During the 1920s Belgium constrained the freedom of its film industry by setting up a Board of Film Classification as did many other western countries. The Belgian system however differed from the usual systems of film classification in the sense that politicians tried to avoid any kind of actual film censorship. The result was a system of voluntary film classification that placed films in one of two categories: either suitable for children or for adults (16 plus) only. Non-classified films automatically gained the label 'adults only'. It took eight years and numerous debates at all political levels to come up with a solution that could satisfy the moral guardians of Belgian society its politicians and those who distributed and showed the films all at the same time. Despite this the law was to be debated and contested by all of these groups in the subsequent years. The authors describe the eight years of campaign against the cinema and the debate that preceded the completion and enactment of the Belgian law on film classification. They follow this with an analysis of the decisions made by the classification board during the first nine years of its existence. In spite of the liberal principles that underlie the law the Belgian film classification board was soon acting as a board of censors demanding cuts in more than a third of the films that it classified mainly on the basis of portrayals of violence crime sex adultery and suicide.

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis

Depauw, Liesbet, & Biltereyst, Daniel. (2005). De kruistocht tegen de slechte cinema. Over de aanloop en de start van de Belgische filmkeuring (1912-1929). Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 8(1), 4–26. doi:10.18146/tmg.537