Director and film buff Richard Wolstencroft is an advocate of free speech. He's not likely to show Bruce LaBruce's LA Zombie again anytime soon, but the part-time activist is showing a documentary about the Canadian gay pornographer this weekend in hopes to educate and curb the cost of the hefty fine he acquired last year -- courtesy the Australian Film Classification Board.
"The board is a pack of assholes who think that they know better about what the Australian public can and cannot see," Wolstencroft explains candidly. "Well, I disagreed with them. If adults want to see these sorts of films, they should be allowed."
It's an opinion that has landed the Melburnian director in deep water, as Wolstencroft is set to make a court appearance this week for showing LaBruce's latest controversial work on closing night of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival last year.
"I'm appearing in court this Wednesday. What happened is that the Melbourne International Film Festival rejected LA Zombie and we stepped in. I know Bruce, he was a guest of ours five years ago. So I said to him, look, we'll do a protest screening basically supporting this film."
Naturally, the press came a-running. It was only a matter of time before the Classification Board's alarms sounded and the hounds were released.
"I announced it on Facebook and said one day before, I will announce the venue, but I'm not going to publicly announce it until then. So it was in the newspaper, in The Age, The Herald Sun, etc. I thought that if the police wanted to stop it, they could join the Facebook group to attend the screening, but they didn't."
The police raided Wolstencroft's home instead, looking for a copy of the film they would never find. The director, however, was found and fined regardless.
"The Age was at the screening and so I boasted this is one for freedom of speech, fuck censorship, blah blah blah, that kind of stuff. And then, that appeared in the paper the next day, on the front page of The Age. I went overseas and a few months after I came back, the police raided my house. My assistant director had the copy and so we destroyed that copy. Still, I've been given a diversion order, which is basically a fine. That's why we're doing next week's screening, it's a freedom of speech fundraiser.'
Mystery MUFF is a spin-off of the festival that will screen Angelique Bosio's The Advocate For Fadgom: A Portrait Of Bruce LaBruce; a film that illustrates the work and times of the filmmaker through the eyes of the people who know his work best. Gus Van Sant and John Waters are featured in the film, to name a mere few LaBruce enthusiasts.
"You know, he was Kurt Cobain's favorite filmmaker before Cobain died," Wolstencroft tells me. "The film is just really amazing. We're the second film festival in the world to get it. I just saw it yesterday and it's absolutely fantastic. The best introduction to LaBruce's work that I have ever seen."
Wolstencroft is no stranger to directing controversial films himself. Since having his 1999 Pearl Before Swine overlooked by The Melbourne International Film Festival, the filmmaker and several others alike saw real cause for complaint.
"I wrote an outrage letter to an Internet film site and received about 50 emails back from other filmmakers. One of them was James Wan, the creator of the Saw series, saying 'I made a horror film' - 'I made a science film' - 'I made a lesbian gore movie' - whatever. So basically, we decided to screen these films as outsiders and start an indie film festival. So that's how MUFF began."
Having dealt with the authorities on their own terms is likely to have left a bad taste in Wolstencroft's mouth. He seems to want to make nice for the time being, but until the board ceases its abuse of power, the director is likely to keep his own forms of checks and balances.
"They created this whole bureaucracy, and even in America they don't have it. That's the system we should have here. We're actually being more conservative than America - and what I've been about is questioning that constantly."
Mystery MUFF will happen at Red Bennies on Sunday February 27. Tickets are available through redbennies.com and GreenTix (greentix.com.au/events/139618/Mystery-Muff). It'll only cost you $10+BF. Get there by 7pm for a good seat.