Sickies Making Films 2018
Distributed by Distributed by The Video Project, 145 - 9th St., Suite 102, San Francisco, CA 94103; 800-475-2638
Produced by Produced by Skizz Cyzyk, Robert A. Emmons, Jr., and Joe Tropea
Directed by Directed by Joe Tropea
DVD, color, 88 min.
High School - General Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers
Date Entered: 12/11/2018
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Kathleen Spring, Nicholson Library, Linfield College, McMinnville, OR
Deep into Joe Tropea’s documentary Sickies Making Films, former Maryland state senator Howard Denis sums up the film’s thesis succinctly – “The lesson of the history of censorship is that it doesn’t work.” Tropea’s film provides a wealth of information documenting both film censorship in the United States writ large and film censorship in Maryland specifically. (The Maryland State Board of Censors was the longest-running censor board in the country, in existence from 1916 until 1981.)
Tropea begins broadly in the first half of the film, enlisting a number of historians, authors, and theater owners to document widespread censorship from the early days of cinema through the middle of the twentieth century. Archival photos, documents, audio recordings, and feature film footage, accompanied by narration from the contributing experts (largely in voiceover), are used extensively to demonstrate the intersections of race, religion, civil rights, politics, and censorship. In the second half of the film, Tropea continues to alternate archival footage with contemporary commentary, but he turns his attention to more recent censorship efforts. Focusing specifically on Maryland, Tropea adds well-known transgressive filmmaker (and native Baltimorean) John Waters to the cast of characters telling the story, with Waters providing some of the wittiest commentary in the film.
Essential for film studies programs, but likely of interest to journalism and media studies scholars as well, Sickies Making Films provides another piece of the film censorship puzzle, nicely complementing Kirby Dick’s examination of the Motion Picture Association of America in This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2007). Public libraries would also find a likely audience for this well-produced documentary.
Mature themes and language.