Ontario Film Censorship: Then & Now

In case you missed it, I wrote about the history of film censorship in Ontario for the Toronto Star last weekend. I was surprised to learn from a few friends who didn’t know we still had censors (nowadays known as the Ontario Film Review Board), but the truth is that Ontario has had constant film censorship, certification, review — whatever you want to call it — for nearly a century.

I originally set out to contrast the puritanical outlook on film exhibition from the board’s inception in 1911 to its latter days in the 1980s with today’s “hands-off” approach, but judging by the article’s positive reaction, from academics to art gallery owners to theatre exhibitors, many people out there think the Ontario Film Review board still has too much power.

If you’re curious to know more about the early days, I heartily suggest Paul Moore’s book Now Playing: Early Movie-going and the Regulation of Fun and for modern-day battles with the OFRB, have a look at Taryn Sirove’s dissertation “Freedom, sex power: Film and Video Regulation in Ontario.”

Up top: the original Ontario Board of Censors burning 40 000 ft. of rejected nitrate film for a newsreel shot by William James in 1914. Library & Archives Canada.


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