Leon Schuster scores big with Mama Jack

Leon Schuster's Frank & Fearless will still be screened by Showmax.
Leon Schuster's Frank & Fearless will still be screened by Showmax.
Image: Alon Skuy

Leon Schuster's controversial film using blackface scored high TV ratings for free-to-air channel e.tv, while MultiChoice's streaming service Showmax reached a final decision to remove five of Schuster's movies due to a rallying outcry on systematic racism.

The broadcast of Mama Jack last month on e.tv was met with social media backlash as some South Africans deem Schuster's use of blackface in the film racially insensitive.

The 2005 slapstick comedy sees Schuster wearing make-up to disguise himself as a black housekeeper named Mama Bolo.

But according to the latest data by the Broadcast Research Council of SA, Schuster's Mama Jack was watched by 2.91-million viewers on June 13.

The film was the commercial channel's sixth-most watched title of the month.

Sowetan has on numerous occasions since June 22 sought to get e.tv's comment on its position on Schuster's controversial film.

In the latest development, Showmax has now taken the decision to permanently remove seven film titles "due to negative racial stereotyping and prominent elements of blackface".

The decision comes as MultiChoice's streaming service underwent a review last month for racially insensitive content that included six of Schuster's films.

"Of the six Leon Schuster movies reviewed, we will be reinstating Frank & Fearless," said Showmax spokesperson Richard Boorman. "The other five will not be returning. We recognise these movies are a product of their time and were created with positive intent."

Boorman said the review was conducted by the Showmax content team and declined to name the seven titles removed.

Sowetan understands the five Schuster films removed include Schuks! Pay Back the Money and You Must be Joking.

"We believe that platforms such as ours have a role to play in bringing people together through shared experiences," Boorman said. "We don't want to shy away from polarising topics but we also don't want to sow division. We won't always get the balance right but we'll do our best to listen and to learn from our mistakes."

Three weeks ago a petition was started by Wynand Calitz on behalf of "comedy lovers" on change.org demanding that Showmax "bring him [Schuster] back immediately". To date the petition has been signed by 47 people.

In an interview with Sowetan last month, Schuster defended his use of blackface. "When I go to the mall the black ladies come to me and say 'where is your black make-up'? Come and prank us.

"So those people are asking me to come do this and they matter to me because they are my fans," he said.

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