Wed Dec 16 03:22:28 EST 1998
>Personally, I'm a bit at loss with Customs. Last year, most distribs said
>Customs wouldn't do much trouble anymore, and that Eirin was more serious
>I can't place the Wakayama Fest's incident with that, however, in which a
>shot of Chinese workers in a shower in a documentary on Dutch rule in
>censored for displaying genitalia, whereas a shot of dancing natives doing
>same was not (I hope I get this right, I was only told this story).
I don't get the impression Customs is that incomprehensible. They are
much more open to pubic hair, but I think they still draw the line at
most representations of genetalia (this makes male frontal nudity
problematic, maybe more so than female).
Udo may not have seen my previous post mentioning this incident (forgive
me for posting sections of it again):
"Remember that censorship is done in Japan by three organizations: Eirin,
the police, and Customs. You are asking about customs and, if you are
looking at it historically, Customs has tended to be the most liberal of
the three--if you can believe that! Thus Customs started allowing pubic
hair in "artistic" films before Eirin or the police technically did.
That does not mean that they allow anything: another person cited the
Yamagata incident (it was in fact the film _Mother Dao_ and the scene
cited was a section from prewar black-and-white film showing Chinese
laborers showering. Their genitals were a no-no even though there was
absolutely nothing sexual about it. This despite the fact they allowed
another scene with aborigines showing their genitals--apparently
aborigines are close enough to animals (whose genitals can be shown) to
be allowed!), but Markus can tell you about Customs once stopping Stan
Brakhage's _Window Water Baby Moving_ because female genitalia were shown
(in a pre-birth scene).
In general, then, full frontal nudity is frowned upon if it is male. If
it is female, they now usually pass it if it is not overtly sexual and
genitalia can not be seen.
If you are worried about prosecution, Customs usually does not do that
unless it is a clear case of mass importation for sale. If they catch
something minor, they usually just confiscate it or send it back.
Image Forum doesn't get into trouble with their showings, first, because
it is not a member of Eirin (Eirin only regulates member
organizations--you thus don't have to worry about them), and, second,
because historically the police only care about obscene materials that
reach the "mass public." They rarely (though there are exceptions) crack
down on small avant-garde groups that only have tiny audiences in the
To Joss again:
I would agree with Udo that you should talk with people with experience
in this matter: Image Forum, Uplink, Stance, etc. You might also want to
talk with avant-garde artists in your area, especially those in other
media who use nudity, to find out what the attitude of local police is
there. But in general, as I said above, I think most police will ignore
such small screenings for a specialized audience, especially if it's only
an occasional affair. If you get a reputation as someplace that shows
such things, that is another matter.
The case of other media entering film is an interesting one because
historically, censorship has treated cinema differently from the other
arts: even something legal in one medium frequently receives stricter
treatment in film. There haven't been many recent cases involving such
cross-media representations, but there was the example of a Robert Kramer
film that was supposed to be shown at the 1997 Tokyo International Film
Festival: it featured some scenes from a porn film, used quite
criticially, but Customs said no to such images even though they had an
agreement with the TIFF to pass films to be shown there (the TIFF totally
gave in to Customs and refused to back up Kramer).
But my general feeling is that you will have no problems. Much worse
stuff has been shown all around Japan at experimental film screenings
with no problems. Maybe someone has better information, but I don't
recall in my readings of postwar censorship of cases of prosecution or
arrest for avant-garde film showings.
Yokohama National University
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