Charges against Sitges Festival & director Ángel Sala dropped

Associate Editor; Madrid, Spain (@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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