South Africa’s world class film festival in the city of Durban had an opening film and a closing film. But somehow, along the way, the opening night film was pulled from the program. Censors, to the dismay of many, had found it pornographic.
According to the festival program, the film tells the somber tale of a small-town high-school teacher with a penchant for young girls. “The director’s third feature is an hypnotically engaging journey into the soul of a mentally troubled man.”
But the Film and Publication Board (FPB), a government-affiliated regulator, objected to a scene in “Of Good Report” where an actress, playing a 16-year-old-girl, has sex with a teacher. The scene did not involve nudity but was suggestive of oral sex.
Instead of the prestige of opening the festival, “Of Good Report” was now a criminal offence for those in possession of it. “All copies must be either rendered to the police or destroyed,” wrote the FPB.
Banning the film brought back bad memories of apartheid-era censorship.
“The government calls us pornographers when we bring light to social issues,” argued filmmaker Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. “I cry this beloved country because we are in trouble.”
The film, he explained, was an expression of outrage at society’s acceptance of “sugar daddies”. “How did we get to a point where society’s so broken down that an upstanding citizen in the community – a person of good report – can be known to be dating a 14-year-old kid and it’s alright?
“If you want men to see themselves, you have to speak their language. I don’t want to glorify rapists. I want to say they are among you. I believe that men are consciously or subconsciously at war with women.”
The movie has dominated radio and TV talk shows and social media since the ban came to light this week.
“I will win this,” declared Qubeka, a Xhosa man who grew up in the (former) Republic of Ciskei. “It’s about principle, my reputation. I have a mother and I am a proud son of South Africa.”
The festival will close Sunday, July 28, with a U.S.-French collaboration: “Free Angela (Davis) and All Political Prisoners”
The producer of “Of Good Report” has appealed the ban and hopes the film can be shown before the Durban festival ends.