'12 Years A Slave' Becomes The First Film with Sex & Nudity to Ever Do This

While The Wolf of Wall Street is setting records for the outrageous number of 'F' bombs it employs, another Best Picture contender has broken a different kind of record. 12 Years A Slave became the first film with nudity approved to distribute in India. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has notoriously seen nudity, sex scenes, violence and other more scandalous elements of American films deal-breakers for an Indian audience. But it seems that 12 Years has squashed their fears, and the board approved the drama about American slavery for distribution without a single cut. 

The Wolf of Wall Street, however, underwent seven minutes worth of cuts before it was approved, and even then it was stamped with an "Adults Only" label. 12 Years just barely made the grade, with the board originally wanting to make six cuts to the film, presumably to snip away at the rape scene, the nude whipping scene, the bathing scene, the auction scene, and the middle-of-the-night love making scene (at least this would be my guess). CBFC spokesman Anjum Rajabali said of the decision to leave the film unaltered: 

12 Years A Slave was given clearance based on merit after it was felt that the scenes were necessary and that cutting them would take away from the film itself. However, this does not mean a blanket approval for nudity in adult-only films.

Yet ironically, a year earlier, another slave drama featuring nude sequences, Django Unchained, was determined to be in need of altering by the board. 

In a nation that rarely escapes the theatre without being accosted by unnecessary nudity or sensationalized violence, the Indian boards decision to review and trim out unnecessary elements for its viewers makes complete sense. Yet when it comes to films like 12 Years, whose nudity is both acceptable and paramount to the story being told, the board's decision was both unlikely and hugely progressive.

The nudity in 12 Years represents more than the sexualization of the slaves portrayed, it represents the humility they faced on a daily basis. When these slaves were prepped for selling, they were stripped down and forced to stand tall and still like livestock, while the auctioneer would poke and prod them to demonstrate the strength of their arms or the child-bearing ability of a woman's hips. 

The film is honest, truthful, and heartbreaking. In a scene where Patsy is whipped to an inch of her life, her nakedness — her physical and emotional vulnerability — is essential. How different, unbelievable even, would it be if she wore her undergarments while being whipped. These slaves were without any protection, not even a shirt on their backs to lessen the pain of their lashings. 

The Indian board may have a ways to go in terms of approving more American films without amendments, but it is a comfort to see that for a film like 12 Years, its message will stay unaltered for all audiences. 

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