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Documentary Filmmaker Sean McAllister Opposes BBFC Classifation

A Northern Soul

BAFTA award-winning filmmaker (for A Syrian Love Story), Sean McAllister, has voiced his dismay at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rating his new documentary, A Northern Soul, with a 15 certificate. This, of course, signifies that anyone under that age would not be permitted to see this film in the theater. And yet, as McAllister alludes to, the film is heavily focused on an important part of English culture – namely, disadvantaged children.

The BBFC have spoken about their decision to give A Northern Soul the 15 rating, stating that there were simply too many ‘F’ words (you know, fuck, fucking, fucked) for the film to be deemed, say, a 12a certification. At least 20 uses were counted. Understandably, McAllister was not too pleased about the decision, actually, he was extremely fucked off about it. And in retaliation, the director organised free screenings to the under-15s specifically, in Hull, England, where the film is set.

A Northern Soul follows local man, Steve Arnott, who works in a factory just to get by day-to-day. And in the precious little fucking leisure time he has, Steve attempts to give the children of poorer areas, the opportunity to shine via his hip-hop Beats Bus. Depicting such communities of Hull during its prospering UK City of Culture in 2017, A Northern Soul offers another spotlight of impoverished people, and always a good fucking time to do so. McAllister, incidentally, was a creative director of the Hull UK City of Culture opening event.


A clinical classification based on a much more social way of speaking is, of course, an uglier side of the censorship process. I shouldn’t say ‘fuck’ in front of my kids, but I do. How different is that? Steve Arnott’s language is part of who he is, where he has come from, and what he has to face each day. Expressing yourself, or of that world around you, with the use of ‘F’ words, is perfectly understandable from ground level, here, in real life. And so the fuck-word count somehow overrides the spirit of the kids shown in McAllister’s film.

McAllister has not been shy coming forward, expressing his own perturbed stance. Claiming that perhaps the BBFC are trying to curb the depiction of poverty, not just mere four-letter words. The filmmaker firmly believes that such a classification on this type of film, only opens other doors to notions of misunderstanding his intentions, judgments based on class, and an elbow to the country’s economic austerity. A similar fiasco recently impacted the film Eighth Grade, given an R rating in America, to which free screenings for all ages were put on.

There is some light at the end of this tunnel for McAllister, in that Hull’s local council had granted A Northern Soul with a 12a certificate before the BBFC make their call. However, the documentary will stand with the 15 rating when it is released in selected cinemas from August 24th. A Northern Soul will also be televised in the UK on BBC Two later in the year. See the trailer below, and some behind the scenes footage of earlier screenings.

Sean McAllister on Twitter

A Northern Soul Screening Info

A Northern Soul on Twitter #ANorthernSoul

A Northern Soul on Facebook


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