MELBOURNE, Australia—In July, the Australian Film Classifications Board decided that an independent movie in which gay alien zombies invade Los Angeles was not suitable for viewing, and banned it from the country despite the fact that the Board had been provided a version that contained no explicit anally penetrative sex.
AVN’s G. Zisk Rice wrote at the time, “According to the censors, director Bruce LaBruce’s campy horror flick L.A. Zombie violates ‘local taste standards’ by implying sex with corpses. The film, scheduled to screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival Aug. 7 and 8, instead will debut Aug. 5 at the Locarno International Film Festival in Sweden and then head to a September festival in Toronto.”
According to Rice, “Popular French gay porn star Francois Sagat stars in L.A. Zombie as a schizophrenic alien who believes having sex with the dead will bring them back to life. Rocco Giovanni, Wolf Hudson, Eddie Diaz, Andrew James, Mathew Rush, Erik Rhodes, Francesco D’Macho and Adam Killian also are featured.”
Notwithstanding the ban—actually, because of it—the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) screened the flick in August anyway. The festival organizer, filmmaker Richard Wolstencroft said the decision to do so was made because it the movie is “artistically significant and also as a general stand against the often conservative and regressive decisions made by the Classification Board.”
It turns out that decision had repercussions, albeit a few months after the fact. Last Thursday, police raided Wolstencroft’s home in Melbourne, apparently looking for a copy of the film. According to the New York Times, however, he said he’d already destroyed it.
Friday, he expressed his concern that if charged with a crime, he could be prevented from traveling to the United States for work, and questioned the suspicious timing of the raid, so close to upcoming elections.
"Why was [the raid] delayed six weeks," he told ABC News Online. ”Why was I not charged two days later? Why did they not come to the screening and let me know they had a problem and then we could have avoided this situation altogether.
"I just think the timing of this is interesting,” he added. “Two weeks before the Victorian election ... I'd like to look at the politics behind it—why this has happened at this moment."
Wolstencroft’s legal fears are not unfounded. Police, who say the home was raided "in relation to exhibiting and possessing an unclassified film," said that Wolstencroft can expect to face charges sometime in the future.
Still, the festival organizer’s comments to ABC indicate that he expected some sort of police reaction at the time of the screening.
"We were waiting for [police] to turn up; we had a stand-by film we were going to play as a replacement film," he said.
When no one did show up, he figured he was in the clear. The arrival of three officers Thursday revealed he was wrong. Not only did they search for the banned film, he said they threatened to remove all of his personal DVDs—approximately 10,000 in total—including works in progress. It only made the filmmaker all the more outraged.
“"They threatened to take all this and obviously it would be held up for six months. It was just ridiculous,” he said.
In the aftermath, Wolstencroft’s anger has moved him to embrace actual politics by publicly backing the Australian Sex Party in the Victorian election.
Speaking at the launch of the party’s Victoria campaign on Sunday, the director said, "The Australian Sex Party, I think, stands up for freedom of speech and libertarian ideals.
“If you don't have a free society I don't think you have a democracy," he added.
In July, Sex Party President and candidate for the Northern Metro region, Fiona Patten, had come out swinging when word reached her that the Film Commission had banned L.A. Zombie.
“Our whole system here is broken,” she told GAYVN.com. “[Australian retailers sell] thousands of explicit films featuring Francois [Sagat], but it is his zombie film that gets banned. Only in third-world countries and Australia do zombie films like this get effectively banned from film festivals.”
Wolstencroft’s comments on the heels of the raid were in complete accord with Patten’s. "There is no way this film should be banned. It's a major work of art," he said. "I've seen video installations at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the National Gallery in Canberra that have been more offensive, more outrageous. If this was playing in a gallery, there is no way the police would come anywhere near it."
We expect there will be some lively debate in Victoria as the campaign progresses, especially if, or rather when, candidates are asked to weigh in on the gay alien zombie controversy.