Broken Promises 4-Ever, a new film set within South Africa’s Indian community, has been accused of using negative stereotypes of gay people for the sake of cheap laughs.
The comedy-drama, which opened in cinemas on Friday, is the fourth installment in the popular Broken Promises series, created by director, producer, and scriptwriter, Kumaran Naidu.
It tells the story of a young man, Mandoza, and his girlfriend, Skye. They want to marry but are faced with a series of challenges, including coming from different religious backgrounds, dealing with meddling families, and the apparently humorous misconception that Mandoza is gay.
The site Indian Spice, which provides news and entertainment content that speaks to a predominantly Indian audience, contacted Mambaonline about the furore. It’s editor, Naufal Khan, says he has received complaints about the way that the film represents gay people and published a scathing review of the movie.
These claims include that Broken Promises uses “cheap tactics of humorising homosexuals to add some comedic relief,” and that this is problematic in light of the reality that “homosexuals in the Indian community face a lot of victimisation and bullying.”
An anonymous writer said: “Gay men and women who come from difficult family dynamics will only feel discomfort, driving them to hide their sexuality after watching this movie and that is essentially wrong.”
According to Indian Spice, the film includes a scene in which one character suggests that Mandoza became gay because he lived in Johannesburg, that there are “too many gay people in Johannesburg” and that he is “damaged” by being gay.
A joke is also made in which heterosexual sex is compared to a train going into a tunnel while gay sex is depicted as unnatural and compared to a train approaching another train, which will lead to a “crash”.
Mandoza’s uncle is shown telling Mandoza that being gay means that you are “broken” and are excessively oversexed. He also hands him a package of heterosexual porn claiming that watching it will turn a gay person straight.
The controversy has spread to social media, with some defending the film as being a harmless comedy or arguing that it simply reflects reality. Others believe that it is indeed offensive and that the filmmakers had a responsibility to do better.
“It all starts with a joke and the next thing you know someone has committed suicide,” commented Khan on Facebook, while Petrushka Hemraj called the film “an insult to the LGBT community – which we know is still a taboo topic in the Indian society.”
Yahya Mayet wrote about, as a young boy, the impact of “watching Bollywood movies with gay men depicted as dehumanised clowns in the overarching narrative.” He continued: “The laughter and what I immediately felt was underlying ridicule and prejudice, reducing a person into a non-human for amusement.
“Fast forward to 2018… Different stage, same actors. I sighed for the little boy in me that was hoping for something different and I sighed for the minorities out there and in the audiences that perhaps sat next to family members and felt the ridicule in the laughter,” Mayet said about watching Broken Promises.
Khan contacted the Film and Publications Board (FPB) as well as cinema chains Nu Metro and Ster Kinekor to complain about the film. “A lot of people are calling on the FPB to come up with an answer as to how this move passed the certification process,” he told Mambaonline. “Is there no sensitivity around LGBT considerations? Is there an LGBT member on the board?”
The film’s FPB classification is 10–12PG D L P S V. The ‘P’ warns of scenes or language that are “biased or prejudiced with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other identifiable group characteristics.”
In response to Khan’s complaint, the FPB affirmed its rating and and argued that it was “a strong call to the public to exercise caution when choosing to view this movie.” It added that if Khan disagreed with the classification, he was welcome “to take the matter on review to the High Court.”
Mambaonline also received a statement from the filmmaker himself responding to the controversy. We have published it in full below.
“I, Kumaran Naidu, the director and writer of Broken Promises 4-Ever, would like to clarify that portrayal of the wide range of diverse characters in the movie was never created to offend anybody, or members of any particular community. The film is a comedy throughout, and the story involves a wide variety of fictional characters across a spectrum of scenarios and interactions. These characters hold various points of view. Whilst one character in the film may not comfortably accept the younger homosexual characters, many of the others do. Aunty Bommie in fact advocates for the acceptance of homosexuality in the context of this story. This in itself indicates that there is no bias with regards to the portrayal of a particular orientation, religion or lifestyle choice raised as part of the storytelling in the context of comedy as a genre.”