Porn film makes a comeback at the Bijou


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The Bijou is set to resurrect its campy, 3-D version of a 1977 porn film today, a year after directors canceled the show because of obscenity concerns from University of Iowa officials.

The Bijou has a longstanding tradition of showing a pornographic film around Valentine’s Day and, in the past, more than 100 people attended each of the two showings, said Bijou Executive Director Jesse Damazo.

After UI officials reviewed the legal implications of showing the film, university spokesman Tom Moore said the screening of Disco Dolls in Hot Skin is protected under the First Amendment.

Bijou Programming Director Zane Umsted said the cinema is given free rein to screen films, but the UI administration likes notification if the Bijou Board of Directors plans to show something controversial.

Umsted said he handled the porn film last year the same way he would any other film.

“I didn’t think to give a courtesy notification to some of the people up the food chain,” he said.

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In February 2010, then-interim UI Vice President for Student Services Tom Rocklin recommended the Bijou cancel the showing three days before it was scheduled to be screened.

Though it was ultimately the cinema’s choice to cancel, the board acquiesced, only to stay in good standing with the UI and be allowed to show divisive films the members felt strongly about in the future.

But that didn’t stop the board members from writing an open letter to Rocklin, explaining their motives for wanting to show the film in the first place.

Damazo said the Bijou’s mission is to bring alternative and independent films to Iowa. Disco Dolls in Hot Skin falls into that category — it has made the rounds of many independent film festivals.

The Bijou is screening the film in irony, Umsted said.

“It’s a big joke for those who want a fun, funny Valentine’s Day instead of the usual cliché, romantic tropes,” he said. “I’ve never seen the film, but I don’t think the plot won any awards by any means.”

Moore said officials received complaints from a variety of sources, which led to last year’s cancellation. Moore said Rocklin simply wanted to review the university’s policy to ensure showing the film would comply with state and federal law.

“Our legal analysis has led us to the conclusion that it would be against the First Amendment rights to prevent the showing of an otherwise legal film,” Moore said.

This year, Moore said moviegoers will be carded for age to ensure minors who are not legally allowed to see the material will be protected. Posters and other advertisements also had to be deemed appropriate by officials this year.

“I think it maybe has some historical relevance,” said UI sophomore Alex Taylor. “It’s reflective of a certain era of film. I think it depends how you contextualize it.”

The French and film major said he was unsure if he’d attend the weekend’s screenings.

“Probably not,” he said. “I’d feel like a creeper.”

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