Niza Jay (left) and Bongile Mantsai (right) in their roles of Kwanda and Vija respectively on Inxeba (The Wound). Photo: Supplied

The Film & Publication Board has reclassified the award-winning controversial film Inxeba (The Wound) to a rating of X18. 

In a statement released through a series of tweets, the FPB's official account stated that the Appeals Tribunal of the board had decided to overturn the original rating given to the film of 16 LS, to X18. The statement further said the reasons explaining why the rating had been overturned, would be made available at a later stage. 

The appeals process was started by a complaint that was lodged with the board by CONTRALESA (Congress of Traditional Leaders) who complained that the film is culturally insensitive and distorts the Xhosa tradition of circumcision, (ulwaluko) .

The appeal was brought on by Contralesa Gauteng as well as The Men and Boy Foundation. 

The FPB said the X18 rating means that the film "can only be distributed from designated adult premises. This means the film cannot be screened in cinemas or any other platform that is not a designated adult premise as defined by the Film and Publications Act no 96 of 1996 as amended"

Commentary from the filmmakers was not immediately available.

Meanwhile Democratic Alliance MP and shadow minister of communications Phumzile Van Damme, has said in a statement that the Tribunal's decision to reclassify the film, is censorship. 

The DA strongly condemns the Film and Publication Board (FPB) Appeal Tribunal’s decision re-classify the film Inxeba to a rating of X18.

"X18 is one of the most severe ratings a film or publication can receive, one step away from an outright ban. We encourage the producers of Inxeba to fight, fight, fight, all the way to the highest court in the land by urgently taking this decision on review."

"It is a shame that the FPB’s Appeal Tribunal buckled to pressure from patriarchs and homophobes, instead of siding with the Constitution, the supreme law of the land," the statement read. 

The film has, since its Oscar qualifying run last year been subject to intense scrutiny over the perceived insult that it is to the circumcision tradition. Often shrouded in secrecy, the tradition is not usually spoken about. There were also complains about the sexual scenes and homosexual love storyline of the film, with many calling for the film's banning. 

After protests in cinemas resulted in cancellations of the movie screening in Eastern Cape cinemas, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)  received a complaint about them last Wednesday. 

Spokesperson Gail Smith, in a statement last week,  condemned violent protests and threats made in relation to the screening of the movie. She said the commission was monitoring reports of intimidation, threats of violence and death threats made in relation to the screening of the movie. 

Inxeba tells the story of Xolani, a lonely factory worker, who joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best kept secret, Xolani's entire existence begins to unravel.

The film claimed eight South African Film and Television Awards (Safta) nominations, including Best Actor, Best Directing and Best Film.

It has also won 19 awards at 44 festivals in more than 25 countries, including South Africa. The film was shortlisted for this year's Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. However, it did not make onto the final nominations list.

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