Festival head in tears at talk

2013-07-25 00:00

THE DurbanInternational Film Festival director broke down at a workshop yesterday where the banning of the festival’s opening film, Of Good Report, came under scrutiny.

“The real pornography in our society is poverty and inequality,” Peter Machen said. “It seems we have a greater problem with the representation of reality than reality itself.” He then broke down in tears and left the stage.

The Film and Publication Board workshop is held at every festival, and it provides a platform for the FPB to explain its work, but thanks to the furore around the banning of Of Good Report just prior to its screening on the opening night of the festival, the usually sparsely attended event was crowded with press and film-makers.

Earlier, the FPB’s Nthabiseng Man explained that classifiers, among other things, take into consideration “the content and impact” of a film, as well as the context, including the literary, artistic and dramatic merits of a work under consideration.

However, Michael Auret, the producer of Of Good Report, accused the board of not properly briefing the classifiers of the film and he cited a previous ruling in the case of an Argentinian film XXY, which contained similar subject matter, and was initially banned but passed on appeal. Auret said the case provided an “exact mirror” of Of Good Report and the classifiers should have been guided by this earlier decision.

“Surely there should have been a higher duty of care towards a South African film,” Auret said.

“Were you negligent in briefing the classification committee? … The decision has damaged the reputations of all those involved with the film.”

Prior to his breakdown, Machen pointed out that the subject matter of Of Good Report was frequently dealt with in television programmes such as Yizo Yizo and Ekasi. “However, television programmes are not required to go through this process. They are subject to a post-classification process if a member of the public complains.”

Machen said similar material that could fall foul of the FCB could include Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Nabokov’s Lolita and the ­Bible. It was at this point he became emotionally overwrought and left the stage. He later returned and apologised.

Prince Ndamase, an FPB spokesperson, said the board had requested to view the film on the strength of the synopsis they were supplied with.

Asked why they stopped viewing at 28 minutes, the point where a sexual scene occurs, and did not continue viewing to see the scene in the context of the whole film, Ndamase said that according to the Film and Publications Act, as soon as a scene involving child pornography, as defined by the act, appears, the classifiers must halt the viewing.

Both film-makers and the FPB were in agreement about the message of the film, dealing as it does with one of South Africa’s major social ills. “The message of the film is not contested from our part,” emphasised Ndamase.

“Perhaps there is a need to look at the legislation that governs the board. Currently we have to classify according to the act.”

Ndamase urged film-makers to become involved in the legislative process and to participate in the review process of the FCB’s guidelines, which occurs every two years. Of Good Report is under appeal by the FPB appeals tribunal. According to Ndamase, they hope to view the film as soon as possible and issue a decision.

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