amaXhosa king seeks to halt gay initiation film

Cape Town – amaXhosa king Zwelonke Sigcawu is seeking to halt the distribution of a film depicting a homosexual relationship during the traditional amaXhosa manhood initiations, saying there are limits to the extent customs can be exposed, his lawyer said. 

Inxeba (the wound) tells the story of Xolani, a closeted gay factory worker in Queenstown, who served as a caregiver for initiates and subsequently has a relationship with another caregiver.

The film was set to open the Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival this Friday, said festival director Jason Fiddler. 

Sigcawu wants to talk to the film producers “amicably” before approaching the courts to avoid its distribution, the king’s lawyer Matthew Mpahlwa told News24.

The king also plans to file a formal complaint with the Film and Publications Board (FPB).  

“His subjects are complaining. He is the custodian of custom and what is being dealt [with] in the film is custom. It is on those grounds that he would ... be an interested party,” Mpahlwa said.

“There’s a lot of panic among the amaXhosa people who have undertaken the rituals, some of the men mostly and they called on the kingdom of the amaXhosa to intervene.”

He said the king had however not yet seen the film.

“He has been seeing [the] trailers and people are just shocked.

"There is an extent [to] which freedom of expression can go...  there are limits [to] which customs... can be exposed."

Not banned a movie yet

In written answers to News24 on Friday afternoon, the FPB said it had not yet received a formal complaint from Sigcawu. 

The board has not yet halted the distribution of any film in a democratic South Africa, spokesperson Pontsho Botolo said. 

"A film can only be halted for distribution if it had been given a 'Refused Classification' rating."

Refused classification means content was found containing hate speech, propaganda for war, incitement of violence and child pornography.

The film's producer Cait Pansegrouw told News24 that the "creative team" will issue a statement addressing the king's concerns on Monday. 

The film was selected for the 2017 Sundance film festival in the USA and won best film at Spain’s Valencia International Film Festival in the category Cinema Jove.

The film was selected as a “critic’s pick” by the New York Times on Tuesday, calling it a journey of “liberation”.

It was shot by internationally acclaimed South African filmmaker John Trengove, locally known for the miniseries Hopeville on SABC 2.

Fiddler said the film screened for the first time in South Africa at the Durban International Film Festival in July.

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