The producers of controversial film Inxeba (The Wound) and its biggest critics claimed victory on Tuesday after the High Court in Pretoria agreed to remove an X rating from the film’s X18 classification, allowing the movie to screened in mainstream cinemas countrywide with an age 18 restriction.
The decision was agreed upon by the film’s distributors, Indigenous Films, and the Council of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) as a temporary measure until the matter is once again brought before the court for arguments on March 28. However, the film’s director John Trengove said they would continue to fight for that rating to be further reduced to the original 16LS rating given to it by the Film and Publication Board before it was readjusted by an Appeals Tribunal last month, after complaints by Contralesa and the Men & Boys Foundation.
“It was something that we would not have normally accepted but this is an interim way for people to watch the film, so we consider it a victory.”
Contralesa Gauteng Provincial Chairperson Prince Manene Tabane said that while the decision was just one battle of a war against the film, it was also a win for the body in its fight against “cultural erosion.”
The group along with the Men & Boys Foundation were among those who protested the film’s release last month, leading to several cinemas cancelling scheduled screenings of the movie after receiving death threats if it was screened.
While John said that he hoped protests would not mar Inxeba’s return to cinemas, Tabane ominously said that no promises could be made.
“We are going to be waiting until March 28. We cannot guarantee that there will be no protests. We will communicate the outcomes of this court ruling to our members, but we cannot commit ourselves to saying there will be no action because some people have not received the information. I am not a prophet. Let us see on the 28th.”
He did, however, promise to protest outside the court when the matter is heard later this month.
Tabane claimed that the film, which tells the story of a gay factory worker who supervises a Xhosa initiation ceremony, had insulted a number of cultural groups, not only Xhosas, and called on all traditional leaders to take a stand again the film or risk it tearing communities apart in conflict. He said the issue was not with homosexuality but the film’s “blatant disrespect for culture”.
“Homosexuals have the constitutional right to exist in the country, we are not against it. They are in our rural areas, they have a right to life and we don’t want to harm them. The issue is that no one should be allowed to go to the sacred place to practice their own thing. They must go with the view of doing what they are told.”
One of the film’s producers, Batana Vundla, said that while he did not agree that the film disrespected cultural practices across the country, he thanked Contralesa for giving the film attention and help push debate.
“Contralesa and Boys & Men can pat themselves on the back, they got this film watched by more people than we would have ever expected. Unfortunately, a lot of that is through piracy but it still pushes forward the discourse we wanted to have with this film.”
He said that despite many having already seen the film on YouTube or via illegal DVDs, they anticipated that cinemas would be packed this weekend.
“Right now is about celebrating the film returning to cinemas and hopefully having more discussions around it and the themes it brought. We will spend the next few weeks trying to amplify the debate.”