The Australian Film Classification Board has banned the "soft-core" version of Toronto filmmaker Bruce LaBruce's gay zombie film, L.A. Zombie, which was slated to screen twice next week at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
On Wednesday, the 46-year-old LaBruce, (born Bryan Bruce in Tiverton, Ont.), readily conceded his film is "very heavy in terms of its imagery. It's about an alien zombie who finds dead bodies and has sex with them to bring them back to life.
"But it's meant as an allegory," the artist argued in a phone call. "There is a strong component in the film about homelessness. There is a suggestion that the alien is a homeless schizophrenic with sexual delusions. So the film also serves as a kind of document of the epidemic of homelessness that currently ravages the city."
L.A. Zombie was shot for $100,000 in Los Angeles last August. La Bruce said its film style is an homage "to old B-movie filmmaking."
He said it has been officially selected to screen in the Visions program of the Toronto International Film Festival next month. However, a TIFF spokesperson would not confirm the film's inclusion in its lineup, adding that all official selections will be announced over the course of next month.
The TIFF spokesperson also pointed out that L.A. Zombie is not a Canadian film, but a German/U.S./French co-production.
In an earlier statement, LaBruce lamented that the "soft core" version offended the censor board, adding "there is not explicit anally penetrative sex.
"It does contain a few brief shots of flaccid penises," he wrote. "But the only erect member in the show (which, apparently, is a prosthesis that resembles a large, rubber cucumber) belongs to the film's star, French porn star François Sagat. The film largely doesn't have any explicit pornographic content," La Bruce added.. "If you take into consideration his penis is fake ... then technically it's not sexually graphic."
LaBruce's previous gay zombie film, Otto; or, Up with Dead People, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 and later screened at the Melbourne festival. Other of his titles include No Skin Off My Ass, Raspberry Reich (which screened at TIFF in 2004) and Hustler White.
"My last film played at Melbourne, and was actually voted third most popular that year. And that film features a scene with one zombie, penetrating a wound in another zombie, with a penis. So I don't understand why this film has generated such controversy. I don't understand what their strategy is in trying to suppress this film."
The ban is the festival's first in seven years since American director Larry Clark's Ken Park was bounced by the censor board after being officially selected by the festival.
La Bruce does not expect the Melbourne festival to appeal the ban on his film, which he sees as "a metaphor for healing." It will have its international premiere Aug. 5 at the Locarno International Film Festival.