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Friday, October 30, 1998 Published at 08:46 GMT


Ferman: 'The power of religion is there'

James Ferman is Director of the British Board of Film Classification.

When the board makes a decision on a film, the BBFC director has the casting vote.

Mr Ferman is known as the man who refused to let Britain watch the The Exorcist on home video.

Here are his reasons:

"The problem with the Exorcist is not that it's a bad film, it's that its a very good film - one of the most powerful films ever made, and it's that power which is a problem on video.

The amended video recordings Act says the BBFC should have special regard to the harm that could be caused to potential viewers - because of the manner in which a video deals with, among other things, horror.

The Exorcist is of particular interest to young teenagers because its protagonist is 12 years old.

A lot of teenage girls are going to want to see it and will identify with Regan, who is subjected to probably the most intense terrorisation on film.

We know that when The Exorcist came out there were a lot of traumatised teenage girls being helped out of the cinema.

We consulted two child psychiatrists who said the film is in their view extraordinarily powerful, particularly to young teenage girls who were susceptible to being convinced that evil is a real presence in the world.

We also know that religious imagery is powerful for girls around 12 to 15.

Most people who practise religion talk about an all seeing benevolent God; few any longer talk about a force of evil.

[ image: Sex and religion disturbing for 12 year old girls]
Sex and religion disturbing for 12 year old girls
But this film treats it seriously, because Blatty was writing a religious book which Friedkin made into one of the great horror films.

The power of religion is there: it's not a Freddy Krueger; its doesn't operate on that shoddy, superficial level.

Our problem therefore has nothing to do with thinking there's anything wrong with the film.

I think it's a wonderful film for adults. But video is a different medium and there are some films we think are not very suitable for viewing at home. And I don't believe in cutting very good films just to get them on to video.

We've gone through periods when all the examiners have seen The Exorcist and written reports and many of those reports say the film is simply too powerful and too scary, though some examiners have argued that it's time to pass it.

We now have a completely new set of examiners and a new president, who has the casting vote.

All we can do is make the best decision we can this week. But I can't vouch for what might happen next year."

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