The South African public and film community are striking back at the Film & Publication Board’s decision to reclassify the locally produced film ‘Inxeba’ (The Wound) to a rating of X18, effectively labelling the film as pornography and pulling it out of cinemas.
This reclassification is the result of appeals lodged by Contralesa Gauteng and The Man and Boy Foundation.
“The South African Screen Federation is utterly dismayed about this decision to essentially ban this important and beautifully told story,” said Rehad Desai, chairperson of SASFED and an internationally recognised documentary filmmaker. “We are intent on presenting a legal challenge to the Film and Publications Board, which we are confident we will win. This decision will adversely affect this production company and the wider film industry. It is shocking that a film that South Africa filmmakers shortlisted for an Oscar can receive such treatment. The decision smacks of nothing less than homophobia and contradicts key sections of our constitution.”
SASFED members include Animation South Africa, The Documentary Filmmakers Association SA, The Independent Producers Organisation, The Personal Managers’ Association, South African Guild of Actors, South African Guild of Editors, Writers’ Guild of South Africa, and Sisters Working in Film and Television.
Mfundi Vundla, renowned creator and producer of ‘Generations’, said “FPB’s re-classification of ‘Inxeba’ is an outrageous act of totalitarian censorship reminiscent of our Apartheid past.”
Sanja Bornman gender equality attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights said the body fully supports calls for transparency in relation to the FPB decision. “The law entitles us to administrative justice, and satisfactory reasons for such an extreme re-classification. The film has resonated positively with so many queer South Africans, some of whom saw their own story being told for the first time. We want to know why the FPB has decided that the film does not belong in the mainstream, at the cost of a potentially validating experience for marginalised members of our community.”
The Right2Know Campaign says it rejects the classification of the film, calling it an act of homophobic censorship. “The reclassification of ‘Inxeba’ by the appeals board flies in the face of the spirit of the freedom of expression in a democratic state, which includes freedom to receive or impart information or ideas, especially for those ideas or expression which we differ with. While we respect the freedom of expression of those who feel misrepresented or disagree with this film, we don’t believe that this should lead to the censorship of a narrative, which gives expression to same-sex attraction between men, and the confrontation this creates with traditional notions of masculinity and culture. We demand that the FPB scrap this outrageous, homophobic and patriarchal decision, and allow creative expression to flourish and be seen in its many forms.
In a Daily Maverick article published today Sonke Gender Justice said the decision taken by the Film and Publication Board is shocking and takes the country back to the old era of censorship, when a group of a few people can control and decide what people can watch.
“FBP buckled under the pressure from traditional leaders and this undermines the advances we have made as a constitutional democracy in our country,” said Bafana Khumalo, Senior Strategic Adviser.
Khumalo “The damage of this move is to set a precedent where if a few people are dissatisfied about something (they) can just use force to get their way,” he said. “As civil society we need to challenge this and in the final analysis, the courts need to be the final arbiter.”
A statement from Cape Town Pride said the organisation “is saddened and outraged at the obvious homophobia and bigotry, which has once again pressured a supposedly unbiased body into flaunting the constitution and restricting the viewing of a story of gay love within the context of a traditional African environment. This type of denial and bias sets the progress of natural acceptance back years not to mention encouraging bullying, and cultural stigma of the gay community.
Every time we think we have made a bit of progress along comes a rabid anti-gay preacher or a controlling body that does not have the courage to stand against this mindless bigotry.
This is Pride month in Cape Town and we think that all proud members of our community should show how outraged we are at this blatant attack on our rights.”
Sydelle Willow Smith, who holds an MSc in African Studies from Oxford, and is the director of solar powered mobile media initiative Sunshine Cinema, said her company prides itself on screening films that spark necessary dialogue and debate beyond reified and stereotypical representations.
“Culture is not bounded or fixed, and South Africa’s constitution provides rights, and freedom of expression to all,” she said. “We find the ruling of the Film and Publications’ board of ‘Inxeba’ to be highly problematic and unjust, steeped in blatant homophobic prejudicial attitudes in comparison to the way that mainstream cinema representations of heteronormative relationships get classified. Cinema is an art form, an expression and commentary on society and all its layers. As was highlighted by many of the LGBTQI people who attended our two free screenings of the film in Langa, while it was still classified as 16 LS, the film reflects their story. Silencing the film, silences them.”
A statement released by PEN SA said that the organisation notes with concern the re-classification by the Film and Publication Board of the film ‘Inxeba’ from 16LS, to X18, which serves to essentially outlaw the distribution and showing of the film in most public places, including cinemas. The statement continued: “The effect of the re-classification from 16SL to X18 is that the film cannot be distributed except by designated adult premises, as defined by the Film and Publications Act no 96 of 1996 as amended. One of the objectives of this act, we note, is the protection of children from harmful material, including pornography; the protection of children is similarly ‘paramount to the mandate of the FPB’. PEN SA appeals to the Film and Publications Appeals Tribunal to furnish reasons for the decision to overturn the previous FPB classification of the film, including, but not limited to, the reason for which a classification that did not classify the film as available to children needed to be modified. We also express concern that, according to the FPB Appeals Tribunal’s own communication, these reasons have not yet been ‘finalised’.”
PEN SA says it will continue to monitor this process as it develops.
Co-writer Thando Mgqolozana said that “This decision is anti-creation and draconian.” Director John Trengove added “What is clear is that this is no longer a fight for ‘Inxeba’. This is a fight for the freedom and rights of all South African artists and filmmakers and the valuable contribution they have to make to our democracy.”
Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution added: “The FPB is legally obligated to make public their reasons for the new ruling seven days after the tribunal,” she added. “We are taking the matter very seriously and will not let it rest.”
“We’ve received requests asking for clarity on how individuals can assist and the short answer is that complaints need to be sent directly to the FPB.” said producer Cait Pansegrouw. “We are extremely grateful for overwhelming show of support. This is a fight that we are going to see through to the end.”
Further Statements are available here; –