A R58 MILLION damages claim against the Film and Publications Board over the banning of the film, Of Good Report should serve as a lesson to the government not to abuse industry workers.
This is according to the Creative Workers Union of SA, which has lent its support to the filmmakers who intend suing the board.
Of Good Report, a feature film about a teacher with a penchant for young girls, was meant to open the Durban International Film Festival in July. However, the screening did not go ahead after the board refused to classify it, citing child pornography.
On opening night director Jahmil QT Qhubeka stood before the audience with tape over his mouth as his wife read a statement announcing the ban to a shocked audience.
The ban was lifted, on appeal, the day before the film festival ended.
In papers to be lodged with the Pretoria High Court by the filmmakers’ legal representative, Gugulethu Madlanga of MPI Attorneys, Qhubeka is claiming R20m in his personal capacity for “damages to his good name, reputation, dignity and contumelia, as the writer and director of the film”.
Others associated with the film – New Brighton Pictures, Lwazi Manzi, Jonathan Kovel the film’s photographer, lead actress Patronella Tshuma and co-producer Luzuko Dilima – are claiming R2m each.
A further R15m is being claimed for compensation for damages suffered by co-producer Michael Auret, Qhubeka and Spier Films, as well as R13m for loss of revenue and loss of potential earnings.
The Creative Workers Union of SA has called for the Film and Publications Board not to contest the R58m claim and, if it did, not to use taxpayers’ money.
A member of the union’s national executive committee, Ernest Moikangoa, said it was “arrogant” of the board to ban the film. He was convinced that the pending lawsuit would set a precedent, teaching the government to start showing respect for artists.
Dilima told the Daily News the deal for the Durban premiere was concluded in France at the Cannes Film Festival.
“So we went to Durban with a sales strategy and a marketing plan, but we were not given a chance to sell our film. For it to premiere at an international film festival with the international media, distributors, people in film marketing and sales from around the world there was a big deal,” he said.
“This is a local film, shot in the Eastern Cape by young filmmakers. If they (Film and Publications Board) can do it to us, they can do it to anyone else. Our work was threatened and if we don’t do anything, other artists will suffer in future.”
Despite the film being unbanned on appeal, the claim of child pornography would forever tarnish their careers, Dilima said.
“The banning was out of order and created a bad situation for us,” he said. “When the film screened at the Toronto Film Festival, people would refer to Jahmil as the director who did the child porn film, and he had to defend himself and his artwork. It ended up receiving a standing ovation and had rave reviews.”
Dilima believed that had they not appealed the ban, it would have meant the end of their careers.
The spokesman for the Film and Publications Board, Prince Mlinadlela Ndamase, as well as its chief executive Sipho Ribisa, are listed among the defendants for allegedly linking the filmmakers to the promotion and possession of child pornography.
Madlanga’s clients are also demanding an unequivocal public apology.
The board confirmed receipt of a letter of demand. “The FPB will review the details of the claim and respond in due course,” it said in a statement. - Daily News