The Out in Africa (OIA) gay and lesbian film festival will be unable to screen the controversial film XXY after an appeal against its banning was abandoned – at least for the time being.

The film was banned last week by the Film and Publications Board on the basis that it depicts child pornography.

XXY, which tells the story of a 15 year old transgender girl, has been screened to acclaim around the world and has won awards at film festivals in Cannes, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Athens and Bangkok.

According to OIA’s Director Nodi Murphy, while the festival went before the appeals board on Wednesday she had not been supplied with all the documentation from the original ruling.

“We weren’t prepared through no fault of our own and we didn’t want to lose the appeal as that would be the end of the case,” she said. “So we decided not to present now.”

Murphy said that she had contacted the Freedom of Expression institute to mount a stronger and more comprehensive case against the banning, which would include legal representation, at a later stage.

The festival will then make a written and oral presentation to the board. This however is unlikely to be in time for this year’s festival.

“The results from the appeal will have broader ramifications; not just about the film, but about the way that child pornography is defined,” said Murphy.

A statement from the festival said: “While it is very disappointing that the film cannot yet be seen in this country, we decided that the technical legal issue, on which the certification and exemption were refused, has broader implications than for this film only and is too important an issue to risk winning the battle in the short term and losing the war in the long term.

Murphy said that she was confident that the film would eventually be unbanned and screened at next year’s festival.

Another film, to be announced, will replace XXY in the screening schedule. Should a patron not wish to see the replacement he or she will be refunded.

The 15th Out in Africa festival runs in Johannesburg at Nu Metro Killarney Mall until 14 September and at Cape Town’s Nu Metro V&A Waterfront from Thursday 11 to Sunday 21 September. Visit www.oia.co.za for more information.

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