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Actor James Franco protests Australian ban of gay film

Actor James Franco poses for photographers at the European premier of Oz: The Great and Powerful in London February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Neil H
Actor James Franco poses for photographers at the European premier of Oz: The Great and Powerful in London February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Neil H

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Actor James Franco, star of Disney's new film "Oz the Great and Powerful", has launched an online appeal after censors banned a gay film from screening at Australian film festivals.

The film "I Want Your Love," by director Travis Mathews, is the story of a gay man who has sex with his best friend while partying in Los Angeles. It has been screened at the Toronto LGBT Film Festival and other overseas festivals.

But the Australian Classification Board refused to exempt the film from classification rules to allow its screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival in March and the Brisbane Queer Film Festival in April, citing "explicit sexual activity".

Franco, 34, who co-directed a bondage film with Mathews that was shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival in the United States, said the ban was "hypocritical" as sex was used in a sophisticated way in the film.

"This is such a disappointment to me and it just seems really silly," Franco said in YouTube video that notched up more than 17,000 views on Tuesday.

"Sex is such a big part of our lives .. it's how we create children, it's how we connect ... I don't think we'd be having this conversation if he'd made a very violent film."

Australian Classification Board officials said an application was made to exempt the film from classification under rules specific to film festivals but it ruled against this due to the content of the film.

"In this case, the film contains detailed and prolonged scenes of actual explicit sexual activity," board officials said in a statement.

Lisa Daniel, festival director of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, said the move was embarrassing for Australia.

"It just makes us look like a cultural backwater, I think. It's pretty embarrassing given the film has screened all over the world and never been banned before," she said.

Franco backed Mathew's petition to the Australian Classification Board to review its decision and allow the film. He collaborated with Mathews on the bondage film "Interior. Leather Bar".

"Frankly adults should be able to choose," said Franco, who plays the Wizard of Oz in the new blockbuster Disney movie.

"They're not going in blind. I don't know why in this day in age something like this, a film that's using sex not for titillation but to talk about being human, is being banned," she said.

(Reporting by Thuy Ong, editing by Elaine Lies and Belinda Goldsmith)

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