Australia is agog over a recent raid on the Melbourne home of a film festival director over the screening of a controversial†zombie porn film in September.
Richard Wolstencroft, a noted film-maker and head of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF), said Thursday's search was fruitless for police because his copy of "LA Zombie" had been destroyed.
The film, by Canadian director Bruce LaBruce, was banned by the Australian Classification Board just before it was set to air at the Melbourne International Film Festival in July.
Canadian director Bruce LaBruce's "LA Zombie," featuring necrophile aliens, homosexual sex and full-frontal male nudity, was pulled from the Melbourne International Film Festival in July after objections from censors.
The hour-long, wordless film, starring French porn star Francois Sagat, depics a schizophrenic homeless man who is convinced he is an alien zombie sent to roam the streets of Los Angeles in search of dead bodies and gay sex.
A zombie is a creature that appears in books, films and popular culture. It is typically a reanimated corpse, or a human being who is being controlled by someone else by use of magic. More recent stories have used a pandemic illness to explain them. Stories of zombies originated in the West African spiritual belief system of voodoo, which told of the people being controlled as laborers by a powerful wizard. Zombies became a popular device in modern horror fiction, largely because of the success of George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.
Richard Wolstencroft dubbed the raid as "absurd, ridiculous and perverse," and†wants to know why it took the police so long to act.
"Why was it (the raid) delayed six weeks? Why was I not charged two days later?" he†asked.††
"Why did they (police) not come to the screening and let me know they had a problem and then we could have avoided this situation altogether.
"I just think the timing of this is interesting. Two weeks before the Victorian election ... I'd like to look at the politics behind it - why this has happened at this moment."
"We have exhibited lesbian films, gay films, controversial political films," he told ABC News Online.
"I'm not sure what the problem is here.
"Maybe something relating to zombie porn makes a great headline."
He also recalled that he had decided to hold a "public disobedience" screening in September as he thought it was an important work on schizophrenia.
"We thought the interdiction was ridiculous and decided to hold a public disobedience screening," Wolstencroft said. "Bruce LaBruce has been a guest at our festival in the past.
"This is one of his most powerful movies which talks about schizophrenia. This shows the problem with freedom of speech in Australia. There are laws which date back to 1954."
Police say the home was raided "in relation to exhibiting and possessing an unclassified film" and that Wolstencroft is expected to face court at a later date.
Wolstencroft says he has not yet been charged, but is worried he will get a criminal conviction and not be able to travel to the United States.
"As a working filmmaker I travel to America. I'm talking to Hollywood producers about doing my next film - that's a major concern," he said.
Wolstencroft is also suspicious about why police picked his house to raid.
"This is the first time a film festival director has had his house raided. Why didn't they raid Richard Moore from the Melbourne International Film Festival? I'm sure he's got a copy," he said.
"He was going to play it, he was all over the media saying he was going to play it. I heard they were handing out copies to the media at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
"The copy we did have briefly was one of those copies.
"I think they're targeting MUFF because it's a little independent film festival. They're picking on the little guy."
Wolstencroft, who has long been vocal about freedom of speech, says during yesterday's raid three police officers threatened to take all of his DVDs, including films he is working on.
"I have a personal collection of DVDs. I have the entire MUFF archive here - there must be 10,000 DVDs in my house," he said.
"They threatened to take all this and obviously it would be held up for six months. It was just ridiculous."
He says the banning of LA Zombie is a prime example of Australia's censors going too far.
"There is no way this film should be banned. It's a major work of art," he said.
"I've seen video installations at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the National Gallery in Canberra that have been more offensive, more outrageous," he said.
"It's playing at major film festivals - the Locarno Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival.
"If this was playing in a gallery, there is no way the police would come anywhere near it."
But at Switzerland's Locarno festival in August some of the audience walked out, according to one reviewer.
Wolstencroft has now sought legal advice.