PEN SA Condemns the Cancellation of Screenings of Inxeba
05 Feb 2018
PEN SA is seriously concerned about the threats of violence levelled toward workers at cinemas showing the film Inxeba, calls by traditional leaders to ban the film, and successful attempts to stop the film being shown at cinemas this past weekend in the Eastern and Western Cape. PEN SA believes these actions – encouraged and perpetrated by traditional leaders and local politicians – amount to censorship and are in contravention to the law and the Constitution.
Protest action against the film caused screenings of Inxeba to be cancelled at Nu Metro cinemas in Port Elizabeth, East London and Cape Town. Restricting the launch of a film, according to the Film and Publications Board, amounts to a “direct contravention to Section 16 of the South African Constitution as well as the provisions of the Films and Publication Act No.96 of 1996 as amended”.
The film, which explores themes of masculinity, tradition and homosexuality, tells the story of Xolani, a caregiver during a Xhosa male initiation ceremony who becomes romantically involved with another caregiver.
PEN SA is concerned at reports of a meeting between the Films and Publications Board and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (the “CRL Rights Commission”), in which “it was agreed that the National Film and Video Foundation must apologise for funding the movie”. This is an affront to free expression, and an attempt to dissuade filmmakers from exploring similar themes in future films.
PEN SA contends that, although citizens are entitled to feel and express disapproval of any work of art, this entitlement cannot extend to suppressing or censoring that work or preventing other citizens from viewing the work, especially if that work is not in contravention of the Constitution. It is also noted that much of the criticism of the film from the public is implicitly or explicitly homophobic. This is a violation of the Constitution of South Africa, which protects both freedom of speech and guards against discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is imperative for a viable democracy that voices and expressions that provoke and stimulate robust discussion, debate and disagreement are not silenced or curtailed and that crucially, the full constitutional rights of LGBTQI people are upheld.
All cultures, including South African cultures, grow and flourish through artistic work that helps to imagine a country in which we are all at home, and which does not yet exist. Inxeba is the work of some of the best of South Africa’s writers, actors, musicians and filmmakers, who have been celebrated both inside and outside of the country, and present us with a view of ourselves in which we are brave enough to face what is difficult. PEN SA stands with them because our Constitution gives them that inalienable right, but also because our country and our culture is enriched by its generous and courageous vision. It should be noted that the perpetrators of apartheid, colonialism and racism are among those who want cultures to stay static, inert, and comprised of people who are afraid.
PEN SA notes that the film’s creators have submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. Likewise, PEN SA urges all those citizens and civic organisations dedicated to upholding the Constitution to join us in condemning this violent action and speech, and to call for the intervention of Mr Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Arts and Culture, and the rest of the Cabinet. We also call for the intervention of the Human Rights Commission, and for the physical protection of cinema workers, as well as the cast and producers of the film.