The same week award-winning South African film Inxeba (The Wound) was banned from cinemas, Marvel’s Black Panther opened on circuit.
Both films are groundbreaking cinematic events, but they’ve evoked very different reactions. Black Panther shows how far black voices have come in telling African stories and Inxeba, pictured, shows how far there is still to go.
Inxeba became a talking point after it was deemed inappropriate by cultural committees and church groups. It explores the construct of masculinity within the context of Xhosa culture.
It’s a narrative that has never been explored cinematically. Inxeba was one of 52 films the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) funded during the 2016/2017 financial year.
It’s an impressively disruptive film showcasing a marginalised group from the perspective of a gay man. “It is important that the content we assist to get produced disrupts and propels audiences to introspect and Inxeba’s focus on important aspects of our culture and traditions, while addressing topical issues of identity, masculinity and sexuality, does just that,” said Zama Mkosi, CEO of the NFVF.
Pulling Inxeba off the circuit stifles the advancements Black Panther is being lauded for. Black Panther is African in every sense of the word. Actor John Kani calls it “African authenticity”.
From Sotho blankets to Maasai cloths, Black Panther is a black-made film starring black actors from all over the world.
It explores the disconnectedness African-Americans might experience when thinking about Africa; it hints at the effects of colonialism and is infused with a deep respect for the continent.
It presents Africa as layered, its people diverse and above all it’s the first time this sort of film has been made and afforded this kind of budget. Although thematically different, Inxeba should have been embraced for many of the same reasons.
It shows a different side of Africanness but still expands the continent’s narrative. Black and African stories are now being told, but the reactions to these stories are worlds apart.
Black Panther is set to break records.
Inxeba, on the other hand, is restricted to viewing by adults. The Film and Publication Board’s decision to reclassify the film as X18 – the same rating as hardcore pornography – makes showing it at a public cinema illegal.
“The South African Screen Federation is utterly dismayed about this decision to essentially ban this important and beautifully told story,” said Rehad Desai, the federation’s chairperson.
“This decision will adversely affect this production company and the wider film industry. It is shocking that a film that South Africa filmmakers short-listed for an Oscar can receive such treatment.
“The decision smacks of nothing less than homophobia and contradicts key sections of our constitution.”
The film’s producers intend to take legal action against the Film and Publications Board over the 18X rating.
Helen Kuun, managing director of Indigenous Film Distribution, said: “The FPB is legally obligated to make public their reasons for the new ruling seven days after the tribunal. We are taking the matter very seriously and will not let it rest.”