‘Inxeba’ filmmakers fight back against protests and death threats

The producers of the controversial Inxeba (The Wound) have defended the film and the right to free expression amid attempts to block the film’s release in South Africa.

Protest action by cultural activists has seen several cinemas forced to cancel screenings of Inxeba, which has been shown across the continent and around the world to widespread critical acclaim.

To date, it has won 19 awards at 44 festivals in more than 25 countries worldwide including South Africa. On Friday, it was announced that the film has been nominated for 8 South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAS).

Mambaonline is aware of cinemas in East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg that have postponed screenings or canceled the exhibition of the film entirely following protests and threats to damage property and attack staff members.

The Man and Boy Foundation (MBF), which promotes “safe traditional initiation practice”, is one of the  organisations behind the alarming intimidation and attack on freedoms of speech and expression. The group claims that the film’s depiction of sacred traditional initiation practices is an assault on Xhosa culture.

In an interview on ANN7 last night, MBF executive director Nkululeko Nxesi said that, “99% of the South Africa population are against this movie”. He subsequently contradicted himself by stating that the filmmakers have set out to divide “the black population” and “get black people to fight amongst themselves”.

Indigenous Film Distribution, the company releasing the film in South Africa, has pointed out that this statement is blatantly untrue. “Ahead of its opening weekend, pre-screenings were held around the country, and 85% of people who attended gave it the thumbs up,” said managing director Helen Kuun in a statement. “It was also the number one film at seven of the venues where it screened on Friday.”

Since July 2017, the film has been screened around the country to encourage discussion and dialogue between the filmmakers and various audiences. “We took the film into several spaces across the country, particularly those that do not have access to cinemas in their communities and made absolutely sure to do this in the Eastern Cape above all,” commented producer Cait Pansegrouw.

She refuted Nxesi’s claim that the filmmakers had only engaged with gay communities on this film to the exclusion of other stakeholders.

“There was no focus on specific sectors of the population, as stated by the Man and Boy Foundation representative on ANN7 yesterday. All screenings were open to anyone who RSVP’d to attend. To imply that we purposely excluded certain people or organisations from seeing the film is just not true,” insisted Pansegrouw.

Trengove noted that, “Inxeba is not the first piece of work to speak about initiation and I’m certain it won’t be the last.”

“It’s a complete fallacy to say that the film exposes anything that is not already known. I must state categorically that we did a tremendous amount of research, working with Xhosa men who have been through initiation, in writing and developing this film,” he said.

“Nobody is forced to see Inxeba. But South Africans have every right to watch and engage with it.” added producer Elias Ribeiro. “Protesters at several cinemas warned staff that they would follow them home and kill them if the screening of the film went ahead. This is not acceptable in a democratic society.”

Inxeba’s executive producer, Batana Vundla, earlier told Mambaonline that the basis of the protests is nothing less than homophobia. He said that the true objection by the groups to the film is “the idea of men within their sacred context having same-sex love. That’s the crux of what this is about.”

This was supported by a comment made by Ntsindiso Mdunyelwa, the Eastern Cape provincial chairperson of the Congress of Traditional Leaders (Contralesa), to The Daily Vox. He said that Inxeba “also seeks to promote gay relationships, it has nothing to do with the initiation school but more to do with promoting gay relationships. It is distorting what happens there.”

The filmmakers have submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, following Friday’s protests.

The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has stated that despite complaints about perceived cultural insensitivity, restricting the launch of the film would be a direct contravention of the South African Constitution and the Films and Publication Act.

“Inxeba is not going to go away and we are invested in making sure that people who do want to see the film will get to do so,” said Trengove.

On Saturday, the producers Tweeted: “Inxeba will continue playing in cinemas despite disruptions at some sites. It’s on at Ster-Kinekor, NuMetro and other independent cinemas. Check your local cinema’s website for more info.”

Read Mambaonline’s review of Inxeba (The Wound) here.

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