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Information for teachers

This page has information for teachers about showing films in the classroom, classifying student-made films, and our Censor for a Day event for media students.

You can also take a look at our student website, written for students studying censorship as part of NCEA media studies.

If you need more information please feel free to contact our Information Unit.

Teacher with her class

Useful links

Using restricted films in classrooms

The Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs receive complaints each year about teachers showing restricted material to underage students.

There are two types of restricted films:

RP labels

RP13, RP16

RP(age) films are able to be watched by students under the age on the label BUT ONLY if an adult is with them. This is so the adult can support the students in understanding material in the film.
What does RP mean?

R labels

R13, R15, R16, R18

R(age) films must not be shown to anyone under the age on the label. Supplying or showing a restricted film/game or other publication to someone underage is an offence. This includes clips from restricted films, such as those found on websites like YouTube, and applies to downloaded films as well.
What does R13 mean?

Teachers or parents cannot give permission for an underage student to watch a restricted film which has a R13, R15, R16 or R18 restriction placed on it. The only way to legally screen these restricted film to underage students is with the direct permission of the Chief Censor. This is called getting an exemption from classification.

The application for an exemption must be accompanied by the required fee of $102.20. This fee is non-refundable if the application is declined.

Showing, studying and making films at school

If you are screening a film to students

We'd like you to read the following:

  • Be aware of the content of the film, as well as the rating/classification and descriptive note. How to search for a New Zealand classification
  • Unrestricted DVDs have green or yellow labels (anyone can watch these DVDs). A red label on a DVD means there is a legal restriction on whom it can be supplied to. More about New Zealand's classification labels
  • It is illegal to supply or show a restricted DVD to anyone under the age on the label. This includes clips from restricted films. Teachers or parents cannot give permission for an underage student to watch a film restricted to people over the age on the label.
  • You can seek an exemption from the classification so that you can legally show a restricted film to underage students.
  • If you have not seen the film yourself, it is worth looking at reviews or reading synopses and content advisories on sites like the Internet Movie Database.
  • It is a good idea to seek permission from parents before showing a film at school. However, parents cannot give you permission to show a restricted film to an underage child.

If you or your students are selecting games or films for a unit of study or research

We have some suggestions:

  • We have comprehensive case studies on selected films/games/books on our student website which include all the documentation on those titles.

    Check out the student website:

  • When selecting films, students will get more information if they choose a film that has been seen by the Classification Office (e.g. any R13, R16 or R18 film), rather than a film cross-rated from an overseas decision (e.g. most unrestricted films). In addition, films classified before 1994 (eg Heavenly Creatures) do not have reasons for their classification recorded, as the former Film Censor's Office did not provide written reasons for classification decisions.
  • Ideally, students should choose a film or game they are legally entitled to have shown to them. We also strongly recommend students do not select banned games or films for research projects.
  • We are happy to provide information on why films received a certain classification. However, we do not provide written reasons for decisions on R18 or banned material to people under 18 without the permission of a guardian, parent or teacher. Students may like to take this into account when selecting titles.

If your students are making films to screen to others

You need to know the following:

  • Some films, such as unrestricted films "directly related to the curriculum of pre-school, primary, secondary or tertiary educational institutions" do not need to be labelled. A full list of the types of films exempted from labelling can be found by reading section 8 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.
  • Schools should apply for labels for student-made films if they are intending widely screening, distributing or selling copies of the films. Contact the Film and Video Labelling Body if this applies to your film.

Getting an exemption to show a restricted film or read a restricted book

You can apply to the Chief Censor for an exemption from classification under section 44 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. An exemption under section 44 means you will be able to legally show a specified film/publication to students under the age of the restriction.

The application must be accompanied by the required fee of $102.20. This fee is non-refundable if the application is declined.

Your application should explain the reasons for seeking the exemption (for example why you are wishing to use the particular film in question instead of one with a lower or no restriction). You may also like to outline what steps you will be taking to mitigate the injury to the public good which the Classification Office identified when assigning the film its restriction. Summaries of reasons for decisions on films are available from the Information Unit.

Application for Exemption Section 44: In Respect of a Restricted or Objectionable Publication form (Word, 336KB)

If you need more information contact our Information Unit.

The Censor for a Day programme (NCEA level 3 Media Studies)

Since 1999, the Office of Film and Literature Classification has held an event called Censor for a Day (C4aD). C4aD rotates between different regional locations. It usually takes place during the first and third terms.

C4aD is a valuable opportunity for senior Media Studies students who are studying aspects of media regulation including film classification. The full-day programme involves senior students, who must be at least 16 years old, viewing a pre-release film and being taken through a classification exercise. All groups of students must be accompanied by at least one teacher.

The Classification Office does try to tailor the presentation to a student audience. However, in order to provide a realistic representation of what we do (classify material likely to be restricted or objectionable), it is important to know that the film to be shown is likely to be one that is restricted.

Read more about Censor for a Day, including reports of what happened at the events, in the Censor for a Day section on our student website

How do I get my students a place at Censor for a Day?

Invitations for schools to participate in Censor for a Day are sent out a few months before each event. If you would like to receive an invitation, contact us to make sure we have the most up-to-date contact details for your school. Seats fill up fast, so we encourage you to respond quickly when the invitation emails are sent out.

Censor for a Day report cover
We produce a report of findings from the Censor for a Day events

Useful links

Educational resources

Teachers and students studying the classification system should visit our student website. This has case studies, historical information, research and detailed information on how books, films and computer publications are classified in New Zealand.

We are very happy for students to ask us questions about the classification system - but we do like them to have looked at our student website first!

We can offer web-conferencing to schools on classification topics. This may help schools who are not able to access our Censor for a Day programme.

Visit our website for students

We have a number of other free resources your school might like to use. Please contact us if you'd like a supply of any of the following for your class:

Censorship: The Basic Facts booklet

Censorship: The Basic Facts

A booklet outlining the censorship process and labelling, suitable as a school resource.

Contact our Information Unit to order copies of Censorship: The Basic Facts.

Red Means Restricted flyer

Red Means Restricted flyer

The restricted movies flyer is a double-sided sheet informing people that it is illegal to supply restricted films or games to underage people.

Contact our Information Unit to order Red Means Restricted flyers (100 flyers per pad).

Classification label poster

Classification label poster

All premises which supply films, DVDs and/or games are required to display a poster which explains what the classification labels mean. The law requires the poster be no smaller than A3.

Contact our Information Unit to order classification label posters (available in A3 and A2).