Unbanned!

2013-07-28 14:00

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Director plans to sue board after hearing that his ‘child porn’ film is unbanned.

Director Jahmil Qubeka will be suing the Film and Publication Board (FPB) after a week in which he and his cast were “smeared” as child pornographers.

“We’re planning to try and screen it on Sunday, the last day of the festival now that people can finally see it,” said a delighted Peter Machen, the manager of the Durban International Film Festival, yesterday when he heard that the appeal against the banning of the film was successful.

Late yesterday afternoon, the appeal committee of the FPB overturned the classification committee’s ruling that the film contained “child pornography” and was therefore unclassifiable and a criminal offence.

It was instead classified as 16SNVL (sex, nudity, violence and language).

Producer Michael Auret brought the appeal action.

Overjoyed and vindicated, Qubeka said that it was “a given it would be overturned” but that doesn’t mean he will now let the matter rest.

“I’m not going to take it lying down,” Qubeka told City Press.

“I’m going for defamation, baby. I’ve got lawyers and I’ve got time on my hands. I’m going for all of them at the FPB. They have smeared me and they are accountable. And I’m making a public call for?their?resignations.”

Amnesty International had already decided to back the film earlier in the week, said Machen.

Last night at the festival’s awards ceremony, it was honoured with a special award for artistic bravery.

But it’s been an intense week for everyone involved with Of Good Report, an art-house film that shows a teacher’s relationship with a 16-year-old pupil.

Not only did they experience a professional backlash for being associated with child pornography, but Qubeka has found himself in a very personal spat with the board’s spokesperson, Prince Mlimandlela Ndamase.

Their clash spilled on to Twitter on Wednesday, after the board answered questions from the film industry in Durban.

Qubeka could not attend as he was being interviewed by the BBC.

“Am @ the BBC embarrassing these pencil pushers Where is the FPB spokesperson today?” tweeted Qubeka. When Ndamase did not answer, Qubeka – who tweets as @SerpentHunter – began to bait him on the social network.

“I call on the spokesman of the FPB, Prince Ndamase to resign. You are clearly not fit for office. Answer your phone!”

Ndamase (@Mlimandlela_N) responded, saying: “That’s the problem. You run after BBC as you recognise a master. Here we are discussing your film wena ubusy neBBC. *SMH* (Shakes my head).”

He then lashed out in anger: “You’re an embarrassment to the art!” he told Qubeka. “Similar to Bafana Bafana. Play in a tournament yet you don’t know the rules!”

“I’m coming for you,” responded Qubeka. “Thanks for defamation tweet. Resign Prince, resign.” He later tweeted: “U have picked a fight with the wrong ‘clever black’.”

Ndamase responded by asking Qubeka if his lawyers were “paid by the BBC”.

When asked about his tweet calling Qubeka an embarrassment, Ndamase told City Press: “That was just sarcasm really.

Jahmil has been insulting us for a long time, calling us morons and retards and pencil-pushers. No normal person would respond in that manner.

It was very personal.

“And he is an embarrassment. I have not called them child pornographers. I am simply referring to the classification.”

But Qubeka says the board saying the film contains child pornography has had a deep impact. “People haven’t seen the film. How can they know? They want to know if it’s actual kiddie porn. There are ramifications on people’s lives.”

The film maker also directs commercials and TV shows.

“Porn is such a dark side of our industry. It’s the last thing I need to be associated with. What client is going to want to hire a child pornographer? I fear for my career.”

So do several other cast members.

Actress Phoenix Norgaard is a model and the face of Garnier Pure. She also works at a small events company.

“It has really affected my career,” she said. “In applying for campaigns this has now created a negative spin for me. Brands are cautious now.

My employer is concerned.

She saw it on the news and says the public think it is actual child pornography.”

She says she was expecting the film to open doors for her, “instead it could’ve killed my career”, she said.

Actor Stevel Marc is also a top model. “I’m being joked at. I walk into an audition and people go, ‘Oh look, it’s the child porn star’,” he said. “I’m the face of Blackberry and Carducci. The ad agencies handling those campaigns called. They were concerned.”

“My wife’s a doctor,” said Qubeka. “She treats children. She’s married to a child pornographer? People are smeared by association.”

He added that the film is being picked up by major festivals in other countries.

“They’ve seen it. How does the international industry say it’s OK but here it’s banned? It’s an indictment on the FPB.”

Ndamase says he feels empathy for the cast and producer but that he must stand by the classification.

“It’s unfortunate if their careers are suffering but their employers must acknowledge there is an appeal and give them the benefit of the doubt.”

The board’s CEO, Yoliswa Makhasi, made a statement defending the board after the ruling.

She said that even though the board had lost its appeal, they were right in refusing to classify the film.

“We are very disappointed and saddened that the refused classification of the film Of Good Report has been set aside. We shall, however, await the reasons, study them and decide on a way forward.”

Earlier in the day, Steven Budlender, appearing for Of Good Report’s lawyers, made the case for the unbanning of the film.

He argued that the film is not child pornography as defined by the Constitutional Court, which says it must be intended to stimulate sexual arousal in the target audience.

He questioned whether it is intended to stimulate aesthetic or erotic feelings.

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