WATCHING PAINT DRY

Here’s how UK film censors rated a 10-hour film of paint drying

Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Obsession
Life as Laboratory

It’s official. Paint drying is a suitable image for viewers aged 4 and over.

That’s the conclusion the British Board of Film Classification reached Jan. 26 after reviewing Paint Drying, a 10-hour documentary consisting of a single shot of white paint drying on a wall. Directed by filmmaker Charlie Lyne, the crowd-funded film was an act of protest against the UK’s national film censors.

The BBFC holds a place of grudging importance in the UK’s movie industry. Films can’t be shown in UK cinemas without a BBFC certification, similar to the G, PG, R and other ratings doled out by the Motion Picture Association of America in the US. Filmmakers must pay to have their film reviewed. At roughly £1000 ($1,425) for a feature-length film, that’s a steep price for independent filmmakers whose work could end up censored or banned at the end of the process.

It’s not the first time the BBFC has run up against the creative community. In December 2014, the agency took over ratings for domestically-produced Internet porn, after a training session that led regulators through graphic clips specifying which sex acts were permissible and which were not. The same organization gave Paddington, a family comedy about a traveling bear, a PG rating for “mild sexual content”—in this case, a brief scene of actor Hugh Bonneville in drag.

Reviewers are required to sit through an entire film before issuing their rating. That sparked the idea for Paint Drying. Lyne took his project to Kickstarter in November. Given that filmmakers must pay for their film by the minute, every £8.51 raised added another excruciating minute to the final product. He raised a total of £5,936 ($8,462), enough to fund 607 boring minutes.

On a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” this week, Lyne admitted that even he hasn’t managed to watch the film in its entirety.

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