Italy Ends Censorship Of Films On Moral & Religious Grounds

Over the past century, hundreds of films were censored in Italy based on moral, political, and religious judgment. Cinematic films have been impeded by this system of censorship since 1914, a time of emerging movies in theaters. 

A few decades later, Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti, decided the Catholic Church should have more control over what audiences could watch in Italy. Since 1949, the result of allowing the Church more power to moralize films meant that hundreds of movies would be outright banned, and thousands more censored. 



On April 6th, the Italian government ended the century-long censorship system that disrupted or banned great films. One such film was the 1972 Oscar-nominated classic, “Last Tango In Paris” by Abernardo Bertolucci, which was banned, and most copies were destroyed. Only three copies were preserved in the National Cinematheque as “proof of the crime.”

Disposing of the cinema censorship law was an “important and historic step for Italian cinema,” according to film expert Elena Boero: “It was time.”

Bobby Avati, the director of the 1970s censored film “Bordella,” said, “The decision is one of the forms of relying on a sense of responsibility. We have matured.” 

A conundrum arose as the censorship “also made films more attractive, by arousing the curiosity of the audience, especially in the erotic field,” according to Bobby Avati, who noted that “censorship of films was not taking place because of their violence.” 

Dario Franceschini, Italy’s Minister of Culture, welcomes the “abolition of censorship in cinema.” Dario stated, “We leave permanently the system of censorship that allowed the state to interfere with the freedom of creativity of artists.” 

Franceschini added, “Film censorship has been abolished. The system of controls and interventions that still allow the state to intervene in the freedom of artists has been definitively ended.”

The release of a new film can no longer be blocked, and demands to edit them for moral or religious reasoning have ended. Filmmakers can classify their movies based on the age ranges of the audience.

Decisions are made by a new commission made up of 49 members chosen from within the film industry, including experts in animal rights, education, and the protection of minors.

Promoted by the Ministry of Culture in Italy, a virtual online census conducted by Chenchen Sura revealed 130 American and 274 Italian films, and 321 movies from other countries were censored since 1944. 

An estimated 10,000 films were modified in one way or another, including films by directors Federico Fellini and others. 

In 1998, “Toto Who Lived Twice” — a film considered to be grotesque and blasphemous by traditional Catholics — was the last highly controversial movie to be censored.

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