[OPINION] 3 SA films that should’ve been banned instead of 'Inxeba'
I had the intention of watching Inxeba too many times to count. But on every occasion, something came up, and it was definitely not something better. Mostly the reasons alternated between: go out and see people or stay home, and go out with people or stay home. And so I stayed home, missed out on seeing The Wound and now I am deeply, deeply sorry because… BANNED.
The film has been called controversial because it centres around the story of a gay factory worker who travels to the rural Eastern Cape to oversee the Xhosa initiation process, only to have the secret of his sexuality discovered by one defiant initiate.
After being pulled from several cinemas in the Eastern and Western Cape due to protest, the Appeal Tribunal of the South African Film and Publication Board (FPB) finally announced that Inxeba is officially banned from playing at mainstream cinemas. The 16LS classification was bumped up to an X18 rating by the FB citing: “classifiable elements of sex, language, nudity, violence and prejudice”.
If you want to see Inxeba now, you can. But you have to make an event of it. You have to wear a creepy paedophile moustache with a crusty tweed jacket, slacks that slip off so they reveal the crack of your butt and 70s issued spectacles so that you can take your place at a “designated adult premises” – you know? Like those dingy backrooms at adult stores where lonely weird men spend their time. I’m sure a beautifully shot queer Xhosa film with an outstanding cast and deep narrative is exactly the kind of thing these men have been waiting to jack off to.
The producers of the film, who are seeking assistance from the Human Rights Commission to challenge the FPB’s ruling, are fighting the new classification. Producer Cait Pansegrouw told the Citizen recently: “We are obviously disappointed with the outcome. The FBP has classified an important work of art that explores themes around masculinity, love and identity as an X-rated film.”
The fight is far from over, as it should be, but in the meantime, let’s call out a few other South African films which should be brought to the attention of the FPB which seems intent on saving the South African public from offensive and harmful material. If we’re going to silence art because it offends, let’s silence truly bad art for truly offending as well.
A few examples:
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) – At first glance a harmless slapstick comedy about those funny, backward San people. The movie was initially billed as “an epic comedy of absurd proportions”.
Here’s the most absurd bit though: The movie continues to exist and remains a cult classic in spite of the fact that historically, it is a film born in the darkest days of apartheid. Writer and director Jamie Uys essentially wrote a film about a tortured time when post-colonial African nationalism was at the peak of trouble.
It is at its core patronising and derogatory. You’ve had 38 years to think about this FPB.
Leon Schuster movies. Pick one: The most successful filmmaker in the South African industry and by far the most immune to investigation and critical analysis. Millions flock to see his films, which are also cast in a light of slapstick and harmless humour.
Schuster is the one white male in South African who seems to wear a bullet-proof vest against the scorn of those who might see him as a racist. He is excused as being an equal opportunity offender. But then, there’s blackface. So much of blackface.
One thing remains fixed no matter how you swing it in order to choke your films with blackface, you must first, in fact, be white because blackface is the act of mocking blackness, which results in cultural stereotyping and deep, deep offence. If Inxeba goes, so should Leon.
Keeping up with the Kandasamys (2017): Of course, banning films doesn’t have to be all because of doom and gloom. Sometimes films are offensive and deserve to live on the screens of abandoned backrooms because they are just downright terrible.
Like this one, for example. A play on Keeping up with the Kardashians, the film was billed as an ode to the Indian community of Chatsworth in Durban, which, in fairness, it definitely was. But the terrible writing and misfired humour made it an exhausting viewing experience and more than that, the movie missed out on a massive chance to educate communities in South Africa residing outside of Chatsworth.
Since the FPB’s classification system can be twisted and turned in any way that favours the “public’s best interest”, well then I invite the board to take a look at this movie, which no doubt is offensive to the viewer just because it is so damn mind-numbing.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter.