Unbanned: Of Good Report wins appeal

2013-07-27 17:29

There were whoops and a round of spontaneous applause from film maker Jahmil Qubeka and film festival manager Peter Machen when the appeal committee of the Film and Publication Board (FPB) overturned the ruling that the film Of Good Report contains “child pornography” and is therefore unclassifiable and criminal.

The film’s producer, Michael Auret, had brought the appeal, which was heard in Midrand today. The film is now rated 16SNVL.

Qubeka and Machen were with City Press in Durban when the news broke. Grinning and punching the air, Qubeka said that it was “a given” that the film would be classified instead of being banned.

He said: “I am calling on the FPB’s acting chief operating officer, Sipho Risiba, and spokesperson, Prince Ndamase, to resign.” He tweeted: “You brothers are not fit for office.”

CEO of the FPB, Yoliswa Makhasi, made a statement defending the FPB after the ruling. She said that even though the FPB 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.”

She added: “The film Of Good Report falls within the definition of child pornography in our view.”

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

The scene in question involves sex between a sugar-daddy teacher and a 16-year-old pupil, Nolitha, played by an older actress. It does not feature nudity.

Budlender argued that no reasonable viewer could walk away with a perception that the film is aimed at erotic stimulation. He said the film examines the important issue of sugar daddies, “as far as can be from glamourising it”.

Lawyers for the FPB argued that the classification should remain. They say the classification board did what the law requires.

A relieved and thrilled Machen said he is hoping to screen the film tomorrow, the last day of the Durban International Film Festival. “The film will unfortunately not be in competition due to the fact that there wasn’t time for the jury to view it.”

It was selected as the opening-night film, but instead of it being screened Qubeka stood on stage with his mouth taped in protest.

“It would be an indictment of freedom of expression and brings to question how these people could be appointed in the first place," said Qubeka.

“I believe there are many sensible people in this country – even in the FPB. When the world watches this film, they will ask what the hell the problem was. We need a more transparent system and a review of how this happened. Why does the FPB fall under the department of home affairs? It’s an arts issue. I’m calling on the minister of arts and culture to clean up his house. Heads must roll.”

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