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15-eh? How do films get classified in Ireland?

Your 14-year-old self cursed the film classifiers, but how do they come to a decision?

IT IS AS much a part of the cinema experience as popcorn, trailers and the sticky floor, but how much thought do any of us give to the classification card?

It’s been the bane of all 11-, 14- and 17-year-olds, but beyond that, many of us don’t give the screen a second thought.

But a group of six people can give it nothing but thought.

The classifiers at the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) work year-round to classify every film that is screened in cinemas or released on DVD.

But what are they looking for?

David Power has been an Assistant Classifier at IFCO since 2012 and says that films are looked at under four categories, but context is important.

“There are four main issues that we are looking for – sex, violence, drug use and language.

“But our job is to understand the medium of cinema, so context is important.

For example, 12 Years A Slave got a 15A, but it is quite a violent film. But the violence was used in an historical context. If it was done in any other context, it may have gotten a higher rating.

According to IFCO’s guidelines:

“We try to retain a flexibility of approach and look at the context and impact of the film as a whole, rather than rating it only on the basis of one short image or scene.”

Cinema releases are then rated G, PG, 12A, 15A, 16 or 18.

IFCO’s staff are appointed by the Minister for Justice and come from an array of backgrounds and, despite what you might think, their job doesn’t just involve watching films.

“There is a lot of administration and education along with the classification,” says David.

“We go to schools and talk about the work we do.”

Strong language is one thing that can move a classification up the scale, but David says studios tend to know their audiences.

“Film makers make their films with an audience in mind, so generally we don’t butt heads on the classifications.

“If they’re in doubt, they can ask us to look at early cuts or specific scenes, so there’s very infrequently disagreement.

“Overall, our job is to apply the guidelines in a consistent manner so that parents can know what to expect.”

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