Earlier this week, the Edinburgh Film Festival cancelled a screening of Cockfighter, a 1974 film directed by Monte Hellman, which features lots of quite real, deadly cockfighting. The film was to be screened as part of a retrospective series of 1970s American alternative films from such directors as Arthur Penn, Hal Ashby, and Walter Hill. From the Times Online:
A spokeswoman for the board said that the film contravened the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 because the cockfighting scenes were organised for the purpose of filming. “There’s nothing the festival organisers could have done,” she said. “The Act makes it illegal to show any scene which was organised or directed for the purpose of the film involving actual cruelty to animals. If you cut the cockfighting scenes from Cockfighter it doesn’t have anything in it.”
While I’d certainly object to Cockfighter being made today, I wonder how helpful it is to ban the showing of a 32-year old movie. I also suspect that the ban would not apply if this were a documentary, rather than a work of fiction.
Cockfighter was replaced in the festival lineup by Hellman’s Two Lane Blacktop (which has the distiction of being the only worthwhile work of art involving James Taylor).