The opening night film of the 34th Durban International Film Festival, the much-anticipated film noir Of Good Report, directed by Jahmil XT Qubeka was refused classification by the Film and Publication Board, and as such the festival was unable to screen it.
Instead of the opening credits the following words were displayed on the screen: “This film has been refused classification by the Film and Publication Board, in terms of the Film and Publications Act of 1996, unfortunately we may not legally screen the film, Of Good Report, as doing so would constitute a criminal offence.”
The film tells the sombre tale of a small-town high-school teacher with a penchant for young girls. The result is a hypnotically engaging journey into the soul of a mentally troubled man. The trouble for the protagonist, Parker Sithole begins when he meets the undeniably gorgeous Nolitha Ngubane at a local tavern. Captivated by her beauty, an illicit affair ensues. However, there’s just one problem: Nolitha is one of Parker’s pupils and is just sixteen years older. Parker quickly spirals into lethal obsession.
The manager of the film festival, Peter Machen gave this statement: “Unfortunately, the film and publication board has refused to allow the release of Of Good Report. According to their communication to the festival, the film contains a scene which constitutes child pornography and we are unable to legally show the film. I am very sorry about this. Out of respect for the director of the film, we will not be showing an alternative film tonight.”
“We chose the film because it was challenging, powerful and artistically successful, and particularly because it was such a strong expression of an individual voice .” said Machen. “It presents a story of a very real and troubling social problem of rampant abuse of position in our country.”
Qubeka, who had taped his mouth shut, chose not to comment as an act of defiance, instead his wife, Dr Lwazi Manzi spoke on his behalf, describing the horrors of abused young women by older men that she encounters daily as a doctor at a government hospital. “Just because they (the FPB) don’t want to see it, does not mean it does not happen” she said. “We shall not not talk about it. I am very proud of my husband, and the cast and crew. This is a pivotal day in the history of film in our country, one which will resonate in history.”
Professor Cheryl Potgieter, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities at UKZN, under whose curatorship the organisers of the Festival, The Centre for Creative Arts is a special project said. “We chose to not show another film in deference to the filmmaker, and to ensure there was critical mass to carry this debate and discourse forward.”
Qubeka and UKZN intend to appeal against the decision, failing which, the producer Mike Auret, himself a lawyer, will take it to the Constitutional Court. Auret said “It is not the function of state to moralise.”
The festival screenings of all other films, will continue as planned for the next nine days. For more information about the DIFF go to www.durbanfilmfest.co.za