Between 1921 and 1965 government workers in New York reviewed every movie that was to be publicly screened in the state. Reviewers would determine if the films contained any scenes that they deemed to be indecent, immoral, inhumane, sacrilegious or likely to incite a crime. Over 44 years more than 73,000 films were evaluated and thousands of scenes were censored. For almost half of the last century, movie goers in New York saw only what the government allowed them to see. Governing Body is composed entirely of scenes that were censored through this process.
In 2021 Governing Body was reviewed by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) who gave it a Restricted (R) rating by today’s standards. After the MPA provides a rating they gain oversight over all visual representations of the film. Advertising officials at the Association approve or disapprove content such as movie posters, trailers and promotional websites. They determine if visual material is “appropriate” for all audiences where media about the film circulates. Four movie posters for Governing Body were disapproved for their depiction of childbirth, breast feeding, and nude classical sculptures among other subjects. We believe that in the context of our film these rejected posters have great cultural value and have decided to make them public despite their disapproved status. As a result, we risk sanctioning and other punitive retaliation from the MPA.
Governing Body is produced and directed by Julia Weist. Weist is primarily known for her visual artwork, which explores the practice of record keeping and its impact on shared systems of knowledge and power. Her work has been exhibited extensively and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art among many other collections globally. Governing Body is produced by Archive Films and is distributed by The Size of Thoughts.