Hollywood film producers and Mormon entrepreneurs clash over consumer rights and racy content in an effort to define copyright law in the digital age. Available on iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and Snag Films.
Directed by Andrew James, Joshua Ligairi
Produced by Amber Bollinger, Andrew James, Joshua Ligairi
Cinematography by Andrew James, Joshua Ligairi
Edited by Andrew James, Joshua Ligairi
Music by Chris Ohran
Dozens of Utah DVD retailers attracted unwanted attention from Hollywood heavyweights when, in the name of conservative family values, they began sanitizing films of sex, nudity, profanity, and violence. Outraged over the unauthorized editing of their work, prominent filmmakers began to speak out, thrusting the two groups into an intense legal, theoretical, and moral battle that would last six years before coming to a shocking conclusion.
FESTIVALS / AWARDS
Winner - Best Documentary, New York United Film Festival
Opening Night Film - The DocYard Screening Series
Opening Night Film - Kahbang Music and Art Festival
Opening Night Film - Salt Lake City Film Festival
Official Selection - Toronto International Film Festival
Official Selection - Goteborg International Film Festival
Official Selection - Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection - Cinequest Film Festival
Official Selection - Lake County Film Festival
Official Selection - Florida Film Festival
Official Selection - Nashville Film Festival
Official Selection - Stranger than Fiction Screening Series
Official Selection - Newport Beach Film Festival
Official Selection - The DocYard Screening Series
Official Selection - Traverse City Film Festival
Official Selection - Hardacre Film Festival
Official Selection - Kahbang Music and Art Festival
Official Selection - Salt Lake City Film Festival
Official Selection - Webster Film Series
Official Selection - Charlotte Film Festival
Official Selection - Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
Official Selection - Tallgrass Film Festival
Official Selection - New York United Film Festival
Official Selection - Red Rock Film Festival
"Cleanflix is a very smart and critical–but never dismissive –film about two vastly different worlds colliding over artistic censorship." - CBC News
"Cleanflix is easily the most interesting topical documentary about movies since This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Cleanflix is a movie which continues hours after the credits, in the conversations and debates you will have with your friends and family." - /FIlm
Daniel Thompson rivals King of Kong’s Billy Mitchell in being one of those ideal documentary subjects, who you can’t quite believe is a real guy." - Ain't It Cool News
"The real story isn't just about intellectual property; it's about the daily difficulties that the devoutly religious have in trying to participate in mainstream American culture while retaining as much of the purity of their own beliefs as they can." - AV Club
"In different hands, the documentary Cleanflix would be a true, holier than thou documentary masterpiece that makes the high-minded average progressive feel superior just by the fact of its existence. Fortunately, Andrew James and Joshua Ligairi are better filmmakers than that, and because of their efforts, this film has one thing the average Michael Moore rake out doesn’t have: pathos for the skewered." - Lucid Forge
"The film takes an unexpected but rewarding turn in the third act, shifting from a straight delivery of fact to a scathing indictment of the hypocrisy behind religious fundamentalism." - Hidden Remote
"Andrew James and Joshua Ligairi join forces and unleash a powerful, poignant and balanced exploration into the debate of creative control between the customer and the creator. The question of who really owns the property we purchase ignites a firestorm of emotional intrigue that captivates the audience every step of the way. With the help of video comparisons, intellectual interviews and well-crafted visuals, the duo has captured a fascinating debate for both sides, supplying each standpoint with enough screen time to allow viewers to make the ultimate judgment." - Slug Magazine
"The beauty of Cleanflix is how it provides such a rich understanding of why the Mormon populace would demand such sanitation to their cinema [...] Cleanflix is a sharply produced, surprisingly even-handed story of editorial demand mutating into a Wild West mentality." - Film Jerk
"Cleanflix is wonderfully produced and highly educational documentary with an ironic twist that poses strong cases for both sides of the issue. The film does not offer any specific answers, objectively reveals the issues and leaves the discussion open to the audience." - Cinema Funk
Andrew James premiered Una Vida Mejor at Cinequest in 2008 and returned this year with Cleanflix, which premiered at Toronto. James is becoming a figure of sorts—an unassuming sophisticated liberal from Utah who gently challenges the Mormon community and conservative social values in general. Cleanflix charts the rise and fall and rise and fall of several family-minded enterprises which removed objectionable bits from DVD editions of Hollywood films during the aughts. James’s documentary certainly critiques the business practices and general self-righteousness of the LDS-affiliated individuals behind these ventures, but when he offers excerpted “offensive” elements out of context (from The Big Lebowski and Sin City among others), it’s nearly impossible not to cringe, and that cringe serves an implicit point: these Mormons aren’t nuts to register shock here and there. Of course we also see the technical and aesthetic ineptitude represented by the bowdlerized versions of said scenes, and the good idea in theory becomes a laughable idea in practice. Cleanflix veers into juicy subplots that would be crass and exploitive in the hands of a less scrupulous documentarian. This distinct lack of hostility toward its subjects might help the film find an audience among the very people it represents." - Hammer To Nail
Mormons can be movie lovers too. The problem is that their religious leaders strongly discourage R-rated content. As one Mormon prophet explained, “The mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards.” In order to better serve their Mormon clientele, enterprising video stores in Utah started to offer “clean” versions of popular titles like The Matrix and Titanic. Using digital editing software, self-appointed censors removed nudity, gratuitous violence and profanity, then mass duplicated the clean versions for DVD rental. Soon the idea took off, and multiple franchises sought to capitalize on brands like CleanFlicks and Flick’s Club. For a brief spell, it seemed like the perfect business.
Unfortunately, no one consulted the copyright holders. Hollywood figures such as Steven Soderbergh, Curtis Hanson and Michael Mann became vocal opponents of having their work re-edited. As quickly as the clean movement blossomed, it started to unravel, with legal threats from Hollywood, accusations among rivals and even a sex scandal in the back room of a clean video store.
In Cleanflix, directors Andrew James and Joshua Ligairi chronicle the rise and fall of the clean movement. Having grown up in the Mormon community, the duo gained close access to the main players that outsiders might never have achieved. The controversy over cleaning films raises further questions: Who gets to set cultural standards? Does what we watch affect how we behave?
The film gives a broader context for understanding the Mormon institution (known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) by talking to its adherents and those who have dropped out, most notably the playwright and filmmaker Neil LaBute, known for the dark themes in scripts like In the Company of Men and Bash.
As events unfold, one thing becomes clear: in movies, you can skip over the parts you don’t like. But in real life, you can’t. - Thom Powers, Toronto International Film Festival