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The United States' war on global terrorism could lead to an unprecedented thawing of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This once implacable foe of the U.S. has demonstrated a willingness to oppose the neighboring Taliban regime. Our correspondent Jake Kreilkamp has found an innovative way in which the U.S. can return the favor. — The editors

THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN is renowned for imposing what strike American onlookers as impossibly harsh punishments and limitations on its artists. The cultural wing of the Ministry of Guidance, for example, forbids “excessively beautiful women” from appearing in any Iranian films, and it bans about half of all films made because of their content. But it’s interesting to note that some of the best films of the past ten years – such as Abbas Kiarostami’s "A Taste of Cherry" – have come from Iran.
These two facts reveal an important lesson: Great art can only be produced in a disciplined atmosphere. Why has Hollywood’s output been getting so awful? Lack of discipline! Imagine how quickly American cinema would regain its past greatness once we were to impose a repressive climate of fear on our filmmakers.
One aspect of Iran’s censorship program in particular could have extraordinary results if instituted here. A special committee reviews each film before it is released in Iran and rates how worthwhile a film it is. If a film receives the lowest possible rating from the board, the director is banned from making another film for a year.
This rule could easily be passed into law by our own government because it has something for liberals and conservatives alike. The right-wingers would love to put the beat-down on immoral, largely Democratic directors, and the lefties are the ones sitting in art-house theatres bitching about the state of film in the first place. Iran-style punishment is a win-win!
We could call this law the Unnecessarily Bad Film Act, or UBFA. To avoid the suggestion of elitism, we could draw our Worthiness Committee like jury duty. For each movie, twelve citizens drawn at random would determine the fate of that movie’s director. No matter how bad a rating the film receives, it would still be released. (This is what would separate us from the dictatorships!) But all films with the lowest rating would doom their directors to a one-year “time out” to contemplate what he or she has done.
Under our present system, directors can make total crap over and over again. Provided that they have managed to come up with one lousy film that did decently at the box office, they are free to continue their evil ways. With the UBFA, directors would think twice before unleashing a heap of shit. And as for those who are responsible for a big piece of cinematic poop, well, let’s hope they spend their year in the wilderness repenting.
The makers of horrible films are usually repeat offenders. Take Pay It Forward (2000), one of the worst in recent memory: It was directed by Mimi Leder, who began her career with the limp "The Peacemaker" (1997) and went on to commit such indiscretions as "Deep Impact" (1998), the bad asteroid movie. If she could have been stopped the morning after her first premiere, we might never have seen Haley Joel Osment play a Christ figure.
But the UBFA might do the most good with once-excellent directors who have lost their touch. In some ways, such directors are the most artistically dangerous because their past achievements have earned them total artistic license, or “final cut.” (Ever wonder how Jar Jar Binks got past the focus groups? There weren’t any!) Many filmmakers who churn out steaming mound after steaming mound are soon out of work, whereas a Scorcese can do whatever he wants! Let’s take Coppola: He’s been going downhill for years, but he squeaked by with "The Cotton Club" (1984), "New York Stories" (1989) and "Bram Stoker’s Dracula" (1992). ("Captain Eo" doesn’t count as a real movie.) But with "Jack" (the 1996 train wreck starring Robin Williams), Francis would have found himself banned and never would have made "The Rainmaker" the next year.
And how about Ivan Reitman? "Ghostbusters" (1984) was a genuine classic — but "Kindergarten Cop" (1990) would have sent Ivan out to some gulag in Arizona to find himself. The UBFA could have saved us from "Junior" (1994), "Father’s Day" (1997), "Seven Days Seven Nights" (1998) and this year’s disaster, "Evolution."
To give the UBFA an American flavor, I’d propose an addition: three strikes and you’re out. Reitman would be toast. Sidney Lumet ("Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network") would have gotten nailed for "A Stranger Among Us" (1992). You remember—It starred Melanie Griffith as an undercover Hassidic Jew! Sidney might never have made "Guilty As Sin" (1993). But let’s say his ego was bloated, and he went ahead and made it anyway. "Guilty As Sin" would have meant strike two, and another year to think about life. Everybody would be pulling for him to do the right thing and forget about making "Critical Care" (1997). But if he had, it would have been strike three, and his ludicrously bad remake of "Gloria" (1999) would be nothing but a dark notion in his own twisted mind.
America needs the Unnecessarily Bad Films Act to bring us together as a people and cement our relationship with a potentially vital ally in the middle east. Let’s do what we can to make our worldwide cultural hegemony as benevolent as possible.

(Valentine Meeley contributed research assistance and wise suggestions for this piece.)

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