The producer of the controversial local film 'Inxeba (The Wound)' says the backlash against the movie stems from "deep rooted homophobia".
"The controversy is that the film was mixed with a "dirty gay thing" and a sacred ritual (the Xhosa initiation process) and there's nothing dirty about love between two men," the movie's producer, Elias Ribeiro said.
Elias Ribeiro. Picture: LinkedIn
Speaking to African News Agency, Ribeiro said that the cancellation of screenings of the film at a number of cinemas around the country saddened the filmmaking community.
"It saddens the filmmaking scene that the queer audience, which were the main audience, are being prevented from watching this work by a small group of men who feel their masculinity has been threatened by a fictional story."
'Inxeba (The Wound)' tells the story of Xolani, a lonely factory worker, who joins the men of his community in the mountain of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers Xolani's secret, a closeted love affair, his entire existence begins to unravel.
The film made its debut at South African cinemas on Friday, after winning a number of awards around the world, but was cancelled in some parts of the country because of threats of violence due to its depiction of the Xhosa initiation ceremony.
"We are pushing back, the audience are pushing back and the cinemas that had the courage to screen the film were awarded by sold out seats," said Ribeiro.
He said some cinemas have reopened for the film and that it would eventually be made available on Mnet's box office, as they had the African rights to broadcast it.
"It will be up to them on when it will be available."
Ribeiro added that in more conservative audiences, people said they had never met a gay Xhosa man.
"We seeked collaboration with Xhosa men who have been part of the ritual and had something to say about it. It wasn't to offend anyone. I respect tradition and the secrecy of the ritual and did not disclose anything that wasn't public knowledge. It's very disheartening that this has been twisted, it's become a race thing and a gay thing."
Ribeiro said he had been threatened and feared for his safety and that of his team.
"The conversation should not be at this level of violence, it should be intellectual but I am proud of the national dialogue it has created."
- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Catherine Rice