News

GCC Film?Edited Before Screening

_Scroll to the bottom of this page to watch Kontaxis’s unedited video._“Live Green or Die Hard,” a Green Cup Challenge film directed by Michael Kontaxis ’11, screened before students last Friday with its violent content removed. According to Kontaxis, Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, asked him to edit scenes from his film in order to screen it at the Green Cup Challenge (GCC) Film Festival. Kontaxis, the film’s director, said Efinger told him his film would not be screened unless he cut certain scenes. In Kontaxis’s film, a killer, dressed head-to-toe in black and in black facepaint, shoots students for being environmentally unfriendly. Efinger, who watched the film before the screening, said, “I did not want a Columbine-like film being shown.” She also thought that a scene of a girl in the shower filmed from the shoulders up was inappropriate, though she allowed it to stay in. Kontaxis cut all scenes with a gun blast or showing a lifeless body for the film festival. “I thought beforehand [administrators] would have a little problem with the guns,” Kontaxis said. “But we thought the shower scene would cause more controversy.” Since the winner of PA’s film festival was entered into a larger competition with other schools in the GCC, Efinger said she worried that entering a violent film into the contest would reflect poorly on the school. Kontaxis’s film ultimately lost to “GCC, 2009,” by Sam Poliquin ’10 and Arnold Wong ’10. According to Efinger, the GCC organizers were not involved in asking Kontaxis to remove content. President and founder of the Green Schools Alliance, Peg Watson, asked that any keywords linking Kontaxis’s film to the GCC on YouTube be removed. The GCC is a program sponsored by the Green Schools Alliance. Watson found the film after performing a search on YouTube for films related to the GCC 2009 and was concerned about the film’s “violent nature.” She said, “[The film] was not Columbine-like, it just evoked memories of the tragedies at Columbine.” Watson also stressed that the GCC coordinators had nothing to do with the editing of Kontaxis’s film. “The Green Cup Challenge supports all the schools and leaves it up to the school community to make the choice of which film they’re going to submit,” she said. Watson said that, had the uncut version of “Live Green or Die Hard” been submitted by PA, “[The Green Cup coordinators] probably would have discussed it and probably said that it would not be accepted because it depicts violent death and is inconsistent with the goals of the Green Cup Challenge.” Trish Russell, Sustainability Coordinator, said the difference was between showing a film within the school community and having Phillips Academy’s name behind a film for other schools to see. Kontaxis is not the first filmmaker who ran into problems with the school over content. According to Wong, Becky Bogdonavitch, former Sustainability Coordinator, decided not to enter a film he made for the GCC last year because of sexual innuendo. The film was also not shown at All-School Meeting as originally planned, said Wong. On the night of the screening, a disclaimer shown before the films said that none of the films had been screened or edited for content by the GCC. Russell clarified that this meant that none of Phillips Academy’s Green Cup coordinators screened the film for content before Friday night. Efinger and Shirley Veenema, Instructor in Art, neither of whom are organizers for the GCC, reviewed the films. Efinger said that Russell approached her for help and she and Veenema offered to watch the films. Russell said that she approached Efinger because of her experience in running film festivals and said they screened the films to ensure they were compliant with the rules of the contest. The Green Schools Alliance asks students not to include films that are “sexually explicit or suggestive, unnecessarily violent” or “pornographic.” Although the school asked Kontaxis to edit his film, the winning film ran unedited, despite a scene with a student looking at possibly suggestive material in the PACC. Poliquin and Wong confirmed that the student was meant to be watching “something sexually suggestive,” but added, “It can be interpreted in many ways.” The student is looking at a girl in a bathing suit in the scene. Watson said that she thought Poliquin and Wong’s film was more appropriate than “Live Green or Die Hard.” “One is about graphic violence and murder, and the other is about looking at a girl in a bathing suit when he should be studying,” Watson said. “That is not a difficult distinction to make.” Efinger said, “Submitting violence and sexual innuendo for the Green Cup Challenge seems unnecessary. I have a hard time understanding it, but it seems to be what kids do.” “Ms. Efinger can’t expect people of our age to make a G-rated film,” Poliquin said. Poliquin did not believe his film violated any rules. “If we violated the rules, [our film] wouldn’t have been accepted, but I wanted to push [the film] as far as it could go,” he said. Matt Higgins ’10 thought that both films were appropriate. Higgins said that the films could be deemed offensive “if you’re really looking for something to be offended by.” Audrey McMurtrie ’11 said, “I thought [Live Green or Die Hard] was a clever idea, but I don’t think it really promoted being green.” “They could have done the same idea in a less violent way,” she said.