How long is a public expected to wait before it can see its national traumas depicted on the silver screen? Here in the U.S.A., that estimated time period seems to get shorter with each passing generation: While over a decade passed between the end of America’s involvement in Vietnam and the debut of Platoon, there was just a five-year gap between the 9/11 attacks and United 93, perhaps the most harrowing film of its sort ever made. (For the record, United 93 ranks second on my all-time “Great Films I Can’t Bear to Watch Again” list, right behind Requiem for a Dream.)
In the French territory of New Caledonia, however, some folks seem to think that the population can’t handle a celluloid depiction of the Ouvea hostage crisis, the defining moment in the archipelago’s yet-to-be-realized independence movement. New Caledonia’s lone theater chain has declared that it will not show the new French movie L’ordre et la morale, because it doesn’t want to “re-open old wounds.” The New Caledonian public is not pleased, and is planning ways to route around the ban:
After an outpouring of criticism, plans are now afoot to show the film in town halls across the territory. According to the local newspaper, the mayors of La Foa and Bourail are among those keen to screen it.
One of the producers says a screening was held in Paris for all New Caledonian politicians present for discussions on the Noumea Accord. He says the only one to refuse the invitation was Pierre Frogier, who is the head of the anti-independence Rassemblement-UMP.
As you might guess based on my chosen profession, I’m firmly in the camp that believes there is no reason that an artistic depiction of tragedy should ever be censored. It’s patronizing to think that people can’t handle storytelling, which is one of the most fundamentally human of all endeavors. Will some viewers of this film have their politics altered as a result? Perhaps. But that will probably happen more often now that they know the film’s content scares those who holds the reins of power. As a friend of mine noted a while back when Lil Wayne tried to kill the documentary about his life, “Doesn’t he know that filing suit will only make me want to see it more?”