Subject: Explicit Sexuality
Medium: Film Video
Artist: Jim Jarmusch
Confronting Bodies: Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC)
Dates of Action: 1995
Description of Artwork: Dead Man is a Western film about an Easterner (Johnny Depp) who finds himself at odds with the rough Western culture. It is shot entirely in black and white and contains numerous scenes of violence, including cannibalism.
The Incident: The scene in question is a 4 second incident in which the main character witnesses a woman in an open doorway giving oral sex to a man with a pistol. This is supposed to represent the lack of civilized culture in the West. However, the Film Censorship Board saw this as gratuitous sexual violence and made the decision that the film should be banned.
Results of Incident: The Board of Review overturned the decision and allowed the film to be released as R-rated. The 4 second scene was debated in small details such as how the gun was held and how the unnamed and unimportant character was supposed to be portrayed.
Australia is the only western country to ever propose a ban on Dead Man.
Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.