Call for local film to be unbanned
ARTISTS and filmmakers around the world have rallied behind a call for the “unbanning” of Jahmil XT Qubeka’s film Of Good Report.
The film, which was scheduled to open the 34th Durban International Film Festival on Thursday, was banned from being shown after the Film and Publications Board deemed one of the scenes to be child pornography.
Alvaro Vego, who is a Spanish film promoter and is in Durban for the festival, said it was sad to see such a thing happening during the festival.
“This is a good festival and it has a great reputation around the world, and a lot of us were saddened by the announcement that such a thing was happening,” he said.
The film is based on the story of Parker Sithole, a teacher who has an affair with an under-age pupil.
The lead character is played by actor Mothusi Magano, best know for his roles in The Lab, 90 Plein Street and Tsotsi.
This is not the first time the Film and Publications Board has refused a film the right to be shown at the festival.
In 2006 the award-winning Brazilian film Bog of the Beasts was withdrawn from the festival after the board deemed it to be pornographic.
According to South African film producer Mike Mills, one of the worrying things about the classification process was that it was so rigid.
“They only watched the film up to the scene which comes in after 28 minutes, and then after that they stopped.
“This is a problem because it means they did not bother to see the rest of the film and see what the overall message was,” he said.
“You cannot take a feature film and sum it up in one scene – the overall narrative must be taken into account, and for that you need reviewers with a knowledge of the language of film.”
The film had been requested by the board for classification after they received the synopsis. It was one of seven films requested for classification for the festival.
Mills also said the fact that the actress was 23 should have been factored in.
“She is 23 years old and is playing an under-age character, but she is not under-age and surely that should count for something,” he said.
Ismail Mohamed, director of the National Arts Festival, said the major problem was that the board does not fall under the Department of Arts and Culture, but rather under the Department of Home Affairs.
According to the board’s ruling, all copies of the film should either be destroyed or sent to the police. The producers have not indicated whether or not they will do this.
Failure to comply with the ruling could mean that the director, the film’s producers and any members of the public with a copy of the film could be fined or serve up to 10 years in jail.
Board spokesman Prince Ndamase said the board had received an appeal from the festival to unban the film, and that no charges would be laid until the process was complete.
Of Good Report was scheduled to be screened again at Suncoast today, but film festival spokeswoman Sharlene Versveld said if the board did not grant a special classification, ticket-holders would be forced to exchange their tickets for other films.
“We are still waiting on that, and we hope they will make an emergency classification, but as it stands there will be no replacement film,” she said.
The board has not made it clear whether it will host an emergency hearing for the film.
The banning of the film comes at a time when the organisation is scheduled to deliver its full classification guidelines at the festival on Wednesday.
Qubeka said he had wanted to make a film that dealt with a very sensitive subject and extended the dialogue around issues of rape.
Film lovers from around the country have also begun sending messages and tweets of support for the film, with some saying they would write directly to the board to seek the unbanning of the film.
Mdamase has hit back at critics of the board, however, saying that accusing the board of censorship was not an accurate reflection of the situation.
“The refused classification of the film in question is based on the legislation, and suggestions of attempts to censor or ban content by the Film and Publication Board are erroneous.”
Although Of Good Report will not be shown to South African audiences, it will be screened later in the year at the Toronto and Dubai international film festivals.
SPEECHLESS: Director Jahmil Qubeka stands with his mouth taped in protest after his film Of Good Report was not shown at the Durban International Film Festival.