USA Distributor Trials For Steve McQueen's "Shame" Driven By Controversial Subject Matter

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 7, 2011 2:15 AM
7 Comments
  • |

Word on the street (from articles I read on both Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter) this morning are that, thanks to it explicit depictions of the symptoms of sexual addiction - including "male and female full-frontal nudity, graphic depictions of straight/gay/threeway sex, masturbation, urination and a gruesome suicide attempt," as THR puts it, Steve McQueen's sophomore feature directorial effort Shame, which stars Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and Nicole Beharie, is guaranteed an "NC-17" rating here in the USA.

That is unless McQueen acquiesces to likely MPAA requests to re-edit the film so that it tones down some of its graphic representations.

However, as both Deadline and THR note, McQueen is definitely not open to slicing up the film any further, and wants interested distributors to buy and release the film as is.

But that's proving to be a challenge, as, while the film does have a UK release date already scheduled, no American distributor has claimed it yet for the USA market, despite there being "abundant conversation and buyer interest as it heads to Toronto," says THR.

Some of that conversation has also included the film's potential on the awards circuit, as Fassbender's performance especially, has drawn much critical acclaim since the film's Venice & Telluride screenings a few days ago. However, again, it's explicitness and what might be seen as McQueen's *stubbornness" by some on the inside, presents the film with considerable limitations.

As Deadline notes, "without the 55-plus crowd this art picture will die and the potential NC-17 will drive them away," referring to the older Academy voters, who belong to a group that has been especially split on the film thus far. Reportedly, at the Telluride screening, many of the older members of the audience walked out long before the film's denouement.

Although, this certainly isn't the first time American audiences have had to deal with a critically acclaimed work that was also notorious for its sexual elements; so how much more difficult is this particular scenario? I don't know. I haven't seen the film, and can't really compare it to anything that came before it, like say Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris for example, which initially received an "X" rating when it was initially released in 1972. But that certainly didn't completely alienated Academy voters as the film received Oscar nominations in 2 major categories - Best Actor (for Marlon Brando) and Best Director for Bertolucci.

"We knew we were going to be uncompromising... We always knew that we needed to make a film that was strong and powerful and talked about -- elements of how we live now and the spectrum of sexuality and access to pornography around the world. And we knew we were going to need a team of people in the U.S. who were going to be brave. That is our selling point. Our selling point is that we've not been shy."

Words from the film's producer Iain Canning - whose last work (The King's Speech) made a bit of a splash itself on Oscar night; let's see whether Shame sees a similar kind of success.

First, it has to find a distributor willing to take it on and bring it to audiences in the USA.

I'm looking forward to finally seeing it myself when it screens at the New York Film Festival in about 3 weeks; of course my own informed thoughts will follow soon thereafter.

But if anything, all the controversy surrounding the film should only generate further interest from audiences who may be curious to see what the fuss is all about.

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

7 Comments

  • Neziah | September 7, 2011 11:56 AMReply

    McQueen has balls, I like that, (no homo)

    This is the type of film that I've been waiting for, and with a great director behind the helm, it should not only be shocking and powerful (Hunger is in the Criterion Collection for a reason), but significant and groundbreaking. McQueen, do whatever it takes to get this film out there for people to see it, but DO NOT compromise your artistic vision for those that are easily offended. Some of us can take anything.

  • NothingButAMan | September 7, 2011 10:30 AMReply

    Why pay for an MPAA rating at all? In '06, "Shortbus" hit theaters unrated and made just short of 2 million domestically, 5.5 million worldwide...

  • Mecca | September 7, 2011 9:05 AMReply

    Hmm. There is so much buzz surrounding this film. I really want to see it!

    I am little disappointed though I might not get to see it at TIFF because it is currently off-sale. I just hope ppl can return some of their tickets so I can see it already!

    As far as the distribution deal goes I can only think of IFC. "Shame" deals w/ a lot of graphic images that might not be appropriate for all audiences.

  • Kia | September 7, 2011 8:14 AMReply

    I do hope Shame gets picked up by Fox Searchlight. At least they will market the film--to an extent.

  • AccidentalVisitor | September 7, 2011 5:17 AMReply

    It is not going to make all that much money regardless of whether they tone down the sex and the nudity. So the question becomes is it worth "sacrificing" art for the extra bucks to help earn back the cost of the film and to help the film's chances when it comes to awards season. People understandably talk about Fassbender but from early reviews it appears Carey Mulligan will have a legit shot at nominations herself.

  • Sergio | September 7, 2011 3:53 AMReply

    Most likely, I would say, it's going to be picked up by IFC which goes for riskier stuff and released McQueen's Hunger.

    Or perhaps Stand Releasing which is going to distribute in the U.S., Michael, the controversial Austrian film about a child molester which played at Cannes and will be screened at Toronto

  • Vanessa Martinez | September 7, 2011 3:01 AMReply

    I have also read that there is a bidding war with distributors over this film. There's interest out there. My gut tells me this film will get distribution, so at least Michael Fassbender can get award consideration.

    I read a tweet today about "rumors swirling" of FOX Searchlight. trying to buy the rights of this film. They're just rumors though with no sources whatsoever ..Hmmm...

Follow Shadow and Act

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Electro (Jamie Foxx) Faces Off Against ...
  • Watch Omar Sy In Action As Bishop In ...
  • Black Movie Trivia - Congrats to our ...
  • Interview: Chatting with RZA About Paul ...
  • Critically-Acclaimed Doc 'The Trials ...
  • GLAAD Awards Honors Jennifer Lopez-Produced ...
  • A Look At Seattle International Film ...
  • Hard Times - Making It, Vol. 1 - Entry ...
  • "There Are Witches In My Building" - ...
  • Review: Amir Ramses' Doc 'Jews of Egypt' ...