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Al Jazeera's 'South 2 North' Will Discuss Cinema Censorship/Bans In Africa

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by Tambay A. Obenson
August 1, 2013 12:24 PM
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Jahmil Qubeka

Following all the Film and Publications Board classification/censorship controversy surrounding the film, which was selected as the Opening Night Film at 34th edition of the Durban International Film Festival, in Durban, South Africa, Of Good Report will be at the center of an episode of Al Jazeera’s global talk show South 2 North, tomorrow, Friday.

During that episode, Redi Tlhabi will speak to three directors in the aftermath of South Africa’s Film and Publication Board banning Of Good Report. The director of the film, Jahmil Qubeka will be one of the 3 directors, and he'll be joined by Cameroon’s Jean-Pierre Bekolo (Le President - which I just profiled yesterday) and Angola’s João Viana (The Battle of Tabata) in South 2 North’s Johannesburg studio. 

The film was not screened in any of its allocated slots during the festival, as a result of the refusal for classification and so could not be in competition, however, the Durban International Film Festival acknowledged the film’s achievements in stimulating worldwide debate and highlighting important issues in South African society. Festival manager Peter Machen therefore announced a new annual award for Artistic Bravery, the first of which was given to Of Good Report director, Jahmil XT Qubeka. 

The announced its award-winners last weekend, at the Suncoast Nu Metro cinema. 

In short, the Films and Publications Act of 1996 is an Act of the South African Parliament, which was created post-Apartheid, to evaluate media (including cinema), and classify according to what they believe its suitability for different audiences is. I suppose it's the equivalent of the MPAA here in the USA. Not exactly, but it's a similar kind of initiative.

The Act prohibits films or publications that advocate war, violence, and hatred especially if based on race, ethnicity, gender and religion.

Where Qubeka's film is said to be *problematic* by the board, was, that, in their view, it "promotes child abuse & pornography."

Described as an homage to classic film noir, Of Good Report tells the story of a demented school teacher's attempts to get away with the brutal murder of a teenage beauty queen. 

The teacher gets involved with one of his students, which obviously doesn't end well. The filmmaker calls it a "serial killer origins story about how a social misfit turns into an inadequate man hell-bent on satisfying his shameful lust. It is Little Red Riding Hood, told from the wolf’s perspective."

While agreeing that child pornography should be banned, Jahmil says Of Good Report is rather “making an indictment... For teenagers this a horror film. I want kids, particularly girls, to watch this and I want to scare them.

The ban was eventually over-turned, and Jahmil is moving forward with a defamation case against the Film and Publication Board of South Africa.

Reflecting on the effects of the ban, he says, “I’m not sad for me. This has turned me into a superstar. My life has changed in a week. I’ve been inVariety magazine… three times. What I am sad for is my nation because my nation was refused the right to see the film.

Indeed on all points! I was telling my comrades over the weekend, that all the publicity the controversy generate should only help increase awareness of the film internationally.

Calling his role as a filmmaker “a privilege” and describing film as “the definitive artform of the 21st century,” he says, “Self reflection is the only way you can develop. We are the mirrors of our society… If we are living in an age where our government is putting down draconian policies that don’t allow self-reflection, instead we showcase a world that is actually not real, so how will we get to a place of seeing where we are?

Jean-Pierre Bekolo, whose own latest film, Le PresidentLater, faced ban in Cameroon (as I noted in my post yesterday), added: “A lot of African filmmakers I know have political films, but all of them have given up. Today Africa is not in peace. We’re not really developed. We even have foreign troops on our continent. But our films are now very, very nice. We’re not talking about anything anymore.

The Battle Of Tabato is the story of a town in Guinea-Bissau filled with musicians. While Joao’s film hasn’t been banned, he says, “I think my cinema is banned too because I don’t have cinemas to show the film in Guinea-Bissau… It’s a kind of economic censorship.

He stresses the need to retell Africa’s history without the influence of colonialism. “It’s very important because its always the perspective of colonialism… What I learned in school, and even later, is completely wrong. I learned in school that man came from Africa, this is obvious, but that modern culture was born in Europe. It’s wrong. Even the Egyptians, they tell us that the Egyptians are white people. Why?

The three directors will also discuss funding in Africa; whether or not governments should provide money for films; and when films should be banned, if ever.

It should be a good, informative watch, and I'll certainly be tuning in! 

For more information, visit http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/south2north/, where all episodes are available to watch online.

You can also tweet your questions, comments and opinions to @AJSouth2North or find South 2 North on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/South-2-North/255419671252120.

Catch up on last week’s episode of South 2 North, where Redi discussed the peacekeepers going to war in the Congo, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtyjmpd2kLM 

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