Page last updated at 17:40 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Anger at disabled film 'warning'

The film censor's advisory note
Disabled actors and audiences said the advisory note was offensive

A film that stars disabled actors has caused controversy because it was given a 12A rating warning viewers that disabled people were featured in it.

Special People, which was largely shot in Worcestershire, is one of the first movies to use disabled lead actors, its director has said.

But its stars said it was unfair they were singled out by an advisory note.

The British Board of Film Classification said the advisory notice was withdrawn following complaints.

It said it had issued similar advisory notes on other disability-themed films previously.

'Compelling reason'

Although the note was withdrawn by the board on 3 November, the film makers said it was too late to change their publicity material.

Director Justin Edgar, who is originally from Handsworth, in Birmingham, said: "It premiered last night and we have already had complaints from the actors and some disability groups in the audience who were angry about the advisory note warning people that disabled actors were used.

Special People film director Justin Edgar
Mr Edgar said he was one of the first to cast disabled actors as the leads

"You don't get films with black people or women being categorised in this way, so why do it for films with disabled people in them?"

The movie was predominantly shot in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire and part-financed by the regional film agency Screen West Midlands.

Lee Thomas, the agency's executive producer said: "We provided 80,000 towards the costs of the film.

"They were bold enough to cast disabled actors and that was a compelling reason why we wanted to fund it.

"I don't understand the motivation for the advisory note.

"First and foremost it's a warm and moving comedy, there are characters in it and some of those actors, ground-breakingly, are disabled actors, but it's not something to be cautioning audiences about."

'Strong language'

The film recently won an award at the Moscow Disability Film Festival and was also a top three contender for the People's Choice award at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

A spokesman for the British Board of Film Classification said: "It was not in any way singling Special People out by the use of disability in the consumer advice.

"In the case of Special People, the use of strong sexual language placed the film on the '12A' / '15' borderline, but the board took into account the intentions of the filmmaker and what we considered to be the educational value of the film and awarded it a '12A' rating which would significantly increase the film's potential audience."

It said it had previously used the phrase "disability theme" for its classification of Flesh and Blood, in 2007, and in Australian TV comedy Summer Heights High which carried the following consumer advice - "contains moderate references to sex and disability".

The spokesman said: "In neither case were there any complaints about the use of the term from either the distributor, or the public."

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