“As I was leaving, I saw that I had a missed call during the interview,” Corben said. “I returned the call and that was the news that our documentary would not be screened at Cosford.”
Corben, director of films such as “The U” and “Cocaine Cowboys”, was trying to screen his new documentary “God Forbid” at Cosford Cinema before its release on Hulu on November 1. The screening was to be followed by a Q&A with Corben and executive producer and director of movies “Step Brothers” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” Adam McKay.
“He [McKay] would have the opportunity to interact with the audience,” Corben said. “We wanted to get the university community involved and wanted to screen the documentary for students and faculty for free and do a Q&A.”
Now, Corben believes that he is being censored due to the subject matter of “God Forbid.” The PG-13 documentary revolves around a sex scandal between former president of Liberty University Jerry Faldwell Jr., his wife and a Miami Beach pool boy.
“I have been left to surmise that it [the fact that the documentary cannot be screened] is content related,” Corben said.
Corben had previously screened documentaries at Cosford. There were no issues with administration about either hosting the event or the content of the film.
“Even my past work that is not without controversy still was screened on campus,” Corben said. “I would say that it is amongst our most controversial work if not our most controversial docs we’ve ever done but I think you guys [students] can handle it.”
Corben is a figure at UM, speaking at classes and events all across campus. He strives to support the faculty and students at his alma mater, especially those interested in embarking in the film industry.
“As a student there, I would have loved for my professors to welcome people with real-world experience in the industry that I’m spending a lot of money at UM to train in,” Corben said. “I want to help out my fellow Hurricanes.”
Many film students are upset that they missed the opportunity to not only interact with two award-winning figures of the film industry. One student came to UM specifically for experiences like this and is disappointed by the alleged censorship by the university.
“It is definitely a missed opportunity to ask questions to some of the biggest names in the industry,” senior motion pictures production and creative advertising major Ryan Gus said. “In film it is always about who you know and not doing this hinders students from being connected.”
Vanessa Bonilla, a junior motion picture screenwriting and broadcast journalism major, is also disappointed by the news. However, she believes that there could be an alternate reason besides the sexual nature of the film for why the school declined to have the screening.
“Since the documentary is about another university I feel like UM does not want to feel like they are attacking Liberty,” Bonilla said. “It wouldn’t be in the best interest of UM.”
In response to the allegations of on-campus censorship, Jaqueline Menendez, vice president for communications for UM, did not acknowledge whether Corben was or was not allowed to host this premiere. They also did not provide a reason for why he would not have been invited to screen “God Forbid.”
“We have great respect for Billy Corben and his work in documentary film,” Menendez said. “He is a proud alumnus, and the University of Miami is proud of his accomplishments. The Cosford Cinema has previously screened four documentary films by Billy and we look forward to featuring his future works.”
Now, Corben is using this opportunity to screen the film at other schools such as Florida Atlantic University. He hopes that Menendez is true to her word and he can come back and connect with the students again.
“I’ll go anywhere to a university or a college environment where people want to screen the work and to talk and engage and argue with us, or debate us about it,” Corben said. “That’s what a university is for.”