BY BILLY SUTER
THE controversial South African film, Inxeba (The Wound), shortlisted for an Academy Award and also acclaimed at festivals worldwide, has been ‘unbanned’ by a Pretoria High Court Order and will be back in mainstream cinemas from Friday, March 9.
This is the result of a High Court order granted earlier today in the urgent application brought by Webber Wentzel on behalf of the film’s producers and distributor to reverse the X18 rating. It enables the film to return to the public domain and be “relieved of its imprisonment in sex shops as pornography”, a press release states.
“In the court application, Webber Wentzel, on behalf of their clients, requested a review of the decision of the Film and Publication Board’s (FPB) Appeal Tribunal which awarded Inxeba a rating of X18SNLVP, overturning the FBP rating of 16 LS, essentially classifying the film as hardcore pornography,” says a spokesman.
“The urgent application also sought an urgent interim Court Order, allowing the film to be screened in mainstream cinemas for the first time since its initial commercial release on February 2, which was followed by the ‘effective banning’ of the film by the Appeals Tribunal 10 days later, pending a review.”
Contralesa Gauteng, The Man and Boy Foundation and the FPB’s Appeals Tribunal all opposed the application lodged by Webber Wentzel on behalf of the producers and distributor. All opposing parties eventually capitulated on the question of urgent interim relief and the Court then granted an urgent interim order instructing the film to be screened pending a thorough review of the Appeal’s Tribunal decision, the press release states.
“The X, with immediate effect, has been removed from the 18 classification by the High Court, while it awaits affidavits of representation from all affected parties both pro and in opposition to the decision of the Appeals Tribunal. The review is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, March 28.
“This is a development of critical importance to Inxeba. Another positive development is that the Film and Publications Board (as opposed to the Appeals Tribunal) has filed Court papers justifying its original decision to classify Inxeba at 16LS and affirming this to be the correct rating with no intent of amending it.
“The Board pointed out that it is a separate entity from the Appeals Tribunal, and that it does not agree with the X rating, which was not a rating requested by the complainants, being Contralesa and Man & Boy Foundation.”
“I am hopeful that the capitulation of The Tribunal, Contralesa Gauteng and the Man and Boy Foundation to remove the X rating will assist in ensuring that the violent acts performed in opposition to the film are brought to an end, and that members of the public who wish to exercise their right to engage with Inxeba are no longer prohibited from doing so,” said the film’s producer, Cait Pansegrouw.
Director John Trengove also responded to the Court order: “Getting back on to screens in mainstream cinemas is a vindicated victory for the film, but the South African film and arts community still deserves to hear a real explanation of how The Tribunal arrived at such an embarrassing violation of our legal and constitutional rights in the first place. We look forward to more clarity on this score in the weeks to come.”
“I honestly have nothing to say about a statutory film body promulgating homophobia and censorship by declaring that the most awarded and critically acclaimed South African film of all time has no artistic merit,” says Inxeba star Niza Jay.
“I am elated that the film is back in cinemas. I hope that the conversation spurred by the film will go beyond being a hot topic and that it will be had in our homes, families and communities.
“This film is bigger than all of us who made it. Inxeba is South Africa’s film, and South Africans should take pride in its accomplishments, but we must always engage with it critically and not romanticise it, so that when bigots try to tyrannise our film industry, we do not fall into the trap of playing victim. Our art is our truth, and our truth is our power. #InxebaHasRisen.”
“To say we knew we’d be justified wouldn’t be doing justice to ourselves or the country,” added co-producer Batana Vundla. “The winner here is our constitution and the recognition of the lived experiences of LGBTIQ South Africans.”
Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution, urged cinemagoers to stand against piracy and illustrate their solidarity with freedom of speech for artists by going to watch Inxeba in cinemas from March 9.
“We are vindicated by the Court order against a Tribunal ruling which was simply unlawful and could not reasonably be justified by anyone who has seen Inxeba. Now that we have secured legal means by way of a Court order to make the film available to all those who want to see it publicly, we urge fans to go out there and show their support by seeing it in cinemas.”
Inxeba, labelled by Variety as “a milestone in South African cinema”, tells the story of Xolani, a lonely factory worker, who travels to the rural mountains with the men of his community to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood.
The film received eight South African Film and Television Awards (Safta) nominations, including those for Best Actor, Best Director and Best Film. The Saftas are South Africa’s premiere awards recognising excellence in film and television.
Inxeba has been hailed by critics and has won 19 awards at 44 festivals in more than 25 countries, including South Africa. The film was also shortlisted for this year’s Oscars in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.