Director Prano Bailey-Bond Examines the U.K. “Video Nasties” era Through a Contemporary Lens
DIRECTED BY PRANO BAILEY-BOND/2021
Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) is a tightly wound film censor in London during the “video nasty” phase. She starts to suspect her missing, presumably dead sister is in a movie she’s hired to watch and goes on a mission to discover the truth.
Being someone who loves films about films and is especially interested in the video nasty movement, Censor hit home for me. What blows me away about this movie, and what I loved so much about it, are all of the layers of commentary going on about film and violence in film. As Enid goes down her path, she loses track of reality and of what is film and what is reality.
Moralist during the heyday of censorship, the 80s, but even today, will tell you that life imitates art and responsibility lies with the artist. But as mentioned above, sometimes that makes no sense to the person hearing it, as they are lovers of violent art, or maybe even makers of it, who not only are not violent people, but also can’t fathom a connection.
A central theme in Censor is that the protectors of morality, bathing in their superiority, may also actually be the ones more prone to violence. They are the protectors not because they are strong enough to see, but actually so weak-minded, that to them the lust for violence is so inevitable that a film can tip them over the edge.
Another layer Censor works on, along with the theme and central story, is the filmmaker’s approach to these violent films. With a female director behind the camera, there seems to be two approaches to the offensiveness of exploitation movies. You are either offended on a moral integrity level or through a feminist lens, condemning the treatment of women in these movies.
Enid’s job requires the former, as the video nasty censorship was very much about decency. But Enid herself seems to take a little more of the feminist approach, which is the more sensible approach, as during a confrontation with a producer, she condemns his movies for the specifically rape scenes against women.
Director Prano Bailey-Bond seems to be firing at the moralists, showing TV clips of Margaret Thatcher and Mary Whitehouse. And yes, both of them are women- but their problems aren’t coming from a female empowerment stance, but rather an outrage on films attacking the white Christian English family, and their morals.
But while slapping the moralists with the right hand, she’s still holding some accountability to the all-male filmmakers behind these movies and how women are depicted.
Censor is, at its heart, a very anti-censorship movie. Bailey-Bond makes it clear that the censors are the weak, and as for any problems with violent films and their approach to women, Bailey-Bond seems to know the answer isn’t to censor, but rather, more women like her getting behind a camera and making more movies like Censor.