Unrestricted M: Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over. Contains offensive language and nudity.
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this documentary.
Date registered: 28/04/2016
Embrace is a film about women's body image and was first scheduled to screen at the NZ Film Festival during July and August 2016.
A prior decision by the Australian Classification Board to classify the film as restricted MA15+ caused some controversy and raised the ire of the film's director Taryn Brumfitt, a well-known body image advocate. She called the Australian classification "an outrage" and said that it reinforced the destructive idea that women's bodies are shameful.
The Australian classification requires anyone under the age of 15 to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian while seeing the film. As this is a restricted classification, it also meant that under NZ's own classification laws the film needed to be rated by our Classification Office before screening on this side of the Tasman.
NZ's M rating means that, while the film is more suitable for ages 16 years and over, there are no restrictions on who can see it - and parental accompaniment is not required.
The NZ classification drew praise from Film Festival organisers. NZIFF communications manager, Rebecca McMillan, had this to say: "The NZ classification decision means that this educational documentary can reach the people who need to see and hear body positive messages the most."
The case highlighted some of the disparities between Australia and NZ's classification systems.
Embrace is a social impact documentary that explores the issue of body image. The film's director, Taryn Brumfitt was inspired to make the documentary after an unconventional before-and-after body image went viral when she posted it on the internet in 2013. The image, which embraced body diversity, was seen by over 100 million people worldwide and led to a media frenzy of interviews and articles.
Embrace is told from the point of view of Brumfitt as she travels the world meeting with and interviewing activists, celebrities, psychologists, members of the fashion and photography industry and everyday people to candidly discuss and explore issues around body positivity, body image and representations of women in the media.
There is discussion of sexual violence in the film. A few of the interviewees mention that they are sexual abuse survivors. This is not elaborated upon but used to explain the impact this experience has had on their worldview.
An activist also discusses the video game Grand Theft Auto 5, notorious for its depictions of violence against women. The violence in the game is not discussed in detail and no violence is shown on screen.
Our examiners considered this material to be well-contextualised in the film, and therefore of low impact.
Sexualised images of women are briefly shown in montage sequences to demonstrate the prevalence of such imagery. The purpose of these montages is to be a sounding board for discussions about the impact of this type of imagery on body image in wider society. In one of these segments, Taryn shows the raft of abusive comments she received after posting her image on social media. She unpacks the impact of the cruel and derisive comments and in doing so sheds light on women's experiences online.
There is a reasonable extent of non-sexual nudity, which includes brief depictions of women's breasts, buttocks and genital nudity in medical and other natural settings. The purpose of this imagery is to show a diverse range of healthy women's body types. Depictions of non-sexual nudity cannot be age-restricted.
There is some swearing, including the 'f-word', however our examiners felt it was unlikely to leave an impression on viewers and therefore unlikely to cause serious harm.
Suicide is discussed as part of the broader discussion about self-esteem and mental health. One of the interviewees in the film discusses how she had suicidal thoughts and overcame those thoughts with positive thinking. She describes wanting to "end it" but does not go into gratuitous detail and does not discuss the mechanics of suicide in any way.
The treatment of suicide is well-contextualised as part of the broader discussion about self-esteem and mental health and does not glorify or romanticise suicidal thoughts. It is unlikely to shock or disturb viewers.
Our examiners described Embrace as a well-made, thought-provoking and uplifting examination of body positivity, self-worth and diversity of representation. They described it as "artistically and technically commendable."
They consider it an important film in terms of its unique exploration of body image issues; and the platform it has provided for a diverse range of people to speak about their own body issues and representations of bodies.
One examiner said: "The film acts as a counter-narrative to the dominant representations of women and bodies in the media. As such, it will likely be an educational resource for younger and older viewers alike, and facilitate discussion."
They did not consider any "identifiable harm" from the subject matter and therefore felt that placing a restriction would amount to an undue limit on the freedom of expression.
"A degree of maturity may be necessary to properly appreciate the views expressed in the film. More mature audiences will be able to contextualise and reflect on these views based on their own experiences. Therefore, the film is classified "Unrestricted: Suitable for mature audiences 16 years of age and over."
Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.