Freedom of speech won a small, but significant, victory this week when the High Court in Pretoria overturned a ruling by the Film and Publication Board’s Appeal Tribunal, which imposed an X-rating on the controversial Xhosa initiation film Inxeba (The Wound).
Effectively, the court reinstated the original classification 16LS, which means it can be shown in cinemas. The X-rating meant the movie would have been regarded as pornography and only allowed to be shown in adult premises such as sex shops.
It is clear that the intent of the film makers who produced Inxeba was not to distribute pornography, but to make a realistic piece of art about a cultural process which affects thousands of young African men every year.
It is also clear that the intent of the original appeal – brought by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa and the Man and Boy Foundation – was to restrict the showing of the move because they believed it culturally offensive.
The court ruling is to be welcomed because it states clearly that interest groups, of whatever nature, should not be allowed to prescribe what people view, read, or say, on the basis of what they themselves believe.