Decades before movies had a rating system, they had censors. Dating back to the silent era, seven states and dozens of cities across the United States empowered government-employed censors to cuts films prior to their exhibition—or even ban them outright. Citing unacceptable violence, language, and sexuality, censors literally shaped the moving images audiences in their regions could access—often motivated by their own beliefs, prejudices, and strong personalities.

Sickies Making Films uses the nation’s longest surviving censor board, the Maryland State Board of Censors (1916-1981), as a cinematic and often hilarious window into the tangled history of American movie censorship. During the early years of film, censors attempted to control and enforce public opinion and morals—and intrepid filmmakers and exhibitors schemed to outmaneuver them. But as society underwent seismic shifts in the second half of the 20th Century and the MPAA implemented a national rating system, regional film censors dwindled to a quixotic few. Outspoken and unrepentant Mary Avara became the last censor standing—and her very public clashes with fellow Marylander John Waters, transgressive film’s “Pope of Trash,” entered the national spotlight. Using archival footage, film clips spanning many decades, and interviews with censored filmmakers and exhibitors, the documentary is an incisive, funny, and unforgettable love letter to the movies.

Director/Writer/Producer Joe Tropea and Producer/Writer/Editor Robert A. Emmons Jr. in attendance.



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