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DIFF 2013 Opening Night Film ('Of Good Report') Censored By Films & Publications Act

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 18, 2013 3:12 PM
5 Comments
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Of Good Report DIFF Ban

South African filmmaker Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (his last feature film, A Small Town Called Descent, was profiled on this site), was to see his follow-up to that film, Of Good Report, open the 34th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), in Durban, South Africa, today, July 18. 

BUT, as you can see in the image above, that didn't happen.

My Twitter feed has been buzzing a bit in the last hour, as DIFF attendees tweet their disgust with the above decision.

In short, from what my research tells me, the Films and Publications Act of 1996 (mentioned in the image) 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* is, from what others are sharing on social networking sites, that 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."

The celebrated young filmmaker has seen his past work across a spectrum of filmmaking disciplines, screen at various international film festivals, from Rotterdam, to Pusan International Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival (LA), Stolkholm Film Festival and others.

In 2005 an Aids documentary he directed for Sesame Street (Talk To Me) won the prestigious Peabody Award for best actuality programming, and more.

In a previous email exchange he and I had, Jahmil told me that his last film, A Small Town Called Descent, would be available on iTunes soon, so when we know that it's available, you will too. He was also very high on his latest film.

I've fired off an email to him to get more on the above decision not to screen his film. I haven't seen the film at the center of today's brouhaha yet, so I can't offer any commentary on the decision.

DIFF calls Of Good Report a challenging and evocative, yet humorous film, and a hypnotically engaging journey into the soul of a mentally troubled man.

Mothusi Magano stars in the film, along with Petronella Tshuma

It's produced by Mike Auret and Luzuko Dilima (Spier Films).

DIFF's Peter Machen says: “We are extremely happy to be opening DIFF 2013 with Jahmil's brave and remarkable film. Of Good Report does so much more than simply telling a South African story – the film redefines the local filmmaking landscape and extends the language of African filmmaking while acknowledging the rich history of global cinema.

And I'm definitely looking forward to checking it out, whenever it comes my way. It's not often that we see *genre* films by black African filmmakers, and, by all accounts thus far, this is one to watch out for. I can only imagine what the ruling body that made the decision sees in the film that the festival itself didn't. 

No trailer yet unfortunately. See the image below in the meantime.

When I have more info on this, I'll certainly share.

The Durban International Film Festival takes place from July 18 – 28, 2013. The Festival includes 170 theatrical screenings, a full seminar/workshop programme as well as the Wavescape Film Festival and industry initiatives: the 6th Talent Campus Durban (in cooperation with the Berlin Talent Campus) and the 4th Durban FilmMart (the co-production market in partnership with the Durban Film Office), with the Wild Talk Africa Festival taking place in the city from July 23 to 26. 

For more information go to www.durbanfilmfestival.co.za.

Mothusi Magano On Set
Mothusi Magano On Set
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5 Comments

  • Vish | July 19, 2013 8:12 AMReply

    Quite disappointed that "Of Good Report" was scheduled as the opening film of Durban Film Festival prior to it receiving classification. I believe it was sent for classification on the 10th July and scheduled to screen on that 18th July, allowing about 5 business days for this process. While I don't dispute that the film covers very relevant issues and I do look forward to seeing it, I am disappointed with festiaval's odd approach here.

  • Nick | July 19, 2013 10:13 AM

    It doesn't seem as simple as that, though: it seems the classification board only asked for it a few days before the screening, which they've never done for DIFF before.

    "All films screened at the festival are usually exempt from classification. The exemption process is, according to Machen, “a formality”. However, this year the FCB asked to see some of the films being shown; they only did so on Monday evening at about 6pm. The decision to deny the Durban International Film Festival the right to screen the film came on Wednesday evening. Machen launched an emergency appeal process but was informed that the FCB’s appeal process would take 30 days."

    http://mg.co.za/article/2013-07-19-durban-international-film-festival-censors-shut-down-opening-film

  • marco | July 19, 2013 1:19 AMReply

    I am a South Africa lawyer who was at opening night last night where this film was to have been launched. Unfortunately in this instance the law has bridled the opportunity to give insight into a daily reality of the vulnerability of our children in our state funded (township) schools. In this case it was a girl. The truth is that boys and girls are equally vulnerable to this and other forms of abuse which appears in our newspapers as 2 or 3 line reports. Having been grown up in a township and been through that schooling system the travesty is that a story that, me and others like me are so familiar with personally and in practice as a lawyer, will not be told.

  • Sarah | July 18, 2013 4:28 PMReply

    Hi there - I'm a south African lawyer resident in Durban. I just heard the news and had a quick look at the Films and Publications Act. I didn't study it in extreme detail but it is drafted along the lines (I would assume) of most certification type legislation. Problem is that the exemptions eg depicting violence, hatred etc on the basis of artistic merit specifically excludes "child pornography" which is defined in the widest terms. It includes simulations of sex acts involving children even if the actors themselves are over 18. So, basically you can't get a classification of a film about child sexual abuse if you actually depict it happening. Without a classification - you can't screen a film.

  • Tambay | July 18, 2013 4:41 PM

    Thanks very much for that explanation Sarah! I suppose it's akin to a non-MPAA-rated film here in the USA. Although films without MPAA ratings/classification are marked as such, but can still be screened - especially at film festivals. But thanks for the clarification. My question is what happens next. But I'm hoping to get a reply from the filmmaker soon. Cheers!

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