Stone Bros hits classification roadblock

By Adam Coleman

A Classification Review Board decision to classify the indigenous, stoner, road movie, Stone Bros. with an MA15+ rating has angered the filmmaker who has accused the board of being out of touch with contemporary Australians.

Stone Bros. was originally classified MA15+ with the consumer advice ‘strong drug use’ leading the film’s writer and director, Richard Frankland, to appeal to the Minister for Home Affairs for a re-classification.

Following a review, the board unanimously determined the film should keep its classification but that consumer advice should be changed to ‘Drug use with strong impact’.
Frankland told INSIDEFILM he was “flabbergasted” by the decision.

“It is a pretty phenomenal warning to other filmmakers, particularly indigenous ones. I don’t believe the board is very aware of contemporary issues or contemporary public opinion.

“Australia’s youth have access to every depravity imaginable on the Internet and, in the contemporary cartoons they watch, they have a phenomenal exposure to violence. So I am a little concerned that some things slip through and others don’t.”

Through his work with communities around Australia, Frankland said he has first hand evidence of the need for a film like Stone Bros. to encourage pride and confidence in disaffected indigenous youth.

“On our journey the blokes give up dope in the end. Part of it was to show realistic, positive role models,” he said.

In a statement the board said: “whilst the director’s objective was to produce a film with a strong cultural message…the film contains representations of drug use which are frequent, realistic and strong in impact.      
“Some scenes involving drug use may be considered as involving elements of fantasy, but overall the review board considered that some younger viewers would have difficulty discriminating between these and the more realistic depictions.”

In a letter of support, Lynette Russell, director of the Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies said Stone Bros. “has a strong anti-drug message”.

“Crucially the film does not glorify or condone drug use, and indeed many of the subsidiary characters are clearly critical of it,” she said.

Russell said the presence of marijuana smoking in the film “is relevant and important as it ensures that the characters are undeniably authentic and real and, certainly, to an Aboriginal audience, they are recognisable and identifiable”.

In another support letter to the board, judge and chair of the Ngara Yura Committee, Stephen Norrish, said it is important for such films to be available to the wider Australian community to foster a greater understanding of contemporary Aboriginal community living.

“I sentence on a regular basis people for very serious crimes associated with drug use, drug supply and other drug related crime. I can see no rational reason to conclude that this film in its depiction of drug use could encourage drug usage.”

INSIDEFILM contacted the Classification Review Board, which declined to comment.