"Sickies Making Films" (in Maryland, festival, 2018)

“Sickies Making Films” (2018), directed by Joe Tropea, shown at the Maryland Film Festival today in Baltimore’s renovated Parkway Theater, in the grand main auditorium from the 1930s (where US 1 meets Charles St) is not about, as you might guess, committing gross crimes to make snuff films. (There was a horrible case of this in Richmond, VA in the summer of 1988.) Rather, it is about the somewhat narrowed topic of the Maryland Board of Censors, which lasted longer (from 1916 to 1981) than any state movie censorship board.

Movie censorship arose largely in the 1920s, in a world where “Progessivism” was viewed in collective terms, about protecting society from all kinds of personal evils.  Remember the Comstock laws?

The word “censor” is related to “census” (I worked for Census in 2010 and 2011), back to Roman times when the word described a process to decide who was a citizen or even counted as human.

Yet it also followed Victorian England, where the idea of a sharp difference between public and private life developed.  What was showable in public could influence many private decisions in sum. And, of course, there was protecting children.

The film focuses particularly on one particular morality policewoman, Mary Avara.

In 1965, the Supreme Court case Freedman v. Maryland, ruled that a state censorship board could rate films but not ban them.  But the Maryland legislature immediately weaseled around this law in three days.  But the board finally died in 1981 (as Reaganism started) for lack of funding.

All this is ironic since Maryland has typically been a “blue” or more liberal state.

A great number of film clips are shown, some of which required the filmmaker to get permission or argue fair use.  Even “Deep Throat” (which I say in Times Square in 1976) gets mentioned.

I can remember, when I was coming out, going to see a gay porn film “Trick or Trap” at a Times Square theater, in spring 1973, where there was an introduction explaining that censors wanted to stop grown consenting adults seeing what they wanted. The film itself showed a handsome man accosted on the beach at gunpoint, and told “you’ll enjoy it”.

The music background seems to include some piano music of Satie.

QA 1

QA 2

Name: “Sickies Making Films”

Director, writer:          Joe Tropea

Released:  2018

Format:            1.85:1

When and how viewed:          Maryland Film Festival, Parkway Theater, main auditorium, 2018/5/4

Length:            84

Rating:  NA

Companies: Haricot Vert

Stars:  ***–

(Posted: Friday, May 4, 2018 at 10 PM EDT)