Editorial: Classifiers differ about Ascendant May 5, 2021










The Australian film Ascendant was classified MA15+ for strong themes and violence by the Classification Board (CB) on March 30.

On April 6, a three-member panel of the Classification Review Board (CRB) overturned this decision, lowering the classification to ‘M’with consumer advice “mature fantasy themes, violence and blood detail”.  

The film opened on April 8.

The CRB said: “it is the view of the Classification Review Board that the themes and violence within Ascendant were justified within the context of a fantasy narrative, and within this context they were of moderate impact.”

In their full decision and reasons published sometime later, the CRB concluded: “In the Review Board’s opinion, the fantasy nature of the film, whereby Aria (the young female protagonist) goes back and forth from the supernatural to human, make the themes moderate in impact and they therefore can be accommodated at the ‘M’ classification level.”

The contrast between this view (with its reliance on fantasy to reduce the impact of torture ) and the Classification Board’s report has us scratching our head.   

For example, the CB said “the film largely takes place in a lift, where a young woman has been trapped. Her captors control the lift, causing it to accelerate upwards and downwards to terrorise her. She also watches her father being tortured in a livestream. …the film contains depictions of torture, including the implicit removal of a man's ear and finger. He becomes increasingly covered in blood as the torture continues, including the use of electricity and waterboarding”.

New Zealand classified the film R13 (for violence, cruelty and offensive language) which means no one under 13 can be admitted to the film.  

It has been judged as injurious to the public good if made available to persons under 13. 

In Australia, an MA15+ has legal force but children under 15 can be admitted if accompanied by a parent. 

Ascendant now has an ‘M’ classification which, while it is not recommended for those under 15 years, has no legal force. So any kid can see it.  

It’s high time we saw some outcomes and reforms from the review of Classification regulation in Australia, which was conducted well over a year ago.