Outcry over Inxeba’s porn rating

The film that represents the traditions of Xhosa initiation will be hurt by its new rating

The film that represents the traditions of Xhosa initiation will be hurt by its new rating

This week’s decision by the Film and Publications Board Appeals Tribunal to reclassify Inxeba (The Wound) with an X18 rating — one reserved for pornographic material — has been widely condemned, with the film’s producers saying the consequences for the film will be “severe”.

The award-winning film, about a gay love triangle set in a Xhosa initiation school, was previously given a 16 LS rating, but has been dogged by protest action — provoking widespread debate about its depiction of ulwaluko, a rite of passage that has been kept a closely guarded secret.

Following protest action driven by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and The Man and Boy Foundation, screenings of the movie at certain cinemas were halted, particularly in the Eastern Cape.

A statement issued by the appeals tribunal read: “The chairperson of the appeals tribunal, in consultation with other tribunal members, agreed to hear the appeal based on applications lodged by Contralesa and The Man and Boy Foundation. The complaints were largely based on the perceived cultural insensitivity and distortion of the Xhosa circumcision tradition [and] strong language in the film.”

The X18 classification was given because, according to the tribunal, the film contained “classifiable ­elements of sex, language, nudity, violence and prejudice”.

The ruling means that the film cannot be screened at mainstream cinemas and only at venues which, according to the Film and Publications Act, are registered as adult venues.

Abongile Mashele, acting chief operations officer of the Film and Publications Board (FPB), says that, according to Act, these are venues at which no children under the age of 18 are allowed entry.

No reasons for the decision had been provided at the time that the Mail & Guardian went to print. Mashele added that the tribunal had seven days in which to furnish the board with reasons for such reclassifications.

Welcoming the ruling, the Man and Boy Foundation issued a statement saying the film had a “high level of vulgar and insulting [language, which is] insulting to women and children, amongst other things”.

The statement noted that “we are not against gays [but the] misrepresentation, distortion and disrespect of traditional initiation in this movie”.
The organisation also called for the FPB and National Film and Video Foundation “to issue a public apology for funding and allowing such a horrible, and insensitive movie to be played”.

Expressing her disappointment in the ruling, Cait Pansegrouw, one of the film’s producers, said: “This is a classification that is typically reserved for adult films of an explicit sexual nature. [So] we are obviously disappointed in the outcome, given how the FPB has classified an important work of art that explores themes around masculinity, love and identity as an X-rated film.

“This is one of the most severe ratings a film can receive,” she added. “It means that the film will be pulled from cinemas, making it impossible for people to watch it anywhere other than [at] adult exhibition facilities.”

Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film Distribution, the film’s distributors, added: “We have sought advice from our legal representatives who are studying the decision, andwill advise on our way forward.”

The Man and Boy Foundation’s executive director, Nkululeko Nxesi, said that the organisation, along with Contralesa, had lodged a complaint with the Commission for Gender Equality against the film’s producers for the use of language which, it says, “insults women”.

“We have also lodged an official complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission [and] are waiting for [them] to call us so that we can state our case,” he added.

Following the cancellation of some screenings, shortly after the film’s nationwide release on February 2 — as a result of protests and threats of violence — the film’s producers laid an official complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Last week, reports surfaced of certain members of the film’s cast and crew having to be moved to a safe house.In a statement confirming it had received the complaint, the commission stated: “The commission is mindful that the rights to culture, dignity, protest and freedom of expression are protected in our law. However, these rights cannot be exercised in a manner that infringes the exercise of other rights unlawfully and our courts have been careful to guide us on these issues. The protections are in place to allow artistic creativity to flourish and through such creativity to stimulate thought and opinion … ”

The commission urged “those who are protesting against the film, and those who support it, to be mindful of the fact that disputes over constitutionally enshrined rights — the right to freedom of expression and the right to dignity of cultural, religious, and linguistic communities — should be ventilated in a peaceful manner”.

In addition to winning 19 awards internationally, the film has also recently been nominated for eight South African Film and Television Awards and was shortlisted for this year’s Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian


The Other Foundation

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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