Festival film banned

2013-07-19 00:00

THE long arm of the censor struck the opening of the Durban International Film Festival last night, with the unexpected banning of a movie by South African film maker Jahmil QT Qubeka.

Of Good Report was not screened after the Film and Publications Board “refused classification” for its alleged depiction of child pornography.

Organisers received the board’s letter yesterday and all copies of the film had to be handed over to police or destroyed.

A copy of the letter was displayed on the screen, and many in the audience laughed, initially thinking it was a joke.

The letter, addressed to the festival’s manager, Peter Machen, read: “According to the Classification Committee, at 28 minutes and 16 seconds, the classification process was stopped based on the fact that the film contained child pornography.

“The committee unanimously agreed this was child pornography and refused classification.”

“Then we realised it was true,” a member of the audience told The Witness last night, adding that the movie cast was on stage, many sobbing.

Qubeka stood in front of the audience, which included eThekwini speaker Logie Naidoo, with his mouth taped and tore what appeared to be his identity document or a copy of the letter banning the film.

Machen said he was dumbfounded by the board’s actions.

He described Of Good Report as being “challenging artistically”, but not sexually explicit.

Machen said the board had contacted him on Monday night and asked him to send them the synopses of all the movies to be shown at the festival.

He couriered the synopses on Tuesday morning.

“I received an e-mail last night [Wednesday] in which they stated they had a problem with one of our films. This morning [yesterday] they sent me a letter saying that we were not allowed to air the film because it contained scenes depicting child pornography.”

Machen said representatives of the Film and Publications Board were seated in the cinema at the Suncoast Casino last night to ensure the film was not shown.

“When they left we made a point by making the screen go to black and announcing that we were not going to show the film or we would be criminally prosecuted.”

Machen said festival organisers had taken the decision as it would have meant he would have been criminally prosecuted, the festival might have been shut down and Suncoast would have lost its licence to show movies.

Machen said the university had lodged an appeal and the film makers would take the matter to the Constitutional Court if it failed.

Machen also decided not to screen another film as a sign of respect for Qubeka.

Phoenix Norgaard, who played Vatiswa, the best friend of lead character Nolitha Ngubane, said “the lesson is in censorship”.

A visibly distraught Petronella Tshuma, who played 16-year-old Nolitha, said she was “very disappointed and hurt by this decision”.

“Yes, there was nudity, but … we did not do anything that was explicit or in bad taste.”

Qubeka’s wife, Lwazi Manzi, who is a medical doctor, told the audience: “Just because they don’t want us to see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

The film tells the sombre tale of a high school teacher who has a liking for young girls.

He begins an affair with a woman he meets at a tavern, but she is one of his pupils and only 16.

Outraged movie goers took to Twitter last night, lambasting the decision. “We’ve seen WORSE on Intersexions and Yizo Yizo. So this censorship of @OfGoodReportOGR is lame and pathetic,” said Marli Cooyah.

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