Pubdate: Tue, 06 Jun 2000
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Toronto Star
Contact:  One Yonge St., Toronto ON, M5E 1E6
Fax: (416) 869-4322
Page: D5
Author: Betsy Powell, Entertainment Reporter


Reverses ruling to cut acclaimed Canadian pot documentary

The Ontario Film Review Board has reversed its decision and says it's
now okay for moviegoers in the province to see an acclaimed
documentary that shows four laboratory monkeys smoking pot.

Last week, a three-member panel ruled the film Grass could not be
shown in Ontario theatres unless Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann removed
the 20-second scene, taken from 30-year-old archival footage of U.S.
government researchers.

Distributor Lions Gate Films appealed, and yesterday five board
members not on the original panel decided Grass can be screened
without cuts. It will be classified Adult Accompaniment (AA) and carry
a warning about "mature theme and substance abuse."

"I'm glad the censor board sobered up over the weekend," Mann said.
"It's ironic, the movie is only incidentally about marijuana. Its
message is one about personal freedom."

Bob Warren, head of the review board, yesterday said the original
panelists weren't objecting to the chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys
smoking pot, but to the restraints that were used. The Ontario
Theatres Act prohibits movies from depicting scenes "where an animal
has been abused in the making of the film."

"The subsequent panel felt that this was sort of a historical context
of something that was done as part of a proper lab experiment and it
was something that should be shown," he said.

In fact, he added, "both panels did feel that it was a very good movie
and that it should be seen, if possible, by a large number of people."

John Bain, a spokesman for Lions Gate, said the company was confident
it would win the appeal because the ruling "made no sense of all."

"We thought, 'Okay, it's a publicity bonanza.' Generally it helps us,
it doesn't hurt."

Grass, narrated by Woody Harrelson, screens Saturday at the Paramount
before opening June 16 at the Bloor Cinema. The film was the
top-earning independent release this past weekend in New York and San
Francisco, Mann said. 
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