a few hours, and i've seen disgusting movies/videos before.

the "new-born baby rape" made me want to curl up in a ball and die.

arturoFebruary 23, 2012 3:31 PM

When i come to Twitch to read up on movies i would expect at least one film critic on here would comment on A Serbian Film, instead of one who has issues on graphically violent films..It clearly shows that she only likes a certain type of movie, and in my opinion Twitch should not be affraid to cover all types of movies no mater how fucked up the film is....
They should of got someone else to comment on this issue....