'9 Songs' Film: Explicit Sex Creates Censorship Woes + Creationists vs. IMAX Theaters

by Andre Soares
9 Songs film 2004 Kieran O'Brien Margot Stilley'9 Songs' film (2004), with Kieran O'Brien and Margo Stilley.

'9 Songs' film uncut: Michael Winterbottom -directed sexually explicit drama to be screened in the U.K., Australia

In late 2004, Michael Winterbottom's sexually explicit psychological drama 9 Songs received an “18 Certificate” (no one under 18 allowed) from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). The BBFC move came as a bit of a surprise, for although the censorship board has relaxed its anti-sex policy in recent years, it still demands that films be cut because of sexual content.

The first BBFC-approved, English-language film with explicit sex scenes was Patrice Chéreau's Intimacy (2001), which is based on stories by the acclaimed Hanif Kureishi of My Beautiful Laundrette fame. Intimacy also received an “18 certificate.”

British prudes unhappy

British prudes, however, are apparently unhappy with the censors' less strict approach to sexual content. Responding to complaints about the Board's decision to issue a release certificate to 9 Songs, a BBFC spokesperson explained: “The rating was given within the BBFC's guidelines. There is nothing illegal or harmful shown in the film. If people don't want to watch it, they don't have to go to the cinema to see it.”

Michael Winterbottom, for his part, says:

We wanted to try and deal with a part of the relationship which most films just avoid completely. Books can deal with sex in the same way they deal with any other aspect of a relationship but films just skip over it because everyone knows it's fake and therefore not really worth engaging with. The idea was to deal with the sex in exactly the same way we deal with anything else in the film.

'9 Songs' gets Australian release

In January 2005, 9 Songs had its X-rating toned down to an R18+ so it can be released in Australia. The revision came about following a 3-to-2 vote by the five-member panel of the Office of Film and Literature Classification's Review Board, who are supposed to protect adult Australians from the horrors of film (and literature?) sex.

The Classification Review Board's decision noted that “while some scenes may offend some sections of the adult community, the actual sex scenes are justified by the context, narrative, tone and artistic merit.”

Sex and songs

Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs film, which was screened at the Cannes and San Sebastian film festivals earlier this year, depicts the evolving relationship of a young couple, Matt (Kieran O'Brien) and Lisa (Margo Stilley). Their scenes together are interspersed with songs from assorted bands.

9 Songs is scheduled to open on March 11, '05, in 28 cinemas in the United Kingdom. Accent Film Entertainment plans to release the film in Australia later in 2005.

See also: “Meera: Film Actress Too Hot for Pakistan Censors.”


Volcanoes of the Deep Sea Nature documentary irks radical Christians'Volcanoes of the Deep Sea': Nature documentary irks radical Christians.

Creationist censorship hits IMAX theaters in American South: 'Volcanoes of the Deep Sea' vs. radical Christians

IMAX theaters in several cities in Texas, Georgia, and North and South Carolina have decided not to screen Stephen Low's nature documentary Volcanoes of the Deep Sea because of its references to evolution may offend Fundamentalist Christians and assorted believers in the widely derided faux science known as “creationism.”

Narrated by four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris,* the documentary short follows two scientists searching for an elusive 50-million-year-old creature along the 12,000-foot-deep (3,650-meter-deep) mid-Atlantic ridge.

Written by Stephen and Alex Low, the narration for Volcanoes of the Deep Sea commits the cardinal sin of making a connection between human DNA and microbes inside undersea volcanoes.

It's unclear whether the owners of these same IMAX theaters would refrain from showing a “documentary” preaching creationism for fear of offending those who take scientific studies seriously.

Stephen Low movies

Among the Ottawa-born Stephen Low's other films are the following:

  • Super Speedway (2000).
  • Mark Twain's America in 3D (1998).
  • Across the Sea of Time (1995).
  • Titanica (1995).
  • Flight of the Aquanaut (1993).
  • The Last Buffalo (1990).

Ed Harris Oscar nominations

* Ed Harris' Academy Award nominations, three of which in the Best Supporting Actor category, were for:

Volcanoes of the Deep Sea image: Image Entertainment.

Stephen Low movies' info via the IMDb.


Michael Winterbottom 9 Songs quote via The Guardian.

Image of Margo Stilley and Kieran O'Brien in 9 Songs movie: Revolution Films, via cineplex.com.

9 Songs trailer: Palisades Pictures.

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