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BOARD RULES ‘BASTARD’ OUT OF CANADA

MONTREAL — Anjelica Huston’s controversial directorial debut, “Bastard Out of Carolina,” which has already raised the ire of Ted Turner, has been banned in the three Maritime provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The Maritime Film Classification Board ruled that the pic about child abuse contravened the board’s guidelines, mainly due to a scene near the end of the film which graphically depicts the rape of a young girl.

Montreal-based distrib Cinepix Film Properties, which has TV and vid rights to “Bastard Out of Carolina” in Canada, is appealing the board’s decision to ban the film, and is presently awaiting a response from the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission, the provincial ministry which oversees the classification board. Cinepix is launching the “Bastard” video across Canada April 29, the same day BMG Video plans to roll out the vid in the U.S. Cinepix has yet to sell the pic to a Canadian broadcaster or cable outlet.

“It’s an outrage if this film cannot be seen,” said Jeff Sackman, executive VP of Cinepix. “This is not an exploitation film. It’s an important film, and the public is being denied the right to decide for themselves. How can hard-core pornography be allowed and this film be banned? It makes no sense.”

The three Maritime provinces represent between 10% and 12% of the Canadian market, Sackman said, adding that the ban would make a significant dent in the company’s profits from the video release.

The biggest problem is the rape scene, said Cedric MacLeod, program administration officer at the Maritime Film Classification Board. “It really didn’t fit any of our classifications except prohibition,” MacLeod said. “There are scenes in it that go against our guidelines. It was a very difficult decision to make. It’s a very powerful film. It’s one that makes you think.”

“Bastard Out of Carolina,” based on the novel by Dorothy Allison, stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ron Eldard and Dermot Mulroney in the story of a young girl who is constantly abused both sexually and physically by her mother’s boyfriend. It had its preem at the Cannes fest last year, screened at the Toronto Film Festival (where Cinepix picked up Canadian rights) and aired on Showtime in the U.S. It was originally slated to run on Turner’s TNT web, but the media mogul decided not to air the graphic film.

The ban has received national media attention in Canada, with Huston appearing on all-news web Newsworld on Tuesday night, and it has helped spur increased interest in the video launch. Cinepix had already announced that it will give $5 from the sale of each cassette to the Kids Help Line, which provides aid for victims of abuse.

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