LGBTIQ+ and free speech activists have staged a demonstration against Inxeba’s ban at a meeting of the Film & Publication Board (FPB).
On Monday, the activists attended a public consultation on the FPB’s classification review process at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg.
The gathering was one of a series around the country that aimed to engage the public in reviewing the guidelines used by the FPB to classify (and ban) films, games and certain publications. Such a review must take place every five years.
The activists used the opportunity to speak out against the FPB Appeals Tribunal’s recent, highly criticised decision to give Inxeba (The Wound) an X18 rating, which bans it from being screened in mainstream cinemas.
The protesters from the LGBTIQ+ community and the Right2Know campaign held up placards with messages that read: “Stop invisibilising us”, “Allow our stories to be told” and “Unban Inxeba.”
When they called for the issue of Inxeba’s censorship to be addressed at the gathering, the programme director refused. Virginia Magwaza, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer at The Other Foundation, was among those to disrupt the proceedings by sitting on the stage during one of the speeches.
“They didn’t want to discuss Inxeba there because they said that the process is ongoing,” Magwaza told Mambaonline. “If it is ongoing then why is the film off-circuit?” she asked.
The consultation was eventually stopped and a separate meeting was held between the activists and FPB officials, where concerns were expressed about the board’s transparency, inclusivity and homophobia.
The FPB insisted that the re-rating of Inxeba as X18 was decided by the Appeals Tribunal, which is an independent structure. Officials said they were also waiting for the written reasons for the re-rating from the tribunal, which must be provided within seven days of a decision.
A commitment was made by FPB officials to engage further with the LGBTIQ+ community.
“We went there to register that we exist and that we are not going to rest and we are going to make our voices heard,” said Magwaza. “We also told them that, ‘you have done damage to us’ [as the LGBTIQ+ community].”
The Right2Know Campaign has described the FPB Appeals Tribunal’s re-rating of Inxeba as “censorship that silences the voice of the LGBTIQ community, and violates the constitutional right to freedom of expression.”
The producers of of the film have confirmed that they are planning to take legal action against the decision. Mambaonline has called on the tribunal’s members to resign over the illegal and homophobic abuse of their powers.