A Film and Publication Board (FPB) workshop at the Durban International Film Festival this morning turned into a heated discussion about what was, in effect, a banning of the festival’s opening film last week.
Of Good Report was refused classification because, said the FPB, it contains child pornography – a 23-year-old playing a 16-year-old character has sex with a sugar daddy. Showing or being in possession of the film was deemed criminal.
This morning’s Q&A session started on a dramatic note with the film’s producer, Michael Auret, challenging the FPB to admit it was negligent in its ruling in light of a landmark Constitutional Court judgment on the meaning of the definition of “child pornography” in the FPB Act, argued in the case of De Reuck v Director of Public Prosecutions.
When the Out in Africa film festival challenged a similar banning of the Argentinian film XXY, said Auret, they drew heavily on the De Reuck case – and the FPB ban was overturned on appeal.
The FPB’s Sipho Msiba responded angrily, saying that there was no negligence on the part of the FPB and that the FPB Act had been amended twice since that ruling, making it irrelevant.
The manager of the Durban festival, Peter Machen, then spoke, questioning why television shows can depict sugar-daddy sex storylines but films may not. He said that he believed the FPB had “acted unconstitutionally”.
“This is a model inherited from an old South Africa,” said Machen. “The real pornography is poverty and inequality.” As he spoke of the festival’s concern over social issues he became increasingly emotional, later leaving the room in tears.
Msiba then became angry. “We support our classifiers and stand by their decision,” he said. “We are in line with the Constitution. We are not here to justify the decision. We note the attacks against us and are unfazed. There will be an appeal process. We will defend our classification.”
It was FPB spokesperson Prince Ndamase who brought order to the meeting, assuring the industry that the FPB supported messaging against sugar daddies, but they had to follow the act and regulations that govern them. He questioned why the industry had not responded to a call for public participation when the FPB Act was being amended.
“Producers have attacked us,” he said. “We have been referred to as retards and morons. I have personally been threatened. But we have kept our cool.”
Several questions were raised about the classification committee having watched only the first 28 minutes and 16 seconds of Of Good Report. Ndamase responded that the FPB Act states that as soon as child pornography is identified in a film it must be switched off.
Returning to the meeting, Machen expressed concern that the FPB had asked for “mainly African films” to view before the festival. The board bases its requests on synopses of films submitted by the festival. It asked to see a record seven films this year. “Are we policing only African sexuality?” asked Machen.
Ndamase refuted this, saying “I note your concern but it doesn’t matter if it’s a (Jahmil) Qubeka or a (Steven) Spielberg.”
Machen and Auret have appealed the ruling. Ndamase said that the FPB was fast-tracking the appeal process because of the public outcry.
“We are trying to ensure that the appeal tribunal sits this week – judging by the enthusiasm from the public and media,” he said.
Afterwards, Auret told City Press that he was confused by the FPB’s response to his questions. “Either they’re lying about the amendments making the De Reuck judgment irrelevant to the case or else the amendments themselves are unconstitutional.”
On Monday, the film industry met in Durban and launched the Art Censorship SA campaign in response to the banning.
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