Amid reports that cast members of Inxeba (The Wound) have been moved to a place of safety, the SA Human Rights Commission has condemned threats of violence around the film’s release.
On Thursday, the Herald reported that Inxeba’s actors have been provided with a “place of refuge”.
Producer Elias Ribeiro was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “We created a refugee camp to keep everyone out of trouble – it is a difficult situation.” He added that, “We are seriously concerned about our personal safety across the board.”
As far back as February 2017, Inxeba star Nakhane Touré told Mambaonline that “I have received a lot of threatening and violent messages…” because of his role in the film. The actor was also forced to cancel a project in the Eastern Cape out of fear for his safety.
Matters escalated dramatically last week when the South African release of the internationally acclaimed film was marred by protests and intimidation by cultural activists.
A number of cinemas around the country were forced to postpone or cancel screenings following threats to damage property and against the safety of staff.
On Wednesday, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) confirmed receipt of a complaint from the film’s producers with regard to these incidents.
The SAHRC said that the “right to freedom of expression may include expression even in the form of art or film that can cause offence, or which may be shocking or disturbing”.
It explained that, “The protections are in place to allow artistic creativity to flourish and through such creativity to stimulate thought and opinion in democratic countries like South Africa.”
It pointed out, however, that this right may be limited if the film can be “shown to violate the rights to equality and dignity” or “amounts to the incitement of imminent violence; or advocacy of hatred” and constitutes “incitement to cause harm”.
The commission further noted that while the right to protest is also protected by the Constitution, this “must be exercised without destruction or violence”.
The SAHRC said that, “Based on the complaint to the Commission and our monitoring of reports of intimidation, threats of violence and death threats made in relation to the screening of Inxeba (The Wound) is condemned.”
An anti-Inxeba protest in Port Elizabeth (Twitter)
It urged “all who feel aggrieved by Inxeba (The Wound) to exercise their right to protest within the confines of the law, and to engage more constructively about the concerns to ensure that while the protests demonstrate an objection, the act of protest remains lawful and in accordance with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
Inxeba is the story of Xolani, a lonely closeted Xhosa factory worker who joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. There, he faces the man he loves.
Traditional leaders have claimed that the film’s depiction of sacred and secret initiation ceremonies and the inclusion of homosexuality in this context are an insult and attack against the Xhosa culture.
Producers argue that Inxeba does not reveal anything not previously exposed, that they researched and consulted extensively with communities and that homophobia is at the heart of the protests.