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 Wednesday, 25 December, 2002, 18:27 GMT
Film censor Ferman dies
James Ferman
James Ferman was seen as controversial
The former film censor James Ferman has died at the age of 72 after being admitted to hospital with acute pneumonia.

He passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve after being admitted to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.

During his 24 years as director of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) he was frequently criticised for being too ready to pass controversial films.

I knew what this job would be from the first day, and I rather enjoy the crossfire

James Ferman
When he stepped down in 1999, the man who described himself as "a film lover as well as a film buff" advised his successor Robin Duval to get hold of a flak jacket.

While head of the BBFC he passed controversial films such as Crash, Lolita and The Last Temptation of Christ.

But he also demanded 24 cuts in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before he would give it the certificate PG, allowing children to see it.

Some of the sternest criticism of Mr Ferman came when he expressed support for having explicit pornography legally available in licensed sex shops.

Explicit material

He said this would allow the authorities to concentrate on violent material and child pornography arriving in the country.

But his critics in family and religious groups said any moves to liberalisation would increase demand for even more explicit material.

Dominique Swain in Lolita
James Ferman passed the controversial film Lolita
He was also said to have paved the way for the passing of art house films with explicit sex scenes such as The Idiots and Intimacy, as well as sex and violence as in the recent Baise-Moi.

In 1994, Mr Ferman declared that it was impossible to stop youngsters seeing violent and pornographic material on television.

Although he said he was not surprised by newspaper stories of children imitating violence they saw, the censor denied there was any link between the murder of toddler James Bulger and the video Child's Play 3.

War glamorised

One of the last controversial decisions he took was to grant a 15 certificate to the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan, despite its gruesome depiction of the Normandy landings.

"We felt that it told the truth about war and we didn't want war glamorised for teenagers," he said.

Mr Ferman was thought by some to enjoy the controversy he caused, and he admitted he welcomed much of the criticism.

"I knew what this job would be from the first day, and I rather enjoy the crossfire, actually," he said in March 1998.

"I find it quite stimulating. Frankly, the job has such power that we need to be shot at. Someone with a powerful position in the media needs to be questioned by the public."

See also:

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