Call for lo­cal film to be un­banned

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SIHLE MTHEMBU

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.

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