A Star Is Born: Hollywood blockbuster with suicide sparks NZ censorship concerns

New Zealand’s Chief Censor is questioning its classification processes, after a suicide scene in a A Star Is Born distressed some viewers.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification added a suicide warning to the recently released film A Star Is Born, just days after its release, following reports of young viewers being deeply affected by the content.

The film, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a remake of a Hollywood classic and has received positive reviews on the global stage.

It was rated M in Australia making it automatically an M in New Zealand.

However, Chief Censor David Shanks said it did bring into question whether cross rating regulations with Australia were fit for purpose.

“There is definitely additional attention that needs to be paid in New Zealand with the vulnerable population we have, that could be affected by this content,” he said.

Mr Shanks said it was a matter at looking at what other overseas censors were doing and seeing if there was anything else that needed to be done here.

He said the amount of films and publications that needed a suicide warning sky-rocketed in recent years.

Mr Shanks told Morning Report concerns came through only after a few days of the film’s release.

“I wouldn’t want to go into the event that alerted us initially, but we did have some viewers who were impacted very strongly by this film and we were told about that,” he said.

“As a result we spoke to the Mental Health Foundation to corroborate whether they were getting any concerns raised with them and as that unfolded it became evident that yes, they were in fact, they were getting significant numbers of concerns coming through.”

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said dozens of people contacted the organisation distressed with the content in A Star Is Born.

“In far too many cases they’ve been put into poor mental health, because of the upset, and there are counsellors who have clients who have been put into that situation,” he said.

Mr Robinson said it had also caused further grief for those who have been bereaved by suicide.

He said being confronted with suicide in such a way would affect some viewers more than others.

“People really needed to have that warning so that they could make an informed decision, when they were going to the movie,” he said.

Mr Robinson said Hollywood was increasingly exploiting the interest in suicide.

“It’s really flying in the face of what is internationally known evidence around what keeps people safe and what doesn’t.”

He said this film as well as series like Thirteen Reasons Why show why the censorship laws and regulations need to be changed.

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What’s Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children’s helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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