Information for:

Secondary navigation

Back to top

Main content

Recent decisions of the Classification Office

This page summarises the reasons for some of our recent classification decisions.

For more insight into the classification process, read our page on how classification decisions are made.


12 Years a Slave

Image of R16 classfication label

R16 'Graphic violence and sexual violence'

Date Registered: 17/01/2014

Read about the classification criteria in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

About the film

Set in the mid-19th century, 12 Years a Slave tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York State. He is tricked into travelling to Washington with the offer of work. Once there he is abducted, transported to the south, and there sold into slavery.

Classification criteria: violence and cruelty

In one inordinately long scene Solomon is left hanging by the neck with just the tips of his toes touching the ground. Solomon supports himself this way, while others in the background go about their business as if he was not there.

Another slave, Patsy, is treated with callous cruelty. By far the most graphic scene of violence occurs when Patsy is tied to a tree and lashed. The horrific bloody wounds inflicted on her back are briefly shown as they occur. The horrific wounds are again shown as she has her back tended to after the lashing.

The violence and cruelty (both physical and psychological) has a high impact on the viewer. However, it is very well contextualised by the accomplished film making, and plot, which is an important historical dramatisation.

Classification criteria: sexual violence and coercion

There is a rape scene in the film. The camera focus remains on heads and shoulders throughout. The scene is intense and devoid of any form of eroticism.

Classification criteria: degrading, dehumanising or demeaning physical conduct

Slaves in the film are routinely treated as property, without human rights. An example of this occurs when a group of slaves are made to stand naked while being inspected by prospective buyers as if they are livestock.

Decision summary

The dominant effect of the film is of a beautifully crafted and complex film about slavery in 19th century America. The callous and brutal nature of the slaves' oppression also gives the film its dominant effect. The film has considerable artistic merit, having won numerous prestigious awards. The film also has considerable social merit, as it examines the under-told story of slavery in 19th century America. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form. With 12 Years a Slave the right to freedom of expression needs to be restricted due to its strong and at times brutal depictions of violence and cruelty. While very well contextualised, these remain likely to greatly shock and disturb children and younger teenagers.

The scene of sexual violence is long and difficult to watch, and is likely to disturb children and younger teenagers who are still in the process of forming sexual behaviours and attitudes; and to re-traumatise victims of sexual assault.

For these reasons the film is restricted to people 16 and over, and must carry the descriptive note 'graphic violence and sexual violence'.

Back to top

Titanfall

Image of R16 classfication label

R16 'Violence'

Date Registered: 31/01/2014

Read about the classification criteria in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

About the game

Titanfall is a multiplayer first-person shooter set in the contested frontiers of sci-fi planets. The player fights alongside five others in an attempt to defeat six opposing players. A number of weaker, computer-controlled robots assist both sides, serving as additional cannon fodder. The main focus of the game lies in the 'Classic competitive modes traditional to online games, such as team-based deathmatch, capturing flags or controlling areas of the map. A large element of the game involves the Titans, which are large bipedal robots. These allow the players (known as Pilots) to jump in and control them or provide autonomous covering fire. Their size and firepower greatly assists in the overall battle but also makes them an easy target.

Classification criteria: violence and cruelty

The game involves the infliction of physical harm to a high extent but moderate degree.

The strongest depiction of serious physical harm occurs with the use of heavy weaponry such as a charge rifle. Human opponents are obliterated in a large burst of blood and some indistinct meaty viscera falls to the ground. A Titan outfitted with an Arc Cannon can use a charged electrical shot, obliterating multiple enemies to bloody effect. Furthermore, the same effect occurs if a Titan punches a human enemy or if a 'Stryder' Titan uses a melee attack on a weakened Titan. Tearing open the cockpit, the enemy pilot is pulled out and cruelly crushed in the Titan's hand.

Other stronger melee violence occurs if a Pilot sneaks up on an enemy and snaps their neck. With a swift motion, the head is twisted around and they fall from view.

Classification criteria: offensive language

Highly offensive language is used to a very limited extent within a context of futuristic war. The expletive "f**king" is used in one line which has four variations on its delivery. While such language is not suitable for children, its limited use means it is unlikely to cause them significant harm.

Decision summary

Titanfall is a multiplayer first-person shooter set in a science fiction warzone. While mission objectives focus the player on the strategies of competitive play, moment-to-moment gameplay consists of repetitive and bloody combat. This is likely to inure impressionable audiences towards the violence depicted. Furthermore, younger audiences would be likely to be shocked and disturbed by this content. As a result, the unrestricted availability of the game would be injurious to the public good. These harms are weighed against the right to freedom of expression as set out in s14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Restricting the availability of the game to older teenagers and adults is the lowest reasonable restriction which could be applied in order to prevent injury to the public good.

Back to top

Dallas Buyers Club

Image of R16 classfication label

R16 'Sex scenes, violence, drug use and offensive language'

Date Registered: 09/12/2013

Read about the classification criteria in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

About the film

Dallas Buyers Club follows the real life story of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician and cowboy from Texas who is diagnosed with HIV in the 1980’s. Facing persecution and death, he seeks out alternative treatments after a near-fatal stint on the FDA-approved drug AZT. He develops unlikely friendships with Dr. Eve Saks and fellow sufferer and trans woman, Rayon, in the process. Seeing a gap in the market for effective treatments, he sets up an illegal distribution ring, faces off against FDA, and becomes a tenacious advocate for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

Classification criteria: sex

Sexual practice, sexuality and homophobia are strong themes within the film which lend to candid treatment of the sexual material. The opening scene features Ron having sex with two unknown women in a stall at the rodeo. Sex is implied through breathing and a brief depiction of movement (all shot from the chest up). Later on in the film an attractive woman signs up to become a member of Ron's 'club'. He asks the administrator what she is doing there and is told the woman has "full-blown" AIDS. The scene quickly cuts to Ron and the woman having sex in a shower. Their movement and their vocalisation (heard from the next room) imply the sexual activity, although this is tempered by the rapid-fire movement of the camera. All of the sexual activity is gritty and somewhat debased, coloured by the fact that the viewer is aware Ron is HIV positive and is engaging in unprotected sex.

Strong sexual references are also made throughout the film. These are usually laced with homophobia and other derisive language.

Classification criteria: drug use

Drug use is regularly depicted in the film. Ron deals drugs amongst his friends group and is a regular user before he begins his alternative treatment. Rayon is and remains a drug addict till her death. Given its relationship to the central characters it is shown being used candidly. Although not expressly stated, its appearance as a white powder and in syringes indicates that it is heroin and or cocaine. Ron is shown snorting lines of the white powder on multiple occasions. Rayon is also shown injecting herself and inebriated as a by-product of her use; intravenous scarring is detailed all over her upper legs. No filmic techniques or narrative devices are used to present the drug use as positive or glamorous. Instead the scenes in which the drug use occurs are constructed to appear pathetic and derelict, emphasising the gritty settings or danger the use poses to the characters. It is thus in no way promotional or encouraging.

Decision summary

The film is a powerful and well-produced independent drama with social and artistic merit. The film's depictions of sex, violence and drug use are of moderate impact. Lethal drug and alcohol abuse, candid adult sexual behaviour which includes prostitution, all feed into the setting and conduct of the protagonists. Younger persons will be inured to such conduct if exposed to these depictions and this will impact on their attitudes towards such material in harmful ways, given that they lack the necessary comprehension skills to properly contextualise these depictions. The film's candid treatment of Ron Woodroof's personal struggle and the political tensions surrounding the AIDs epidemic and homophobia will be both enlightening and poignant for older teenagers and adults, given that they will be better versed with these issues.

Back to top

Her

Image of R16 classfication label

R16 Sexual content and offensive language

Date Registered: 15/01/2014

Read about the classification criteria in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

About the film

Her is set in a not too distant future metropolitan society, in which a new technology allows people to intimately interact with their personal computing operating systems thanks to the advancements of artificial intelligence. A soon to be divorced writer, Theodore, purchases an operating system (which names itself Samantha) and quickly falls in love with her. Their relationship is marred by the question of human physical experience and Samantha's accelerated evolution as a free thinking technology.

Classification criteria: sex

The film explores the nature of physical and emotional/mental experiences of sex. Early on in the film Theodore signs into an adult internet chat room. He samples the vocal proposals and settles on a woman who he invites to chat. The camera focuses on Theodore's face during the phone sex scenario. Their conversation is laden with sexual innuendo and heavy breathing and vocalisation implying arousal.

In a scene involving Theodore and Samantha the screen goes black and the viewer is required to experience the entirety of their sexual activity through sound alone. The effect of this is to create a sense of genuine sexual activity between the characters despite the fact the audience is aware one of them does not have physical form. The scene has a distinctive, almost explicit, sexual quality despite the lack of imagery to support it. The film's treatment of sex is of reasonably high impact overall.

Classification criteria: offensive language

The film features highly offensive language. "F**k" and its derivatives are used often in emotionally heightened scenes or in a crass and casual manner. For instance, a cutesy video game character uses such language regularly as part of game play and as a function of his crude characterisation. Theodore also uses this sort of language to express frustration and despair. This normalised use is likely to inure young impressionable audiences to such language and this effect could have a negative impact on their socialisation.

Decision summary

A restriction on the film goes against the presumption of freedom of expression but is allowed under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act where it is reasonable and demonstrably justifiable. The film explores the nature of physical and emotional/mental sexual experience with reference to modern technology. Sex is discussed and depicted in such a way to support this purpose. Further the viewer is required to vicariously engage in the sexual activity between characters due to the way the activity is framed and constructed. Due to their immaturity and inexperience children and younger teenagers, exposed to such material, are likely to be harmfully affected by it. They are not only likely to find it challenging and unnerving, but it is likely to skew their understandings of sex and adult sexual relationships. Older teenagers and adults (more attuned to the complexities of sexual relationships) will be able to contextualise the depictions appropriately.

Back to top

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.

Read more decision summaries on our archive page.