Hollywood’s is a history rife with offensive films, political controversy and reactionary self-censorship.
The world reacted with great sorrow and regret today as Sony Pictures announced it would be cancelling all screenings of The Interview, the clever, sophisticated political comedy about how James Franco and Seth Rogan attempt to assassinate North Korean president Kim Jong-un. Cinephiles are surely weeping over this great loss to the American film canon. Franco and Rogen will have to find some way to console themselves over this agonizing blow to their artistic repertoire, perhaps by rolling around in the piles and piles of money they will make from the movie anyway.
If there are worries this might have a chilling effect on future film production, they’ve been justified. It looks like another North Korean-related film project, this one starring Steve Carell, has been tabled indefinitely. Still, this isn’t the first time a film project has been shut down over concerns about its contents. Hollywood’s is a history rife with offensive films, political controversy and reactionary self-censorship. Here are three films that were too contentious to be screened:
Alfred Hitchcock’s Memory of the Camps
The footage collected for Hitchcock’s legendary Holocaust documentary was reportedly so gruesome and horrifying it left the filmmaker “traumatized”. It was originally concieved as a joint production by the British and American governments, who intended to use it to broadcast the atrocities committed by the Nazis. But it took so long to finish that they eventually put a kibosh on the whole thing, fearful that its contents would hinder reconstruction and reconciliation in post-war Germany. The footage was collecting dust at the Imperial War Museum for more than 40 years before it was rediscovered.
Walt Disney’s Song of the South
Racist tropes and stereotypes pervade many of Disney’s older films, but one film was so offensive it was locked away, unseen, for a couple of decades. Song of the South depicted, according to Slate, “Uncle Remus and his fellow smilin’, Massah-servin’ black folk”. Although the film premiered in Atlanta (where James Baskett, who plays Uncle Remus, reportedly couldn’t attend because of segregation laws), Disney never released it on home video in the United States, fearing the backlash it would create.
Keith Allens’s Unlawful Killing
This documentary about the death of Princess Diana, her partner Dodi Fayed offers up a sensational investigation into the car crash that killed them. Financed by Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, the film trades on all kinds of salacious rumors about the royal family and slings a number of accusations at them, including one that implicates them in a cover-up of Diana’s death. Although the film premiered at Cannes, it was denied certification to screen in the U.K. and could not find a U.S. distributor. Lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic said the film carried too much risk.