Legal battle over ‘Inxeba’ looms

The South African Screen Federation has vowed to take legal action against the Film and Publication Board’s (FPB) decision to reclassify the locally produced and controversial film Inxeba – The Wound.

The FPB Appeal Tribunal overturned the classification rating of 16LS initially given to the film after appeals were lodged by Contralesa Gauteng and The Man and Boy Foundation last week.

The new rating – on the same level as hardcore porn – was based on elements of sex, nudity, language, violence and prejudice.

Inxeba tells the story of a gay factory worker who travels to the rural Eastern Cape to oversee the traditional Xhosa initiation ritual of ukwaluka, only to have his secret sexual orientation discovered.

Despite winning a string of international awards, the film has courted controversy from day one with protests and threats by those opposed to its release, while others have rallied behind the producers, cast and crew.

South African Screen Federation (Sasfed) chairman Rehad Desai said they would challenge the decision. “The [federation] is utterly dismayed about this decision to essentially ban this important and beautifully told story. 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,” he said.

Sasfed members include the Documentary Filmmakers Association SA and the Independent Producers Organisation. “It is shocking that a film that South African filmmakers short-listed for an Oscar can receive such treatment. The decision smacks of nothing less than homophobia and contradicts key sections of our constitution,” Desai said.

Lawyers for Human Rights gender equality attorney Sanja Bornman 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.”

In a statement released by the film’s crew at the weekend, director John Trengove said: “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.”

Trengove, along with the film’s producers and writers, have laid formal complaints with human rights bodies in a bid to screen the film in the Eastern Cape after its premiere was disrupted. Trengove said earlier that while the film was not to everyone’s taste, restricting the film in this way was taking away the rights of those who wished to see it as well as impinging on the rights of gay black South Africans who would relate to the film.

Speaking on the support received from the public, the film’s producer Cait Pansegrouw said: “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. “We are extremely grateful for the overwhelming show of support. This is a fight that we are going to see through to the end,” she said.

GaySA Radio created an online petition demanding the FPB reinstate the classification rating of 16LS to the film.

From: Daily Dispatch