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Showstoppers! Police Axe Anti-War Film

Jo Makepeace | 21.03.2008 20:24

Yet another below the belt blow to civil liberties was struck by the Sussex Plod this Monday. The long-awaited world premier of SchMOVIES ‘On The Verge’- the cinematic debut of the Smash Edo campaign - was cancelled after police intervention. In the days that followed, across the country venues due to show the film on the forthcoming tour have received visits from the police and licensing authorities keen to stop screenings.

Early on Monday evening, the SchNEWS crew were squeezing into our tuxedoes and ballgowns ready for the red carpet reception at local independent cinema the Duke of York’s (DoY). But barely had the first champagne cork been popped when we received a call to tell us the show was cancelled. The cinema had been contacted at 4.15pm by environmental health officer, Martin New, claiming that as the film does not have an official BBFC classification, the DoY would be in breach of their licence if the screening went ahead. The timing left the cinema with no option but to cancel. According to one source, the police then phoned the cinema and warned them that they should “bolt the doors” as these protesters were “extremely violent” and likely to try and force entry! One manager said the decision to question the film’s classification this way “was virtually unprecedented in my experience”.

Yer ever-good-in-a-crisis SchNEWS crew swiftly relocated the showing to a local pub, where around 140 people (over two screenings) were able to watch the ‘illicit’ film.


The next day, local rag the Argus ran the story as front page news: “Anti-war movie banned by council at the last minute”. They quoted top cop Chief Inspector Lawrence Taylor denying any police involvement in the sting, saying, “We would never get involved with the certification of a film – it is not something we do. It was as much a surprise to us as anyone else”. Well it must have then come as a real surprise when, the next day, B&H council’s press office confirmed that the police had in fact called them up and prompted their action.

Swiftly back-tracking, Sussex Police pinned the blame on a mysterious ‘junior officer’ (and inadvertently admitted they don’t bother knowing the law regarding showing films!): “Brighton and Hove Police were aware that ‘On The Verge’ was being shown at the Duke of York cinema. However, we do not become involved in, nor do we have knowledge of, the law relating to film certification. That is a matter for Brighton & Hove City Council. However, a junior officer, who is not based in the city, alerted the city council to the showing and they advised the cinema of its responsibilities.”. So either Lawrence Taylor was lying or his rank-and-file are showing a little more initiative than usual.

Whoever the ‘junior officer’ is, it seems she/he’s been pretty busy organising a coordinated clampdown on the film. By this afternoon venues due to show the film across the country were receiving visits from the police. Staff at the Arthouse Community Cafe in Bedford Place, Southampton were approached at 11am by police and licensing officers. Threats were made concerning their licensing if the film, due to be shown on Thursday night was screened. Jani Franck of the Community Cafe said, “I grew up in South Africa and this feels awfully familiar. This has nothing to do with protecting the public - this is nothing but censorship”.

As SchNEWS goes to press, the first tour venues in Bath, Southampton, Oxford and Chichester have all been visited and leaned on to pull the plug.

Classifications for similar independent films are not normally an issue – especially for private showings where no money changes hands (and with official BBFC certifications costing up to a grand, it would kill any local independent no-budget film making). Given that there is no swearing or nudity in the film, and that the only violence in the film is at the hands of Sussex police, offences against public morals are unlikely. But in an unusual bout of sensitivity towards the public, police decided that although it’s OK to violently attack protesters, it might disturb members of the public were they to see it on film.

Steve Bishop of SchMovies told us exclusively “We’re not exactly surprised by the police action. Yeah, the film doesn’t have a certificate but since when has this applied to productions with a budget of under five hundred quid! What next, a PG certificate for yer wedding video? The only reason they want to ban this is ‘cuz it shows ‘em in a bad light.”

* Want to see the film they tried (are trying) to ban? People are re-arranging showings in many of the towns – for more info check out or local Indymedia postings.

* Interested in putting on a screening, e-mail:

* View the trailer at

Jo Makepeace
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familiar story....

22.03.2008 18:48

This reminds me of a few years ago at Conway Hall when a screening (the Premier too I believe) of "Injustice" (film about police brutality and deaths in custody) was threatened by the Mets lawyers. Conway Hall decided they couldn't risk being sued by the Met and pulled the plug at the last minute.
By then it was too late - the hall was full, including many relatives of people featured in the film who were killed by the Met. We all demanded to watch it, two of the bigger members of the crowd then took control of the projector and ensured that none of the staff stopped the reel rolling - and the film was shown. F#cking brilliant.

Hopefully Sussex Plods stupid actions will only help publicise the film and as a result it will reach a wider audience....


in manchester too...

22.03.2008 22:14

cops turned up in force when Injustice was to be screened at manchesters Cornerhouse cinema too and the cornershouse pulled out an hour before the showing, scared of being sued and loosing funding. luckily at the time manc activists had a large squat around the corner...

3 or 4 police vans full of disgruntled cops sat outside the building as 100s were squeezed inside to watch the film in a makeshift cinema-lounge.

in manchester too...

still on in Bath

23.03.2008 10:47

We are still showing the film in bath. The new venue is Friends meeting house, near Abbey courtyard, showing at 7.30 on tuesday the 25th. The more the merrier.

Bath Activist Network underground film distro squad
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