Judge to watch The Wound as battle over its 'porn' classification rages

A scene from Inxeba (The Wound)
A scene from Inxeba (The Wound)
Image: Supplied

Just 48 hours 'Inxeba' (The Wound) scooped multiple awards at the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs)‚ the Film and Publication Board continued to insist the movie has "no artistic merit" and should be classified with the same rating as hardcore porn.

North Gauteng High Court Judge Joseph Raulinga will view the full film on Monday as part of an ongoing legal battle over its X18 rating.

Indigenous Film Distribution and Urucu Media‚ the producers of the movie‚ are fighting to overturn its recent X18 reclassification by the board. The film documents a gay relationship in the context of an isiXhosa initiation ritual‚ and was previously classified as 16LS.

But the Film and Publication Board insists there is "no reason" to overturn its rating‚ which it said was based on "explicit sexual conduct" in the film. It says it stands by its evaluation that the film is "of no scientific‚ dramatic or artistic merit".

The Man and Boy Foundation‚ Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa‚ South African Healers Association‚ Butholesizwe Cultural Development‚ Izinduna Zamakhosi and Ubuhle Bengcule are also all fighting for Inxeba to keep its X18 rating.

They are defending the FPB decision – and maintain their opposition to the movie is not based on homophobia‚ but rather its portrayal of sexual contact within the context of the isiXhosa initiation ritual. Contralesa maintains there can be no sexual contact in the sacred space of the initiation school‚ whether such sexual conduct is homosexual or heterosexual.

Lawyers for the film's producers say the effect of the X18 rating will be that it can only be viewed or purchased at "adult premises...known colloquially as 'sex shops'.

"Consequently‚ the practical effect of the decision is that even adults are prevented from seeing the film in cinemas."

They further argue that the decision to reclassify the film - which came after multiple traditional organisations appealed its 16LS rating - was "procedurally unlawful and unfair".

The producers say they were not given proper notice of the appeal process‚ and were not given an opportunity to make written submissions responding to the arguments raised by the traditional associations. They also accuse the Film and Publications Board of bending over backwards to accommodate the appeals of the traditional leadership organisations - despite these appeals being six months too late.

This treatment‚ they say‚ left them with the "reasonable perception" that the board was biased against them. They further argue that the film contains "no explicit sexual content"‚ with the film's three sex scenes containing "implied" sexual content.

The board doesn't agree with that assessment‚ meaning that it will be imperative for Judge Raulinga to himself view the film and evaluate its content‚ and its artistic merit. He and lawyers for the parties - including heavyweight advocates Geoff Budlender‚ Gilbert Marcus and Dali Mpofu - are expected to view the movie together on Monday‚ but that viewing will not be held in open court.

The case is set for hearing on Wednesday.

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