Producers sue to overturn “unlawful” ‘Inxeba’ ban

The producers and distributor of Inxeba (The Wound) have filed an urgent court application to have its ‘X18’ reclassification overturned.

The move followed the release last week by the Film and Publication Board Appeals Tribunal of its reasons for giving the film a rating that saw it effectively banned.

The tribunal not only overturned the earlier 16 rating but classified Inxeba as X18, a higher rating than 18. The X18 grading is usually reserved for hardcore pornography and means that the film cannot be screened in mainstream cinemas, only in sex shops.

On Saturday, the filmmakers, through attorneys Webber Wentzel, lodged the suit in the High Court in Pretoria seeking an urgent interdict to reverse the “fatally flawed and unlawful” reclassification of the film.

They have requested that the X18 classification be “reviewed and set aside and be declared invalid” and that Inxeba is allowed to be screened under the previous rating of 16 LS.

Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution, argues in the suit that the effective banning of Inxeba is an “extremely serious restriction on the right to freedom of speech contained in the Constitution…”

She further notes that the inability to screen the film has resulted in “immediate and irreparable commercial prejudice to the producers and distributors of the film, as well as all others associated with it”.

In the reasoning for their ruling, the members of the Appeals Tribunal claimed that the film has no “artistic value” and that its inclusion of gay sex scenes (which are not explicit) could cause “tension in society”.

Kuun pointed out that Contralesa Gauteng and The Man and Boy Foundation, who filed the appeal with the tribunal based on perceived cultural insensitivity, had only requested that the film be re-rated 18, but the tribunal chose to given it the higher classification of X18.

In the application, Kuun states that to her knowledge “no non-phonographic film has ever been given an X18 rating by the Board or the Appeals Tribunal before”.

“We find this ruling sinister, as the X18 rating was not requested by the appellants, and it cannot be reasonably justified by anyone who has seen the film,” Kuun said in a statement. “It is also worrying that the Appeals Tribunal reached this decision without giving the distributor and producer a proper opportunity to make submissions on the matter. This is plainly unlawful.”

Producer Cait Pansegrouw commented that the tribunal’s claim that the film has no artistic merit is difficult to sustain, “given that it has won 20 awards of excellence internationally and within South Africa”.

She added: “Harvard University, Oxford University, various South African tertiary institutions, and local movements such as Equal Education also have showed interest in including Inxeba in their curriculums and programmes.”

In the meantime, the producers and distributor are asking members of the public not to watch, circulate or buy pirated copies of the film.

“Please do not support piracy,” said Kuun. “We are working hard to find legal avenues to make the film available to all those who want to see it. Given the current rating of the film, it is also illegal and a criminal offence currently to view it anywhere, on any platform, either free or paid for. We are very encouraged by the support and enthusiasm of fans, but we urge patience while the legal process unfolds.”

A petition has been launched demanding that Inxeba’s rating be returned to 16LS. You can sign it here.

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