In 2011, Jafar Panahi's This Is Not a Film played at Cannes, after having been smuggled out of Iran on a USB stick hidden in a cake. The director himself was imprisoned in his home by the government and banned from making movies.
Back in 1939, the kissing scenes between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind were questioned by censors. Twenty years after that, in 1960, the shower scene in Psycho was also censored after being deemed morally unacceptable.
These and many other examples show that censorship has been an ever-present obstacle to overcome for both filmmakers and filmgoers. That's the focus of the Censurados Film Festival, one in a long line of fests which have recently sprung up in Peru for the benefit of all movie fans.
Censurados' focus is on movies which throughout history have been censored for varying reasons: political, religious, sexual, environmental, etc. The fest hopes to make the public reflect on freedom of speech and upholding human rights, as well as what is actually considered "forbidden" in different parts of the world.
Running from 11 -16 February, the fest includes films such as recent Oscar nominee (and favored winner in the Best Documentary category) The Act of Killing, about the travesties committed by Indonesian death squads. Another award winner present at the fest is Searching For Sugar Man, concerning the search for elusive folk musician Sixto Rodríguez, who found unlikely fame in South Africa after failing to hit it big in the US.
Another highlight is the Peruvian film El Espacio Entre Las Cosas, a film blending the reality of a director making a movie with the fantasy of his detective main character. Although a critical success when released last year, some showings of the film were abruptly cancelled by the Cineplanet theater chain after only a couple of days with almost no explanation, leading to an outcry from director Raul del Busto and the film community in general, who saw it as a form of censorship against a movie which, despite being of a non-commercial, more artistic nature, deserved a chance to find an audience.
Other documentaries at the fest touch on a variety of topics, from restrictive life in Egypt before the January 2011 revolution (Amal Ramsis' Spanish/Egyptian co-production, Prohibido), to forced female sterilization practiced during the government of Alberto Fujimori in Peru (Manuel Legarda's expose La Cicatriz de Paulina), all the way to China and Michael Perelman's Free China, the story of former Communist Party member Jennifer Zeng, whose beliefs in Taoism and Buddhism got her arrested and physically and mentally tortured in prison.
The films will be complemented by roundtable discussions with industry experts which will shed light on movie censorship in Peru and Latin America (with a special focus on environmental restrictions), as well as the role of women in film and how their representation on screen ties into censorship.
Censurados is an event which hopes to raise awareness on these sorts of issues. With such a wide wealth of topics to touch upon, it's a fest that certainly has plenty of room to grow.