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Films in New Zealand fall into two broad categories, restricted and unrestricted films.
Restricted films carry a red label and are restricted to persons over the age shown on the label e.g. R13 and R16. Some films carry RP labels (e.g. RP13). RP films may be shown to a person under the age of restriction, provided a parent or guardian (such as a teacher) watches the film with them. However, the level of offensive language/violence/sex/crime/cruelty or horror in RP films means it is very unlikely that any RP film would be appropriate for primary age children to watch as part of a school programme.
It is an offence for anyone to show a child under the age of restriction a restricted film. Parents cannot give permission for an underage child to be shown restricted material. Legal restrictions apply at school, at home and in the cinema and apply equally to films, DVDs and games.
Unrestricted films carry ratings and have a green or yellow label. These ratings are consumer advice rather than legal restrictions. Ratings are intended as information to guide consumers and to help parents/teachers wanting to learn about a film’s suitability before allowing children to watch it. There are three unrestricted ratings that may be given to a film:
You should remember that not all G or PG level films are made for children and many are aimed at an adult audience. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with any film you plan to screen to students.
Most film ratings will be accompanied by a descriptive note. This note informs audiences of film content that might be of concern. Adults are strongly advised to take these notes into consideration when choosing a film for children to watch. G rated films will generally not have a note, as these films should not have content of concern. It is a legal requirement that film advertising includes the applicable descriptive note. The most common descriptive notes on unrestricted films are:
When looking at a descriptive note it is important to consider it in light of the rating of the film concerned. For example the level of violence in a ‘PG Contains violence’ film will be lower than that in an ‘M Contains violence’ film.
Legally, primary aged students can be shown any unrestricted film. Films carrying G certificates, and that are specifically intended for a young audience, should be suitable for primary age children.
There are wide variations in the level of material in both PG and M films. For example the PG films Monsters v Aliens and Spiderwick Chronicles were at different ends of the PG spectrum. Similarly, the films Prince Caspian, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the Batman film The Dark Knight were rated M and had warnings about violent content, yet they were very different films.
In addition, many unrestricted films are not aimed at a young audience and have been made to be watched by adults or older teens. Examples of these types of films are: The Boy in Striped Pyjamas (M), Valkyrie (M), Defiance (M), Calendar Girls (PG), Waking Ned Devine (PG).
When deciding on a film for students to watch, schools should always consider the following:
Useful sources of information on films are:
Schools may wish to develop their own policies about which films can be shown to students. They may also wish to seek parental permission before showing any film, regardless of its rating.