/ 13 September 2008

Hermaphrodite movie knots knickers

A movie about an intersex (hermaphrodite) youngster who falls in love has been banned by the Film and Publication Board (FPB) on the grounds that it amounts to child pornography.

Titled XXY, the Argentinian movie won an award at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2007. It was scheduled to be shown at the Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival this week.

The plot revolves around a 15-year-old hermaphrodite, played by a 22-year-old actress named Ines Afron, who falls in love with the son of the plastic surgeon who is helping the youngster decide on a gender identity.
Yesterday the Out in Africa festival said that screenings of XXY would be cancelled until further notice. Festival organisers met the FPB yesterday and will appeal against the ban.

”The refusal to classify the film or exempt it in terms of the Act turns on narrow technical grounds of the definition of child pornography,” an Out in Africa press release stated.

Festival director Nodi Murphy said yesterday that the problem might be ”a sex scene that contains no genital nudity.

”But we believe the issue is broader than just the content of one film. What we’re doing is trying to discover how closed the interpretation is of the Act.”

Festival organisers are now consulting the Freedom of Expression Institute to have another opportunity to appeal the banning.

Murphy pointed out that depictions of heterosexual minors having explicit sex were screened on the mainstream in South Africa in films such as Catherine Hardwick’s Thirteen (2003) and Larry Clark’s Ken Park (2002). The latter showed a boy asphyxiating himself while masturbating in his grandmother’s house.

On the other hand, Murphy said, the Out in Africa selection of films was shown in a festival context, over a limited period, and the festival placed a mandatory 18-year-old age limit on all screenings. As a result, this year the FBP passed its entire selection bar two titles which involved child themes. The one was XXY, the other a Canadian movie titled Breakfast with Scott, in which a gay couple adopts an effeminate boy. The latter film was later approved.

When asked why the issues of intersexed people are incorporated into the gay and lesbian film festival, Murphy said: ”We deal with sexuality and gender representation — we’re a catch-all and our films deal with anyone who is not heterosexual.”

The film, directed by Lucia Puenzo, will not be shown until the FPB has heard the appeal.

The Out in Africa festival is on at Nu Metro in Killarney, Johannesburg, until September 14 and at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town until September 21