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Gay Film Director Walks Back Call for Amazon Prime Boycott over Deleted Sex Scenes

by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Staff Reporter
Friday May 22, 2020
A scene from 'God's Own Country'
A scene from 'God's Own Country'  

"God's Own Country" filmmaker Francis Lee is walking back his call for a boycott of Amazon Prime's streaming offering of the gay romance, NBC News reports. The film is set in rural Yorkshire and deals with the blossoming relationship between a closeted young local and a Romanian migrant.

The film quickly became a festival favorite when it was released in 2017, drawing comparisons to same-gender romantic fare like "Weekend" and "Brokeback Mountain."

Lee took to Twitter to encourage American viewers who might be tempted to view the film using Amazon Prime not to do so, because, he tweeted, "It is not the film I intended or made." Lee was responding to cuts in the film that saw two sex scenes removed.

Lee promised that he would look into the situation and report back, and he did so - retracting his earlier call for viewers to boycott the streaming service.

Posted Lee in a followup tweet:

Dear USA friends, after investigation God's Own Country was not censored by @PrimeVideo (Amazon USA) but by the US distributor @GoldwynFilms who butchered the streaming version without consultation to get more 'revenue' [email protected] were incredibly supportive in rectifying

Added Lee:

The rental version of God's Own Country on @PrimeVideo is the correct version of my film. I would like to thank Amazon Prime for being supportive and I would caution any filmmaker of working with the aforementioned 'distributor'. Thank you EVERYONE for all your support

IndieWire explained the situation more fully:

Films uploaded through Prime Video Direct that contain depictions of pornography or explicit depictions of sexual acts or nudity are labeled as featuring "sexually explicit content," which prevents the title from appearing on certain carousels on the Prime Video website. By censoring "God's Own Country," the free stream of the film available for Prime subscribers bypassed an explicit rating and thus increased its visibility on the website. The censored cut has since been pulled from Amazon Prime.

The film's power derives largely from the talents of its two central performers and the chemistry between them. In an interview with EDGE, Lee recalled casting the two male leads, Josh O'Connor, who plays the emotionally trussed-up local boy, Johnny, and Alec Secareanu, who plays Gheorghe, the Romanian worker hired to help out at Johnny's family's farm.

Said Lee of O'Connor:

I was mesmerized because he totally internalized what this character meant. And I was very attracted to his ears. And I could see he had massive hands, like somebody who worked the land... He was able to come and meet me in London, and I was super shocked because he was the total antithesis of the character. Josh is just the sweetest, loveliest, most open, funny, generous, smiley boy you'd ever wish to meet.

Of Secareanu, Lee said:

And this one. I was sent a lot of self-tapes from Romania and Alec totally pinged out of the pile because this character on the page could be very two-dimensional. Gheorghe is very nuanced, very subtle, in this inner, maternal care that he has - but he's not a pushover. And Alec just totally delivered that...

Lee is now working on a new feature film, "Ammonite," which is set in England in the mid-19th century. Alec Secareanu reportedly appears in the new film, which stars Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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