On May 19, British director Francis Lee tweeted a warning to American cinephiles hoping to watch his 2017 Sundance romance God’s Own Country on Amazon Prime Video, saying it “appears to have been censored,” and “it is not the film I intended or made.” The scenes that had gone missing from the Prime-featured cut of the film showcased an outdoor-wrestling sex scene, and another sex scene in a horse auctioneer’s trailer. Lee followed up his original tweet with a question: Is there similar streaming censorship for “naked women or intimate/sex scenes within heterosexual stories,” or do they “just censor queer stories?”
As it turns out, Prime Video did not censor God’s Own Country, and the uncensored version is indeed available to purchase or rent on the site. Lee tweeted that the film’s American distributor, Samuel Goldwyn Films, “butchered the streaming version without consultation to get more ‘revenue.’” Lee followed the tweet by thanking Amazon and writing, “I would caution any filmmaker of working with the aforementioned ‘distributor.’”
A spokesperson for Amazon gave Vulture further clarification about what may have happened to God’s Own Country, explaining that the film appeared on Amazon’s “Included with Prime” section via Amazon’s Prime Video Direct service, which allows independent filmmakers and distributors to upload their films directly to Amazon. During the upload process, the film goes through an algorithm that will flag graphic content (nudity, genitalia) and give it a rating (i.e., MA). A distributor, like Samuel Goldwyn Films, in this instance, could then re-edit a film and resubmit it for a different rating, if they so choose, without Amazon’s involvement or input. The spokesperson also noted that as of this afternoon, the edited version of God’s Own Country has been pulled down from the “Included with Prime” section, and the full version is still available to purchase or rent. We have reached out to Samuel Goldwyn Films for comment.