Bullfrog Films v. Wick – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1986-1987

In December 1985 the CCR filed suit on behalf of a number of documentary filmma­kers whose films were denied “certificates of educational character” for political rea­sons by the United States Information Agency ( USIA) . Such certificates are granted pursuant to an international treaty designed to facilitate the free flow of ideas among nations. Obtaining a certifi­cate is important because the treaty exempts certified documentaries from customs duties and other import restrictions. Without such certificates international distribution of films is substantially hin­dered.

The suit, filed in a Los Angeles federal district court, charges the USIA with using the certification process in a politi­cally biased manner to prevent certain films from being seen abroad. Those films which the USIA views as critical of U.S. policies and practices, particularly on the topics of nuclear war, environmental prob­lems, and Central America, have been denied certificates of educational character on the ground that they “present a point of view.”

Yet, industry-sponsored films on similar subjects, such as the Edison Electric Insti­tute’s 7b Catch a Cloud: A Thoughtful Look at Acid Rain, have been granted certifi­cates.

With the threat of a lawsuit on the hori­zon, the USIA granted certificates to a number of films made by the CCR’s clients. These films include Soldier Girls, Radia­tion: lmpact on Life, Secret Agent, and The Last Resort.

Films which have been denied certifi­cates include: In Our Own Backyards: Ura­nium Mining in the U.S., From the Ashes. . . Nicaragua Today, Ecocide: A Strategy of War, Whatever happened to Childhood? and Peace: A Conscious Choice. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the cer­tification system under which the USIA utilizes an international treaty designed to further the free flow of ideas as a mecha­nism for censorship and propaganda.

David Cole, Margaret Ratner, Michael Ratner; Morton Stavis, with CCR cooperating attorney Ben Margolis