At Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second we’re vocal advocates for the boutique home video label. Last Winter in our annual round-up of the year in cinema we floated the notion that we were entering in to a new Golden Age for home video, and wrote about it extensively soon after; thanks to the reluctance of the major studios to commit to the format in any real way any longer, smaller labels powered by passion and commitment are being given greater opportunities to bestow upon all manner of titles, be they cult or classic, the treatment they deserve.
This attention to detail is thriving in particular in the UK. Labels such as Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema imprint, the British Film Institute’s in-house home video division and Arrow’s Arrow Video and Arrow Academy lines to name but a few have seen a meteoric rise of due attention paid to catalogues as diverse as the Brian De Palma oeuvre and the work of Jacques Rivette. Such companies thrive in a number of areas, with technical presentation and extra materials often at the forefront of any decent release.
Unfortunately, new legislation threatens to stem the flow of fantastic creativity that has seen a renaissance in an otherwise fledgling industry.
As is the case with theatrical releases, home video discs need to be rated by the BBFC. This is one of the many expensive elements that come with producing a Blu-ray or DVD release. From acquiring the rights to the content of the disc through to the subtitling of the feature, everything comes at a cost. Traditionally certain types of extra material has been granted certification exemption (documentaries being the key one), but proposed changes to legislation look set to endanger this area of respite for producers. Under the new rules, should a documentary feature a clip from a production deemed potentially dangerous to young eyes, even if the clip is from the feature that has already been certified for the same disc (!) then it will have to be re-examined.
That’s not fair.
Perhaps most bafflingly of all, the proposed measures don’t extend as far as the world of online streaming, which, as any amount of common sense would suggest stands a far greater chance of serving the needs of the average youngster on the hunt for material deemed unsuitable. Instead, it’s the manufacturers of what is a niche form of entertainment that are being stung. The studios won’t care; they’re already well on the way to a digitally delivered future, and this gives them an excuse to put even less of an effort in to their physical releases. It’s the small groups, and the customer that suffers. At the moment nobody is really quite sure how or even if there’s going to be an opportunity to stand up and make a case against the BBFC. According to this piece over at Moviemail, consultation from those soon to be affected wasn’t sought. Here’s hoping a vocal enough backlash soon changes that.