Government-mandated censorship in cinema is not something the United States has frequently had to deal with, primarily due to self-implemented boards (first the Hays Code, now the Motion Picture Association of America). Places like the U.K. have nongovernmental organizations to enforce rating systems (The British Board of Film Classification), but the country has been historically strict and extreme in its control over certifications (remember the video-nasties craze of the 1980s?).
Films in Australia and New Zealand are subject to many different laws and politics that often seem mind-boggling. In the Commonwealth of Australia, there are federal and territory governments involved in the censoring of movies and other media, which means, yes, people can be imprisoned if they break them. If you so much as look at the 2000 film Baise-moi, you can be fined or jailed for up to 10 years. When a former director of the Australian Classification Board tried to have the ban on Pasolini's Salò lifted, he was attacked and pressured to resign. Movies like A Serbian Film are still banned in the country, and let's not even discuss seeing female ejaculation (NSFW website) or small-breasted women that appear "barely legal" on film. (A knowledgeable resource for current and past censorship in the country is the NSFW blog Wider Screenings).
New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification has taken aim at a new movie. William Lustig's grimy slasher film Maniac was recently remade, starring Elijah Wood as the sleazy and psychotic killer who tortures women. The country has restricted the screening of the film to festivals and academic viewing. Maniac will not be released in theaters or on DVD in New Zealand, the BBC reports. A programmer for the New Zealand International Film Festival, Ant Timpson, had this to say on the ruling:
"It's saying that the POV [point of view] nature of the film mixed with the psychopathic behavior of actor Elijah Wood is more than disturbing, that it's potentially dangerous in the hands of the wrong person."
While Timpson is fearful of the movie's negative impact, many are calling the decision "an insult" to the intelligence of adult audiences — and we couldn't agree more.