After Dark Films has caused quite a stir in the past week with their billboard campaign for academy award nominee Roland Joffe’s foray into the psychological thriller genre.

   Captivity is the new film being released by After Dark in association with Lionsgate. According to After Dark’s Courtney Solomon, artwork files were accidentally approved, went to the printers and sprung up all over Los Angeles while 1400 taxi ads went up in New York. None of these ads were sanctioned and approved by the MPAA or Lionsgate themselves. Is this an oversight or an ‘oops’ by the powers that be?

   As Borat might say, “Oops…NOT!”

   The MPAA became an entity in 1968 and is made up of 10-13 full-time members that serve varying lengths of time. This group consists of a chairman, a chairman of the rating board and other people that have levels of experience in parenthood.

   Experience in parenting, huh?

   How the process works…lets rate a film together!

   A film is submitted by a signatory studio and is viewed by the MPAA’s members. They watch it from a parent’s standpoint. Factors that contribute to a rating are:





   Adult Topics

   Drug Use

   Let’s break this down even further and pick apart some films and how they’re rated.



   Showgirls came out in the fall of 1995. A critical bomb that contained our ‘Saved by the Bell’ girl Elizabeth Berkley and was rated NC-17. I don’t think this film needs much explaining for its graphic sexual content.


   Darren Lynn Bousman’s critically praised and box-office smash, Saw III, was submitted a rumored seven times before it received its “R” rating. There were no drugs or sex and very little harsh language contained in that film. Yes, there was blood and a lot of it. But the film had a tale of morality to it. Let’s compare Bousman’s film with a PG rated gem: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This was produced by Paramount Pictures and slapped with a mild PG rating. A family film, I think not. A kid falls into a river of chocolate milk, nearly drowns and is vaccuumed away. Charlie and his grandpa are nearly sucked into large spinning blades after indulging in “Fizzy Lifting Drinks”. A spoiled little girl is sent to the inincerators as she attempts to steal a golden egg. Willy himself sets asail into unchartered horrors of the mind as he chants a mind-numbing hymn and images of the macabre terrorize the people on board. Film scholars classify this as a horror film, not a family film. MPAA where are you?


   Be Cool was rated PG-13 and is the follow-up to 1995’s R-rated Get Shorty. One may ask what got Be Cool a cool as ice PG-13? John Travolta’s ‘Chili Palmer’ character discusses the rating system with James Woods in a car and says the word *uck only once. Get Shorty has that word throughout the film. According to MPAA guidelines, a film with the use of *UCK more than once will get an R rating. Who gave that word such a bad connotation? We may never know. A poem from the 1500’s…Flen Flyss first used the word in a satirical knock against the Friars of England. A false etymology of the word is the acronym of ‘Force Under Cardinal Knowledge’.


   Jaws. The 1975 summer blockbuster was rated a mild PG rating by the MPAA. That film scared the crap out of me. Poltergeist was also rated PG. From Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, produced and written by Spielberg himself.


   Why this controversy has surfaced?

   “One of the highest accolades to be conferred on the rating system is that from its birth in 1968 to this day, there has never been even the slightest jot of evidence that the rating system has deliberately fudged a decision or bowed to pressure.” Excerpt taken from

   Now in this CSI day and age, evidence is aplenty. I mentioned before that signatory companies submit their films to the MPAA which has no industry ties and is “unbiased” in their ‘parental friendly’ rating system. Paramount, Fox, Dreamworks, Sony, Universal, New Line Cinema, MGM and several other studios are “Signatory Studios”. Lionsgate is NOT a signatory studio. Neither is After Dark Films.

   What is a signatory studio?

   Truth be told, it’s a studio that pays the MPAA about $16,000,000.00 dollars a year to have their films rated. Sixteen million dollars is paid by the studio to the MPAA which has in its guidelines that the organization has never been influenced or pushed into rating a film a certain restriction. Where is the money going and why are the studios paying this?

   Grindhouse is opening April 6th and may possibly have a rating of NC-17 yet Tarantino has publicly acknowledged that he doesn’t want to make any cuts. A true pioneer of filmmaking, Tarantino has refused to join the DGA and Robert Rodriguez left the guild a couple years ago to film Sin City with another non-DGA affiliate, Frank Miller.

   Online chatter indicates that Captivity may have its trailer debut before Grindhouse in two weeks.

   What does all of this mean? A direct violation of our First Amendment-

   The MPAA needs to seriously re-evaluate their rating system. The First Amendment is in jeopardy. The debate rages as parental and women’s organizations are upset at the creative artwork promoting films like Captivity and Hostel: Part Two because the billboards are too close to schools or they’re depicting women in a bad light. Is there an end in sight?

   Let’s compare Captivity and The Hills Have Eyes 2. That film opens this weekend and is plagued with horrifying imagery of women being licked and raped by mutants. The billboard campaign shows a mutant dragging the body of someone across the rugged desert. ‘Hills’ is produced by Fox Atomic, a youth division of 20th Century Fox that caters to High School kids and is a signatory company which was given a simple ‘R’ rating.

   Captivity is directed by Roland Joffe, director of Robert De Niro’s The Mission and the celebrated 1980s film The Killing Fields. Both of these were nominated for Academy Awards. His new film chronicles the journey of a woman played by the beautiful Elisha Cuthbert, as she’s kidnapped, held captive and fights to survive against all odds. It’s a female empowering film that parallels the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1920s. Yet it’s being criticized and is being produced by a non-signatory company.

   To Pay or not to Pay the MPAA?

   There is a rumor that if the MPAA refuses to give Captivity a rating, the real battle will begin. Independent film studios will have the grand opportunity to shake up the Hollywood system and utilize the First Amendment that our forefathers gave us.

   It’s time for captive filmmakers to take back Hollywood from the suits and make films that evoke questions within our evolving society.

– Jack Reher