Quebec director Xavier Dolan is at the centre of a storm of controversy over a music video he directed for French group Indochine.
The black-and-white video for College Boy shows a teen being attacked, at first with paper missiles, but later with punches and kicks, while other students stand by with blindfolds over their eyes as the harassment continues.
It concludes with a crucifixion scene in which the boy is hoisted on a cross and shot. When the police arrive, they too start shooting at the teenager on the cross, while his attackers feign innocence.
French telecom watchdog, the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel, is considering whether the video is too violent, with one board member saying she is very concerned about the content. Among its options if there are complaints about College Boy are limiting viewing of the video to after 10 p.m. and placing restrictions on whether the video can be viewed by people under age 16.
So far, no French stations have aired the video.
YouTube has put a warning on the video and, in some markets, does not show the entire violent sequence, instead switching to shots of the band playing.
Dolan told CBC News he finds the plan for censorship ridiculous, when young people see regular images of violence on TV screens and hip-hop videos with negative portrayals of women.
"I’m not surprised there is a reaction, I’m surprised we’re talking about censorship because I think there is a crucial age and that is 11, 10, 13, 14, 15 – the teenage years, when things still have a strong impression on you," he said.
"This is the age you need to be educated on violence and the true consequences."
The 24-year-old Quebec filmmaker has drawn attention with films such as J’ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother) and Laurence Anyways. The video sends an anti-bullying message and he says he wanted to illustrate how those who watch schoolyard attacks are complicit in bullying.
"I think there is an obvious message of non-violence, even though people are debating this – I don’t know for what reason – in France," Dolan said.
Asked why he used such disturbing imagery to for an anti-bullying message, he said recent real-life cases of homosexual teens assaulted and killed by bullies show how violence can go too far.
"Is there really another way today in 2013 to make an impression on people so they will know if they do hurt other people they will feel the pain and the violence and how far will we go? We live in a society that allows this sort of extreme violence," he said.
Indochine lead singer Nicola Sirkis defended the video to French media, saying it was not made to shock anyone but to educate youth about the problem of bullying and harassment. The band, formed in 1981, is one of France’s most high-profile alt-rock groups.