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'Child porn' film banned from fest

Niren Tolsi

An award-winning Brazilian film focusing on misogyny and child abuse - due to be screened at the Durban International Film Festival - was banned this week by the Film and Publications Board, which ruled that it contained scenes that amounted to "child pornography". Directed by Claudio Assis, Bog of Beasts, which won the Best Film award wat the Brasilia Film Festival in 2006.

An award-winning Brazilian film focusing on misogyny and child abuse - due to be screened at the Durban International Film Festival - was banned this week by the Film and Publications Board, which ruled that it contained scenes that amounted to “child pornography”.

Directed by Claudio Assis, Bog of Beasts, which won the Best Film award wat the Brasilia Film Festival in 2006 and the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival this year, is described in the Durban festival’s brochure as a “beautifully shot and absolutely harrowing” film set in a rural village mired in class-related sexual violence. The film’s main protagonist, a young girl, suffers both public and private sexual abuse by her grandfather.

“The film does contain scenes that amount to child pornography. We didn’t issue a classification report, but we did follow normal procedure to view the film and weigh it against the [Film and Publications] Act and the guidelines. The tipping point was the scenes - you don’t have to show child pornography to deal with the issue,” said Iyavar Chetty, head of legal services at the Film and Publications Board.

He said scenes included “one where a child - obviously under the age of 18 - was made to stand naked and expose herself to a group of men who stood and masturbated around her. There were several gory, gratuitous and violent sexual scenes ... it was a very difficult film to watch. I wish I hadn’t had to,” said Chetty.

He dismissed the film’s critical recognition and awards: “Film awards are not based on content, they are based on aspects like lighting and technique, content is a peripheral consideration. The intention of any person who creates these images is irrelevant - no matter how noble the motive is - it is the message behind it: that it is okay to use these images.”

Durban International Film Festival manager Nashen Moodley said the festival was “very disappointed” with the decision, but that it was one which “we must respect and we have withdrawn the film from the programme”.

“Certainly, the festival has no interest in disseminating child pornography and we believe that the film, Bog of Beasts, does not promote or advocate the sexual exploitation of children. The film depicts the sexual exploitation of women and children in a harrowing and provocative manner and does push boundaries. But, it seems to us problematic that a film critical of such exploitation is prevented from being exhibited on the grounds that it is party to that exploitation,” said Moodley.

He said that the withdrawal of a film that “has screened and won prizes at many reputable film festivals in countries also committed to the eradication of child pornography, does not bode well for the Durban International Film Festival’s reputation as a forum for challenging and provocative cinema.”

Assis, in his director’s statement, calls the film a “nervous centre for determined actions. What is important here is not to examine the situation, but rather to explore the relationships and suggest the resulting narratives ... it is to measure what exists beyond what things appear to be and to fracture the comfort of the passive spectator watching these facts unfold.”


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