In a rare reversal, the MPAA’s Ratings Review Board voted 6-2 on Thursday to shift the rating of ThinkFilm’s “The Hip Hop Project” from R to PG-13.
Set for release May 11 in 15 cities, the film tells the story of a formerly homeless teenager who inspires a group of Gotham teens to transform their life stories into hip-hop-driven works of art.
The MPAA has come under fire in the past couple of years over the nearly 40-year-old ratings system. Topper Dan Glickman has acknowledged, for example, that the NC-17 rating has not operated as it was intended — as a fully integrated filter for mainstream adult content.
Think execs and those behind “Hip-Hop” likened it to “Gunner Palace,” the 2005 Iraq war doc that depicted young soldiers’ tours of duty. It likewise garnered a reversal to PG-13 despite containing 30 variations on the f-word. Typically, more than two kicks any pic into R territory.
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“This motion picture is a call to end the destructive forces of violence, misogyny and criminality that dominate the music our children are listening to,” said director Matt Ruskin. “This is the first film to show an alternative that is positive, growth-oriented and honest in a way that is accessible to young people. The overwhelming majority of parents, educators and medical professionals who have seen this film have told us that they are desperate to provide their children with this model for change.”
Chris “Kazi” Rolle, founder of the Hip Hop Project, said the filmmakers appealed the rating because teens are the film’s most essential audience demo.
“Just as I didn’t have a parent to take me to the movies when I was a teenager,” he said, “many of the young people who would benefit most from this film would have been denied access if the R rating stood.”