Films that Provoked National Controversy

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In the last century, films proved to be a powerful and effective medium to entertain and educate people on different topics. The topics of a film are not always consensual to the public and some films provoke criticism, prejudice and even national controversies. Some of these films deal with sensitive issues and spark massive complaints, threats, and boycotts. In what follows, we’ll review the films that provoked national controversy, their significance and their influence on society.

Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation is a silent movie created in 1915 and directed by D.W. Griffith, considered one of the most controversial films of all time. It tells the story of a post-American Civil War, dealing with the Reconstruction era, presenting an intense glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. With a racist message and historically inaccurate, the film provoked a strong reaction from the entire nation. Politicians, newspapers and even Hollywood condemned the movie because of its content. Since then, Birth of a Nation remains an iconic movie in American history.

The Last Temptation of Christ

Martin Scorsese’s 1988 movie The Last Temptation of Christ stirred up an enormous debate between religious groups, intellectuals and the media. The film followed the struggles of Jesus, who was torn between his dedication and will to do the Father’s will and living a complete human life by fulfilling sexual desires and find a companion.

The Last Temptation of Christ caused anti-Semitic and anti-Christian reactions in many countries, with multiple protests and even violent attacks. The film provoked boycotts, with Catholic organizations encouraging people not to see the movie. Scorsese was persecuted by religious organizations, making it difficult for him to continue producing movies in the US.

The Last Temptation of Christ is an important milestone in cinematic history, as it is still inspiring conversations among the public and filmmakers.

The Passion of the Christ

In 2004, Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ and by only the title alone, it was a guaranteed cause of religious tension in different countries. The Passion accompanies Jesus in the last 12 hours of his life on earth, closely depicting ancient torture and execution, with a great amount of religious symbolism.

The Passion stirred various reactions from people who were enthralled by the movie, including fantastic financial successes, as well as serious criticism. Several universities, scholars and members of the clergy criticized Gibson’s negative representation of Jews and the Jewish faith. The criticism included statements by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who stated that Gibson’s The Passion had “significant and troubling defects”, particularly its “excessive graphic violence” and “the depiction of Jews in an unchristian manner”.

The Last House on the Left

The Last House on the Left is a 1972 American horror movie directed by Wes Craven. It portrays a brutal rape, torture and killing of a teenage girl and her friend by a Florida gang. The film was harshly criticized for its violence, being censored and edited in several countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. In Germany, it was completely banned.

The religious and censorial nature of the film caused a massive national controversy in the US and other countries, with the audience and the media expressing their outrage. Furthermore, the moral implications of the movie became the subject of debates on ethical questions.

Last Tango in Paris

The 1972 movie Last Tango in Paris by Bernardo Bertolucci has long been considered a timeless classic. The movie follows the story of a middle-aged widower and a young woman who randomly meet and become intimate. The scenes were simulated and included explicit depiction of body fluids, nudity, sadomasochism and rape.

When the film was released, it once again created a strong sense of shock among the general public, with the question of vulgarity being at the center of the controversy. In particular, the Catholic Church strongly denounced the movie, mainly for its explicit sexual content. Several countries banned its distributors from showing the movie and it was highly criticized in Italy.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Monty Python’s 1979 film Life of Brian deals with a satirical figure that is mistaken as the messiah. It also draws heavily on contemporary themes such as religious practice and faith, a mix of politics and funny characters. The movie was banned in several countries, particularly in Ireland and Norway and provoked a strong reaction from religious groups, who accused it of irreverence.

Due to the religious themes and the risk of blasphemy charges and the offended feelings of some religious groups, the British Board of Film was hesitant to grant Life of Brian with an approval for its release. After a long battle, the movie was eventually released and went on to become a classic movie and an iconic film of comedic history all around the world.

While films have been and will always be a powerful tool to educate and entertain viewers all around the world, we have seen that some films do manage to create a strong sense of shock and national controversy. This can result in boycotts, bans, and even violence. The films mentioned in this article demonstrate that the power of films is immense and it can transport audiences to different worlds and times, inspiring debates in the real world.

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