While the decency wars continue to rage in Washington, the MPAA has okayed the most profane PG-13 pic ever.
Palm Pictures won its appeal Thursday of the original R rating given to Iraq war docu “Gunner Palace.” Pic is the Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein-helmed docu following U.S. soldiers living in a bombed-out palace formerly owned by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday.
“Palace” was picked up by Palm last year at the Toronto Film Festival via the Submarine and Cinetic Media sales banners.
“Palace” contains no gory footage, but the docu does contain numerous instances of soldiers cursing, including the words “fuck,” “shit” and “asshole.”
Officially pic will be released rated PG-13 “on appeal for strong language throughout, violent situations and some drug references.”
Palm argued that teens considering enlisting should be able to get an honest sense of what war zones are like, violence, profanity and all.
Last summer, the producers and distribs of “Fahrenheit 9/11” made a nearly identical but unsuccessful case to appeal their R rating.
One witness to the “Palace” proceedings said that the appeal session was an intense one, with some board members actually tearing up over the decision.
“In these times, language has become a volatile political issue,” said Palm marketing topper Andy Robbins in a statement. “We are pleased that the MPAA chose to view the language of the American troops in the context of their situation. They are at war.”
Most incidents in which the expletives are used occur in combat situations or in scenes in which the soldiers are shown blowing off steam by freestyle rapping. The words do not appear in the docu’s interviews.
While violence, sexuality or drug use alone can land films an R rating, they are usually difficult to quantify, while the use of profanity is easy to count.
In the case of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” four uses of the word “motherfucker” (in a heavy metal song sung by a soldier) were said to be the main sticking point for the appeals board of the Classification and Ratings Administration, the branch of the Motion Picture Assn. of America which assigns film ratings.
The ratings system does not follow a precedent system — Cara rules expressly forbid distribs from referencing other films in their appeals — but the “Palace” decision is likely to create informal pressure for raters to be more lenient on language in other films.
Though the ratings guidelines allow for wide discretion, sources familiar with the ratings process say the number of profanities used often determines ratings.
For instance, one “fuck” will automatically get you a PG-13. Two will usually get you an R, though some films with two F-words have sometimes gone out PG-13. Three or more, as with “Palace,” has always been an R.
The appeals board voted 9 to 3 to reverse its original decision. Last year, 12 films appealed their ratings and three were overturned, including “Hotel Rwanda,” which had originally been rated R for violence.
The actual ratings guidelines use quantity but provide the board huge loopholes: “More one such expletive must lead the rating board to issue a film an R rating, as must even one of these words used in a sexual context. These films can be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote the rating board feels a lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of parents.”
While the rating board is comprised of parents, the appeals board is drawn from the entertainment industry.
Pic is skedded to be released on March 4.