- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

The parents who brought their 3-year-old to a screening of the horror film “The Hitcher” recently won’t care that the Motion Picture Association of America is changing its ratings system.

So says film critic and radio personality Michael Medved, a frequent critic of the current ratings system, who spotted a toddler in the crowd at the screening in question.

What irks Mr. Medved is that the proposed changes miss the mark.

Members of the MPAA, meeting with filmmakers gathered at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, announced that a new ratings category, to bridge the gap between R and NC-17 fare, could be in the offing, according to E! Online.

The MPAA also may rule some R-rated films entirely off-limits for children, rather than merely restricting youngsters to seeing them in the company of an adult or guardian.

That’s fine, but don’t sensible parents already know R-rated films are unsuitable for young children? What Mr. Medved and, he suspects, many other parents would like to see is more information on PG-13 features. Such films are often cash cows for the industry — guess what “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” was rated? — but include material many find inappropriate for impressionable minds.

“It’s where the money is,” Mr. Medved says of PG-13 films. “R-rated films don’t do that well, by and large.” E! Online reports that MPAA chairman Dan Glickman says the improved system will be more transparent to filmmakers, allowing them to understand during shooting how various parts of a film might affect its eventual rating.

Currently, a filmmaker won’t know a film’s rating until it’s edited and ready to be seen.

“Any time you can demystify the process, it’s heading in the right direction,” Meyer Gottlieb, co-founder and president of Samuel Goldwyn Films, told The Washington Times.

Mr. Gottlieb says filmmakers probably don’t give ratings much thought while making their movies. As soon as the film’s distribution comes up, “then it becomes an issue,” he says. Film exhibitors still shy away from showing NC-17 films, for example, which forces some directors to snip their films to earn an R.

Mr. Medved hopes the MPAA doesn’t stop here. He wants a universal ratings system, to simplify for parents the confusing welter of ratings assigned variously to film, video games and television shows.

“We have a TV ratings system no one knows about,” Mr. Medved says. “There’s no reason to have different designations across the board.”

Opportunity society

The new documentary “God Grew Tired of Us” captures the saga of the “lost boys,” the young Sudanese men who walked for miles during the 1990s to flee the war wreaking destruction in their homeland.

The film focuses on three of these men who rebuild their lives in the United States.

It’s a testament to their ingenuity and heart that they’re able to survive the cultural whiplash — they had never used electricity before arriving here. But the film also is a rare example of a documentary showing the American dream in technicolor glory.

More typical of late are documentaries about our bungled Iraq war (“My Country, My Country,” “Iraq in Fragments”) and our environmental ignorance (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Who Killed the Electric Car?”).

In “God,” the three Sudanese transplants work at menial jobs, sometimes three at once, to save money to help pay for college educations.

By the film’s end, their collective fortunes are on the rise thanks to their hard work — and the opportunities this country affords.

Don’t get me wrong: “God Grew” doesn’t let American society off the hook entirely. The Sudanese men quickly realize how isolating our culture can be.

Back home, no matter how hard the times, a man could knock on a neighbor’s door and ask for help.

Here, if they try that they could get arrested for trespassing, or worse.

Conservatives, always eager to pounce — often with justification — on the knee-jerk anti-Americanism of so many documentaries, ought to rally behind “God Grew Tired of Us.” And liberals who favor a less restrictive immigration policy can point to these ex-lost boys as contemporary embodiments of America’s tradition of immigrant success stories.

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