The controversial isiXhosa feature film INXEBA (The Wound) has swept the board with an 8 South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) nominations, including Best Actor, Best Directing and Best Film. The Saftas are South Africa’s premiere awards that recognise excellence in film and television.
‘Inxeba’ has been hailed by critics wherever it screened and, to date, has won 19 awards at 44 festivals in more than 25 countries worldwide, including South Africa. The film was also shortlisted for this year’s Oscars® in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.
“We are overwhelmed and incredibly honoured by the positive response from the judges,” says director John Trengove. “No other film has racked up as many SAFTA nominations, and it is particularly rewarding to receive this level of recognition today, when the film has opened on the local circuit, to much criticism for its perceived cultural insensitivity.”
Responding today to violent threats against the film and its cast, the producers have laid complaints with the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality.
“Human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from gender oppression and inequality are protected by our Constitution,” says Trengove. “’Inxeba’ is not for everyone, but there are many young South Africans, particularly from the black queer community, who have every right to watch and engage with it because it reflects something of their own experience. The backlash against ‘Inxeba’ seems to be proportionally much larger than it was to Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’. You could look at that and speculate that perhaps there is a homophobic subtext. This is disgraceful and should be troubling to all of us, especially to those that believe in the freedom granted to South Africans by our constitution. That is why we are now fighting back to make sure that our rights are protected while the threats persist.”
The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has rated the movie 16, advising that it contains scenes with strong Language, Sex, and Nudity (16 LSN). The FBB has advised that despite complaints that have been received based on perceived cultural insensitivity, restricting the launch of the film would be a direct contravention to Section 16 of the South African Constitution as well as the provisions of the Films and Publication Act No.96 of 1996 as amended.
Traditional leaders, Contralesa and the EFF rallied marches against the film today and several protests took place at various cinemas across the country, with some sites having to postpone screenings of the film. There have been reports that cinema staff received death threats from protestors.
“While we respect those who choose not to watch the film, it is unacceptable that South Africans who do want to see it are being prevented from doing so.” said producers Elias Ribeiro and Cait Pansegrouw of Urucu Media. “What is even more unacceptable is the fact that people’s lives are being threatened. We urge the parties leading these protests to take responsibility for their representatives and put an end to this behavior.”
“The fierce criticism of ‘Inxeba’ has been matched by the love and support of those who have been willing to open their minds to a new expression in South African cinema, and we thank you for that.” said co-writer Malusi Bengu. “The criticism was expected and is understandable but we must draw the line on ignorance. ‘Inxeba’ does not reveal any mountain secrets, the death of young boys making headlines broke the sacred seal of our initiation. The negative responses have only served to highlight how difficult it is going to be to re-engineer the Black man into a more rounded being.”
‘Inxeba’ is an international co-production between South Africa, Germany, The Netherlands and France, and was produced by Elias Ribeiro and Cait Pansegrouw of Urucu Media, directed by John Trengove and co-written by Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu. It was co-produced by Batana Vundla of Cool Take Pictures with local support from the Department of Trade and Industry, M-Net, Indigenous Film Distribution and the National Film and Video Foundation.