(2005)4Derek ArmstrongFans of the short-lived ABC sitcom Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central) -- if there were any -- will find a similarly self-reflexive industry joke in the title of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Kirby Dick's illuminating documentary. Not only does the film target the MPAA's esoteric and top-secret ratings system, but its title also speaks to the ratings limbo that inevitably greeted a film like this, with this agenda. This Film Is Not Yet Rated shows just how funny guerilla filmmaking can be, as Dick repeatedly dangles fresh meat over the MPAA crocodile pit, daring the jaws of its legal apparatus to snap shut. Dick's exposé alternates between moments of outrage, hilarity, and utter disbelief -- the latter as a result of how closely Dick's surveillance team (a pair of plucky lesbians) flirts with seemingly illegal behavior. However, once the audience has reviewed the capricious procedures of this ratings board, Dick's take-no-prisoners unmasking seems more than justified.
While Dick is undoubtedly a courageous figure for engendering such powerful enemies, so too are the filmmakers who agree to testify on camera about their own experiences. It's clear how a group tied to the most oppressive wings of religion and government can really make trouble for these directors' future projects. The bulk of the discussion surrounds the kiss-of-death NC-17 rating, and how the board employs a preposterous double standard regarding graphic violence and graphic sex. By including examples of these controversial images, Dick's film earns its own NC-17 -- which the MPAA issues with almost incomprehensible detachment. Not submitting his film to the MPAA, and therefore remaining unrated, might have been a better return on the titular joke. But Dick wears the NC-17 as a badge of honor -- proof both of the inescapability of the process, and his refusal to be intimidated by it -- though he does eventually decide to withdraw the film from MPAA consideration and issue it, per the title, as "Not Rated."