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10 Movies that Caused Controversy Before Release

Movies Caused Controversy

Creating a piece of art has never been an easy task. It takes more than just the blood and sweat of the artist. For a truly remarkable work of art, an artist has to immerse themself in his/her milieu. In doing so, s/he gets closer to the naked reality of the society and its workings. This, then, gets reflected in the art. At times, the artist gets so deeply involved that they get carried away. In the process, they forget to soften the edges of the art piece or intentionally leave it rough to maximize the impact on their viewers.

This then gives rise to the conflicts between the art and the society at large, thereby causing outrage and controversies, even before getting released. That can have any number of effects. This stands true for several movies made over the years by various auteurs of cinema. These movies contain explicit sexual scenes, graphic depiction of violence, the wrongful casting of their central characters to receive funding or directly take on some religious beliefs giving way to a lot of hue and cry. Here is a list of 10 movies that caused controversy before release. 

1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust
Image credits: F.D. Cinematografica

Released in 1980, this Italian horror movie is the work of director Ruggero Deodato, aka “Monsieur Cannibal.” The film follows a team of anthropologists from New York who are on a mission to find another team that went into the Amazon rainforests to film culture and practices of cannibal tribes. Deodato’s work was inspired by media coverage of Red Brigade terrorism and documentaries made by director Gualtiero Jacopetti. Deodato was of the opinion that the coverage on terrorism was staged, and that was his core idea behind the film Cannibal Holocaust. A large section of the film is created in the form of s lost documentary of the crew’s footage. This spawned a new genre of American movies called the “Found Footage Genre.”

Cannibal Holocaust is replete with scenes of graphic sexual violence, and several genuine shots of animal cruelty. The film was banned in over 50 countries and censored by many others. So true was the depiction of death scenes in the film, that Deodato was charged with murder. He went on to successfully prove his innocence in court with help from the actors who testified for him describing the special effects used by him in filming those scenes. 

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In later years, various critics considered the film to be a scathing commentary on the exploitation of third-world countries by the developed ones, ethical practices in journalism, and the practices of modern civilization. However, Deodato has categorically denied having any such intentions. (source)

2. The Interview (2014)

The Interview
Image credits: Columbia Pictures

Starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, The Interview is a comedy film in which two journalists who have secured an interview with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, were recruited by the CIA to assist in his assassination. The movie was so controversial that North Korea warned to respond with “merciless retaliation” if the movie is released. The extreme political backdrop of the movie led some to believe that the movie was a direct attack on North Korea. Just before its scheduled release in 2014, a group of hackers (allegedly from North Korea) hacked into Sony Pictures threatening to release important documents unless the film was shelved.

They later leaked several internal emails, employee records, and a host of unreleased films such as Still Alice and To Write Love on Her Arms. The hackers also threatened that they would disrupt the premiere of the movie in New York. Their message included a warning for Sony to not produce any movies in the future angering North Korea. In June of 2014, the North Korean government also threatened the US of repercussions if Sony released the film.

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Bogged down by these incidents, Sony pulled the movie from the theatres and decided to make it available on VOD instead. The Interview went on to become Sony’s most successful digital release earning $40 million in digital rentals over and worldwide earnings of $12.3 million. Despite a raging political storm, the film received a lukewarm response from the critics and the fans. (source)

3. Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Image credits: Chernin Entertainment

Ridley Scott’s magnum opus, Exodus: Gods and Kings, is a movie based on the biblical event where Hebrews were exiled from Egypt. They were led across the red sea by Moses. The movie got mired in the controversy over its “whitewashing: of important mythical characters. The film had Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Sigourney Weaver in the leading roles, even though their characters were of Egyptian descent. 

Scott hired ethnic actors for the roles of slaves, civilians, and servants. Movie fans and critics mounted a social media campaign termed “#BoycottExodusMovie” prior to its release in theatres. The film was banned in Egypt by the Egyptian government on the grounds that the film presents an inaccurate depiction of history.  The film also drew a lot of criticism from the UAE government and was not cleared for release in the country. (source)

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