Although filmmaker Travis Mathews's I Want Your Love has been receiving critical praise at film festivals for the past year, and now is at the end of its festival run, the Australian Classication Board has banned it from being screened anywhere in the country.
It was all set to screen at queer festivals in Australia, beginning with the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and then going on to Sydney's Queer Screen and the Brisbane Queer Film Festival.
Lisa Daniel, director of the Melbourne fest, was shocked by the decision and has organized a petition which will be presented to the board Monday, March 4, and asked Mathews to issue a statement. "With my films I have always sought to capture honest and intimate depictions of modern gay life with everyday men," Mathews wrote in the director's statement. For his first feature, "this involved a throughline of intimacy and that meant not shying away from sex." He uses sex as "as a tool to show character development, interpersonal issues, intimacy, playfulness and something overall closer to the reality I'm familiar with."
Bruce LaBruce's LA Zombiehad previously been banned by the Australian Classification Board, but it had a "reason" for it, stating that the film, which starred adult film star Francois Sagat, involved gratuitous sex and violence. The graphic zombie porno film is decidedly different from Mathews's story of love in San Francisco that includes what Jain Moralee, director of Queer Screen, describes as a six-minute montage of friends, housemates, and partygoers that is part of the narrative context of the film. She went on to describe Mathews as a filmmaker who explores the line between narrative and documentary.
"I think the Australian Classification Board made the decision based on the synopsis, not having seen the film, saying it's gratuitous," Mathews explains. "I could argue against it, but it feels like a trap. This is a larger issue that an adult viewing audience should be able to make up their own mind about this." The Age reports that Mathews was already on the Classification Board radar since "one of the films from his documentary series, In Their Room: Berlin, was due to screen at the Mardi Gras Film Festival last year, but was not granted an exemption."
Mathews recently presented his latest film--Interior. Leather Bar., a collaboration with James Franco--is "about censorship, and boundaries, and sex as a storytelling tool," Mathews explains, so he contacted Franco, who is starring in Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful, and he created a video response. In the two-minute video, Franco addresses the fact that he thinks it's a "disappointment" that the board banned the film from an adult viewing audience, something that could happen to Interior. Leather Bar. He goes on to say "Sex is a big part of our lives" and should be used to tell the stories of people's lives.
Although it appears Australian is acting in a pointed way against Mathews, I Want Your Love can't truly be banned luckily. It's currently available for DVD and VOD as of today.
Watch the full video response of Franco to the Australian