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Friday, July 07, 2006

Extreme Film Research

From Extreme Film Research:

What is the purpose of our research?

The issue of sexual violence on screen is inevitably controversial. It is something on which many people hold strong views. But it is a topic on which there is far more opinion than reliable knowledge. Perhaps the most common view is that it is obvious what these films do: “Filmed sexual violence frightens and debases women. And it risks arousing men to violence.” If this were right, then the only remaining questions would be: how much harm is done, and how much should be done to control it?

To date, there have really only been two kinds of research. Either researchers have polled the general public for their views on what should be allowed or not allowed. Or they have done laboratory research, to see what impact such films might have on a randomly chosen set of people who are shown such a film – or even, just a part of a film.

We aren’t satisfied with this. And one main reason is that these kinds of research don’t hear from the people who choose to watch these sorts of films for themselves. We just don’t know who watches these films, where and why they see them, what they see in them, and how they respond to them.

This is what we are trying to do here. We want to gather the thoughts and responses of people who have chosen to see these films of their own accord. You may have seen them for all kinds of reasons. You may have had all kinds of responses to them, from really loving them to outright loathing. We want to know why. And, of course, you may have quite opposed views on the different films.

This research project is being funded by the British Board of Film Classification (with further support from our University at Aberystwyth). The five films in question are all ones over which they had long debates. In each case there were scenes involving sexual violence on which they had to make difficult decisions: whether to cut, what to cut? In making these decisions, they are partly governed by legal requirements. But also they have to make judgements about the films, and make interpretations about the place of the sexual violence within them. To do this, they take what help they can get from available research.

The research that is available doesn’t begin to answer all of the BBFC’s questions. For example, how does the context in which sexual violence is shown affect people’s understanding of it, and response to it? What impact do their own cuts have on the ways people see these films? They are funding this project because we showed them that there were ways to find out.

But although the BBFC are funding the research, we control it. Good research depends upon a clear separation between the interests of a funding body and the research itself. The BBFC have guaranteed us that we have absolute control over the methods and findings, and that we can publish the outcomes in full – whatever they show. We promise that we will do this. In previous work, we have not been afraid to be critical of claims and arguments that we considered to be driven by moral or political claims, rather than by convincing evidence. Right now, on this topic, we don’t have any view at all, because we don’t yet have the evidence. That is what this project is aiming to produce.

So, please, help us to get answers about these challenging films. Whether you like or hate them … whether you approve or disapprove of them … tell us about your thoughts and responses to any of these five films that you have seen. We will make sure that the findings of the research are widely available, including via this website, for as long as we can retain it. Otherwise, we will make sure that our own websites (at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth) point you to where you can read the results.

The Films:

À Ma Soeur /Fat Girl (2001)
Irreversible (2002)
Baise-Moi /Fuck Me (2002)
Koroshiya 1 /Ichi the Killer (2003)
La Casa Sperduta nel Parco /House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

Very interesting research so if you've seen any of these movies then head over to the site and fill in the questionnaires.

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