I have just come back from a pretty intense full immersion session in taboos, censorship and cinema hosted at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Yes, in the Czech Republic, right where Fifty Shades of Grey‘s sex symbol Jamie Dornan was presenting his latest film, Anthropoid. At this time of the year this city has a quite interesting multifaceted vibe: elderly people convene there for the thermal baths, but you can also easily party all night long or go for a stroll in the nice venues and meet iconic stars the like of Harvey Keitel and Udo Kier.
I had a very refreshing experience there, as always with the TorinoFilmLab Alumni Meetings. The topic for this year’s edition was “Provocative cinema – Addressing taboos, dealing with censors, generating debate and acting for change.” Having spent the past few months teaching a module on “Transgressive Culture” at Middlesex University, which is run by Dr Theresa Cronin at the School of Media and Performing Arts, the focus of the Meeting seemed an appropriate coincidence. So I felt I had to propose a case study focused on transgression and cinema.
I teamed up again with my friend and former Audience Design participant Juan Morali. This time we also had an amazing technological partner on board in the agency Sentisis, which works with big data and specialises in sentiment analysis and monitoring of online conversations in Spanish-speaking countries.
We focused on a topic that has proved a very popular theme across decades and film genres: cannibalism. We specifically analysed the buzz surrounding Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno and introduced the provisional findings of a study which considers viewers’ media habits, primary discussed assets in online conversations, preferred devices, as well as geo-localised insights on fans of the horror genre.
I framed our analysis within transgression as a promotional tool involving the wider film industry: festivals, niche distributors, academic approaches and fan communities. The aim of my talk “The Circuit of Excess: Film Industry, Taboos and Online Conversations” was to address transgression as a commodity and consider censorship and taboos within cinema mainly drawing on Mikita Brottman‘s analysis of the impact and legacy of “offensive films” such as Cannibal Holocaust, Faces of Death, Snuff and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
While on 9 July I discussed Roth’s mainstream horror paying homage to the cult Italian cannibal cycle, that same day TFL Alumnus Edwin presented his personal experience with Indonesian cinema and censorship. On the 10th Azize Tan, the director of the Istanbul Film Festival, explained why last April Turkish filmmakers pulled out their films over a censorship row. Finally, documentarist Peter Kerekes introduced us to his cinematic international exploration of censors as “manual workers”. Oh, of course we had plenty of nice food and drinks too, because TFL takes great care of its Alumni.