'God's Own Country' director furious after US distributor 'butchered' gay sex scenes for streaming

Tom Beasley
Alec Secăreanu and Josh O'Connor in 'God's Own Country'. (Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment)

God’s Own Country director Francis Lee has revealed his film was “butchered” by its American distributor, who censored several of the movie’s gay sex scenes for a streaming release.

The acclaimed drama followed the romance between Yorkshire farmer Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and the Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu) who comes to him for work.

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The censorship first came to light earlier this week, when Lee tweeted that fans should not stream the movie via Amazon Prime Video, due to edits made without his consent.

“Dear friends in USA, God’s Own Country appears to have been censored on Amazon Prime,” he wrote. “Until this is investigated please do not rent or buy on Amazon Prime. It is not the film I intended or made.”

Director Francis Lee, winner of the Best British Film award for 'God's Own Country', on stage during the Empire Awards 2018. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Lee’s followers appeared to confirm his suspicions, stating that several sex scenes — including one in which protagonist Johnny (Josh O’Connor) has sex with a young cattle market auctioneer — had been cut.

The director returned to Twitter on Wednesday to confirm that the fault was not with Amazon, but with US distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films.

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He said: “After investigation, God’s Own Country was not censored by Amazon, but by the US distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films, who butchered the streaming version without consultation to get more ‘revenue’.

“Prime Video were incredibly supportive in rectifying. The rental version of God’s Own Country on Prime Video is the correct version of my film.

“I would like to thank Amazon Prime for being supportive and I would caution any film maker of working with the aforementioned ‘distributor’.”

Yahoo Movies UK has contacted Samuel Goldwyn Films for comment.

'God's Own Country'. (Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment)

God’s Own Country was acclaimed on its release, earning a 98% approval rating from critics on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

It was banned in numerous Arab countries and China as a result of its LGBT+ themes, with only Secăreanu’s native Romania playing the film in Eastern Europe.

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Lee’s new film, Ammonite, also deals with LGBT+ themes, depicting a romance between 19th century fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and a house guest, played by Saoirse Ronan.

It is unknown when the film will be released given the delays caused by the coronavirus.