A scene from the film Inxeba (The Wound), which sparked controversy and has drawn an X18 classification from the Film and Publications Board. Thousands of people have signed a petition against the severe classification.

A petition to reverse the classification of the film, Inxeba (The Wound), which makes it tantamount to pornography, has received almost 4 000 signatures from the public.

This comes in reaction to the Film and Publications Board’s (FPB) reclassification of Inxeba (The Wound) from 16 LS to X18, with “classifiable elements of sex, language, nudity, violence and prejudice”.

The film is a love story about two men, set against the backdrop of the traditional Xhosa circumcision custom.

The FPB said the decision of the board’s appeals tribunal was based on complaints lodged by the Congress of Traditional Leaders (Contralesa) and the Men and Boy Foundation.

The complaints were largely based on the perceived cultural insensitivity and distortion of the Xhosa circumcision tradition, strong language in the film, the FPB said.

According to the board, the 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 premises.”

Contralesa spokesperson Prince Abongile Ngozi told the SABC that the organisation’s complaint had been based on a “gross distortion of our age-old custom, which the Xhosa people have practised for hundreds of years in secrecy”.

He said people who had not followed the custom were not supposed to know about it, nor was the matter open for public discussion.

Ngozi said the organisation had also objected because initiates did not go to the mountain to undergo rites to be taught bigotry, disrespect and other unwanted social ills.

The film’s director, John Trengove, said the matter was a fight for the freedom and rights of all citizens. The film’s co-writer, Thando Mgqolozana, called the decision “anti-creation and draconian”.

Helen Kuun, the managing director at Indigenous Film Distribution, said they took the matter “very seriously”.

GaysSA Radio, which started the petition on its website, awethu.amandla.mobi, called the FPB’s action “ludicrous”.

The campaign’s page said the ban was homophobic. “South Africa’s LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community is still being bullied, this time by traditional leaders and FPB, silencing LGBTQ+ stories and keeping LGBTQ+ people in the closet,” it said.

Centre for Diversity director Zohra Dawood said: “Inxeba and other forms of artistic expression may elicit feelings of discomfort, outright criticism and harsh critique, but the precepts of constitutional values must hold steadfast.”

Members of the campaign held a silent protest at the launch of the FPB’s Classi
fication Guidelines Review Process in Joburg on Monday.

Inxeba has been nominated for eight South African Film and Television Awards and won 19 awards at 44 film
festivals in more than 25 
countries, including South Africa.

It was also shortlisted in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Academy Awards, although it did not make the nominee list.